‘Members Only’ is a phrase that is not uncommon to the game of golf. It separates the country club player from the muni golfer, and symbolizes the exclusivity of the game. You are either in or out. In the world of fashion, there is also a fine line between being in and out. However, start-up e-commerce company, 19th Hole Swag, wants you to stay in vogue by joining its inclusive (and free) members only club.
Founded by the tech-savvy Anisul Huq and actor Ryan Merriman, 19th Hole Swag is bringing stylish apparel and accessories to golfers at greatly reduced prices. With a simple email sign up, you can join the club and purchase products from top brands like Linksoul, Patrick Gibbons, Nexbelt and Rose & Fire at rock bottom prices.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Anisul and Ryan about what golfers can expect from this Gilt-like flash sale model, their personal on-course swagger and what the future holds for 19th Hole Swag.
GolfThreads: I see 19th Hole Swag as a Gilt for golfers. How are you similar to Gilt? How are you different?
Anisul Huq: Funny story about that is we actually came up with this business idea by stumbling upon the book, “Invitation Only” written by the founders of Gilt Groupe and thought, “man if this had been around for the golf community when I was growing up playing, I would have been on here every day.” We were inspired by their business model and that was it. 19th Hole Swag was born.
We are similar in that we are a member’s only site that brings the hottest products at special pricing to our customers. Our distinction becomes apparent when you compare the two product assortments. All of our products are catered towards the fashion conscious athlete who has an eye for trend, but also desires the effortless comfort and look of vacation/resort styles. When coupled, these two elements perfectly embody the golf lifestyle. There has been a need for this kind of site and we are excited to become the leader of this market.
In addition, we do have one significant difference in our business model. We don’t have a warehouse or any of the overhead that comes with it. The brands send directly to our customers, so you don’t have to worry about a middleman getting their grubby little paws all over your new silky drawers. This also allows us to do everything we can to make sure that our members get the lowest prices possible.
GT: Why do you think this model will be successful in the golf apparel world?Anisul: In order to become a successful entrepreneur in any endeavor, you have to be the first customer of your product. We truly believe that our passion and excitement to shop on our own site will quickly propel us towards succeeding in the apparel golf world. When carefully selecting the brands we want to offer to our members, we always end up looking at each other and saying, “That stuff is awesome, I’m buying at least three of those,” or “Wow, I can’t believe I ever paid full price for that, I’m never doing that again.” If you can get the best products, from the best brands, straight from the manufacturers, at the lowest prices possible, how do you beat that?
Another reason is because of who we are and how well we know the landscape of golf. Being in the entertainment business for so long, Ryan is a master at curating what cool fashion is, and mixed with my tech skills it’s a pretty lethal combo. I grew up in the amateur tournament world and Ryan in the celebrity golf world, so we have a solid understanding on how to reach both those groups and give the people what they want.
GT: What are some of the brands that members can find on your site? What type of discounts can they expect?
Ryan Merriman: We offer a range of products from brands that are already established, hot and new, as well as brands that you will find in some of the most exclusive pro shops around the country. Customers can expect to shop well-known brands like Nexbelt , Leisure Society, Antas Apparel, and Patrick Gibbons belts as well as brands fresh on the scene like Mulco watches, Rose & Fire head covers, and Linksoul by John Ashworth. All of which are at prices between 30 and 60 percent off retail.
GT: Instead of taking orders on your site, you link members directly to a brand’s site to make the purchase. What advantages are there for brands and members by doing this?
Anisul: Actually every order is transacted directly on our site. Our sales typically last between 2-3 days which is when members can take advantage of our special “swag” prices and purchase their new gear. This is not a public sale; our members are the only ones with access to the “swag” pricing – that’s a huge advantage. In between sales, members can preview products from past sales as well as see brands/assortments that will be offered during future sales.
We also want to reward the brands that work with us by growing their brand awareness and generating traffic to their site. If our members discover a product that they want on the brand’s site for which we aren’t offering at a special “swag” price, then we are all for that. Our goal is to provide value to our members and the brands working with us. Everyone wins!
GT: You’ve said 19th Hole Swag’s target audience is “competitive golfers.” How do you define “competitive golfers?”
Anisul: To me being competitive in golf doesn’t mean competing against others, it means competing against yourself. Someone that strives to get better at what they do on and off the course. And that takes a certain, nonconforming style or attitude.
