A golfer who’s only in it for the Saturday-morning sunshine and the hot dog combo at the turn has probably never heard the name. But it’s a safe bet that the heavy-weather, who-cares-about-the-forecast player knows thing or two about Galvin Green.
Either way, the Swedish outerwear maker — best known for high-quality, high-visibility outerwear that keeps players warm and dry on the European Tour, the Swedish PGA and other Old-World ports of call — is poised to make a splash on this side of the Atlantic Ocean as it embarks on an aggressive North American familiarization effort, and everyone from the fair-weather fairway friend to the hardcore hacker is going to hear about it.
“The name is out there, but it’s mainly at private golf courses, so I don’t think we’re getting out to all the consumers out there,” said Jonathan Wong, the nattily dressed president of Galvin Green Canada, said over lunch after a recent outing at his home course, Coppinwood Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ont.
“We want to get it out so people know what it’s all about.”
Just 15 years old but a household name in the U.K. and Scandanavia, the relatively tiny company — it has just 35 employees at its headquarters in Vaxjo, Sweden — is enjoying a mini-surge, with sales up 20 per cent last year and plans in the works to open up shop in the U.S. in the next year or two. With professional golf’s ranks awash in pastels, the time is right for Wong and company to start building a little bit more brand recognition.
It’s not easy to find; Galvin Green is almost exclusively confined to private-course pro shops and a few select semi-private clubs (although there’s a Golf Town in west Vancouver where you can buy it off the rack). Locating the merchandise, meanwhile, is just half the battle — a top-line Galvin Green rain jacket or pair of rain pants will set you back $400-$500 per piece, while the lighter pieces range between $140-$200.
That, of course, is entirely intentional. Too much availability combined with a more accessible price point would do nothing more than erode the brand to the point it would no longer distinguish itself beyond the bright pastel colour combinations for which Galvin Green enthusiasts are known to have an insatiable appetite.
“Once people try the brand and wear it, then they love it and they tend to gravitate towards it,” Wong said. “A lot of it is just education about the quality.”
Leading the charge for GG in 2012 is Windstopper, a new Gore-Tex variant that represents the Holy Grail of sorts for outerwear manufacturers — ultra-light and flexible, yet totally impervious to the sort of piercing wind chill that’s so characteristic of golf in Canada in November.
Unlike other, cheaper offerings that claim to effectively combine breathability and flexibility with wind- and water-blocking power, Windstopper actually manages to pull it off. On a breezy fall day when the wind is your worst enemy, this thin, wispy garment can be a valuable ally, and as versatile when you need it to be if the falling temperature or encroaching rains suddenly demand additional layers.
Indeed, the first encounter with “Burns,” a half-zip pullover-style jacket that’s GG’s showpiece Windstopper garment for men (“Beyla” is the women’s offering; they come in four different colour combinations), can leave one skeptical and incredulous. Exceptionally light and thin, it’s at first hard to believe it can offer much protection against anything.
But here’s the thing: it’s Gore-Tex, as close a thing to a miracle fabric the world has seen in the last 30 years, and so as such can reasonably be expected to outperform.
The Windstopper doesn’t perform miracles all by itself, however. During a shoulder-season round in central Ontario, say, you will need more than just the Windstopper and a golf shirt to keep you toasty warm and comfortable. But it’s just light enough to fit nicely under a heavier outer layer (like many European clothing articles, the Windstopper is not big and billowy, but snug and understated), where it helps to block the late-season wind chill.
The best part, though, is the breathability. One of the most frustrating truths about late-season golf is how maddeningly variable the weather can be even within a single round of golf. Sure, if you’re wearing layers, you can adjust accordingly, but sometimes you’re trading up layers so fast you don’t know whether you’re coming or going.
The breathability of the Windstopper fabric means that even with a thermal layer under your long-sleeve golf shirt, you can still get relief when the sun comes out and your body heat begins to rise. Unlike other (read: most, if not all) windproof layers, Windstopper allows that heat to escape, providing a welcome respite when the temperature suddenly gets warmer — or when your opponents decide to press during the last three holes.
According to the company, the Windstopper membrane is an ultra-thin, totally windproof protective layer which is laminated to a lightweight textile layer. The membrane is made of a versatile polymer called polytetrafluorethylene, or PTFE, which is expanded to create a structure with micropores 900 times larger than water vapour molecules, allowing perspiration to pass through unhindered.
Galvin Green also bills Windstopper as having a “thermoregulatory function” that helps to maintain the body’s optimum performance temperature.
It’s also flexible — there’s a 25 per cent flex factor “east to west,” or across the shoulders and elbows, to maximize range of motion throughout the golf swing, but just 10 per cent “north-south” so there’s no bunching or bulging when you’re standing over a putt. The “Burns” is cut a little longer in the back for a more comfortable fit and a slimming look, too. In short, it’s a good-looking piece of clothing that fits beautifully and disappears the moment you put it on, which is everything you could ask from a piece of golf outerwear.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the outer layer repels dirt, and yet retains its high-tech properties even after countless washings. There’s nothing complicated about that, either — just throw it in the washer, and give it a quick tumble dry.
So, if Galvin Green — a top sponsor for European Tour player Peter Hansen — is staging a New World invasion, is there likely a PGA Tour sponsorship in the cards anytime soon?
“We’re working on that,” Wong said. “We’re looking at doing something with a Canadian player this year, potentially.”
And if you’re not convinced of the power of the Galvin Green brand, consider this: sponsored players get paid with the apparel they wear. “Galvin Green won’t do a money deal with people, they’ll do a product deal,” he added.
In other words, a professional golfer is willing to get paid in Galvin Green clothing over cash. If that’s not a ringing endorsement of the quality of a product, what is?