This type of golfer is our target audience because we’ve set out to build a site where those trying to differentiate themselves from the field, by working on themselves, can find their own unique style at 19th Hole Swag. We believe our flash sale model allows us to make a ton of different brands and products available to “competitive” golfers all across the country.
GT: In addition to reaching competitive golfers, you are also trying to introduce non-golfers to the game by showing them how fashionable golf can be. Which golf apparel brands are doing a good job of creating pieces that transition well from the course to the street?
Ryan: Golf gear can pretty seamlessly be worn on and off the course when outfitted correctly. In our opinion some of the best companies right now who’ve mastered these transitional products are G/FORE and Linksoul. G/FORE in particular is our favorite brand out there right now. Amazing colors and unmatched design and quality. They truly have taken golf fashion to a new level and are killing it. Unfortunately for us (fortunately for them) they are way too hot right now to give us the prices we want for our members, but don’t worry, we’ll get ‘em.
GT: Co-founders typically have a certain ying and yang. How do your strengths and weaknesses complement each other?
Anisul: That’s a difficult question to answer because it seems in every integral part of the business our minds and personalities ham and egg it perfectly. I could probably go all day on this, but how about to answer this question I’ll give three traits of Ryan’s that make me and our company better everyday?
1. Confidence – Getting turned down flat-out sucks! But you have to get back up the next day, believe in yourself, your ability to learn from your mistakes, and get better for the next time around with the same enthusiasm as before being rejected. Ryan being in the highly competitive and mentally taxing acting business for 15+ years, it’s apparent that he’s mastered that last part. That ability to get right back up and improve oneself after being knocked down, is REAL confidence. Each time Ryan doesn’t get a deal with a brand closed, he uses it as an opportunity to learn and get better for the next one.
2. Judgment – Ryan is a master at knowing what good and bad fashion is. He curates the products and brands and I trust his judgment completely.
3. Intelligible – Ryan has an incredible ability to communicate effectively with anyone. Not many things more important in this world than the ability to communicate.
Ryan: Anisul is a genius when it comes to all things technology; I can barely master checking my email let alone do what he can do on a computer. But aside from his technical skills, he is extremely passionate about what we are trying to do. I couldn’t think of a better person to have as a business partner; the cat flat-out gets it done. I honestly don’t know how many hours he sleeps, but it’s not much. The success of 19th Hole Swag is extremely important to both of us, but I have to give Anisul credit. He really has the entrepreneurial drive and vision that is needed to make 19th Hole Swag a leader in the golf apparel world.
GT: How would you describe your on-course styles? What are your favorite brands to wear on the course?
Anisul: A good part about my complexion (Bengali) is that I can pull off just about anything. So I’ll dabble in a little bit of everything. But my go-to is probably the “Looks retired, you don’t know this yet, but I’m about to hustle you” look. You know, the bucket hat/Hawaiian/shorts/sneakers/long socks combo. Yes, I ball on the course in basketball sneakers.
Ryan: My on course style usually involves G/FORE gloves and shoes, Peak Vision shades and I always rock my Nexbelt. As far as pants and shirts go, it depends on the day. Sometimes it’s loud and fun and other times it’s more understated and sleek like a birdie assassin, but always swagalicious.
GT: What was your experience like shopping for fashionable golf apparel in the Midwest?
Ryan: Growing up in the country is amazing, but fashion on the course is pretty straightforward and tends to be an afterthought. That’s why I love what we are doing at 19th Hole Swag. With just a click of a button you can get badass stuff from all over the country. It’s like walking into 20 pro shops with different gear on every rack at wholesale prices, basically golf heaven. Another great thing about us is we aren’t pushing last year’s hand me downs. We just find cool new products that we want to see more of. If you want a green polo and khaki pants go to a golf close out store. If you want new and unique gear then join us at 19th Hole Swag.
GT: Where do you see 19th Hole Swag a year from now?
Ryan: By next year I see 19thholeswag.com becoming a household name in the golfing world. It’s simple…golfers love looking good and they love a great deal. That is exactly what we provide.
I also want 19thholeswag.com to be a place where people feel united as members. Not a country club, but a golfers club for men, women, teens, and anyone that loves this game. I truly believe looking good, feeling good and playing good go hand in hand.