The La Brea Golf club Metalwood studios

The La Brea Golf Club

A golf revolution continues on the streets of LA

You expected to see long lines on La Brea Avenue. After all, this is arguably the most stylish district in Los Angeles, the Western epicenter of the post-streetwear world. The Golf Wang clothing store of Odd Future mastermind Tyler, the Creator may be located a few blocks away on Fairfax, but these days you’re more apt to see him shopping at La Brea’s venerable fashion outpost, American Rag.

Trainspotting acolytes from the world over make pilgrimages to GQ-enshrined Union and Stampd, hunting for everything from rare retro Jordan sneakers to $750 carpenter pants imported from Japan. This is home to the flagship operation of street-skate innovator Stüssy and to Garrett Leight California Optical—where Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence cop chic eyeglasses. It’s a place where after purchasing trendy workwear from Carhartt, you might grab a quick meal at Sugarfish or Burgers 99—which recently drew thousands to a pop-up where the rapper Action Bronson manned the grill alongside nascent celebrity chefs the Mahendro brothers. 

One thing you did not expect on La Brea was excited throngs of people gathering to party at a small, golf-inspired brick-and-mortar playing videos of Fred Couples taking a commanding lead over Raymond Floyd at the 1992 Masters. Yet on a cold weekday night in mid-February, the overflow of friends and fans of the increasingly grail-worthy brand Metalwood Studio has helped give the sport a burnish of cool it has rarely seen since Tiger Woods emerged in the late ’90s. 

“At first I was worried, like, ‘I’m the new kid on the block.’ That Carhartt and Stüssy would look at us strangely, like, ‘What is this golf store?’” says Cole Young, 28, the founder, chief designer and vintage-club-repair wizard behind Metalwood. “After we met the managers at those stores, we learned that they were obsessed with golf and hyped about our store. After that, it was off to the races.”

The evidence is incontrovertible. The Metalwood physical space opened in June 2022, but it already exists at the direct center of the growing Venn diagram between golf, skate and streetwear. Traditional golf fans might think they’re stepping into an alternate dimension, where bearded bros in pink Supreme shirts caress a vintage Titleist hat with one hand and sip free 805 Cervezas from the other as Westside Gunn booms from the house system. 

Outside on the concrete, almost 100 people queue to feast on smash burgers from beloved local micro-chain Burgerlords. A conversation is overheard about someone being banned from Venmo for trying to scam their acting class. Zoomers with curly mophead perms film content. Someone describes themselves as “Team Cozy.” Lil Yachty wails about bringing the “Wock to Poland.” Fred Couples is now 12-under par.

Metalwood founder Cole Young, pictured outside his La Brea Avenue brick-and-mortar

This is not your father’s golf scene. This isn’t even your older brother’s. We are well beyond the “Can golfers wear hoodies?” faux drama from a few years back. These are not khaki-slacked, rich white preps in country club attire; the crowd gathered here tonight is remarkably diverse and composed of 20- and 30-somethings struggling to afford the exorbitant LA rents.

It’s a fusion emblematic of this strip of Los Angeles, but also of the wider audience that Young has cultivated since he first started Metalwood as an Instagram account three years ago. There are dreadlocked professional skaters, punks with mohawks, Dover Street Market devotees peacocking in designer black puffer jackets. Baggy Carhartt double-knee pants are standard issue. There are enough bucket hats that you could mistake this for a Coachella pool party.

“What [Young] and Metalwood are doing is the next evolution of golf-related fashion,” says Sam Schube, the sports director of GQ—which recently included Metalwood on its list of “The Best Golf Brands That Are Changing the Game.” “They’re less interested in doing collabs with Nike than in resurrecting the weirdest ’90s and Y2K vibes they can. It’s more of a fashion project than a performance line.”

“[Young] is the Pied Piper of cool golfers in LA,” Schube continues. “And the fact that he’s a legit former college golfer adds a degree of credibility. It’s aspirational if a guy can play that well in technical hiking shorts and a cardigan.”

The La Brea Golf club Metalwood studios

To corroborate the Pied Piper metaphor, a group of partygoers crowd around Young like it’s a frat party where he’s about to take a keg stand—except they’re watching him put a new grip on a 9-iron. He looks like the Loyola Marymount University letterman he once was, dressed in a ready-for-the-links windbreaker with wraparound mirrored Oakleys resting on his hat.

The latest Metalwood designs are all for sale and being zealously eyed by the customers: baby-blue energy-transfer hoodies and kiwi-colored sweater vests, mauve knit polos and wide khaki chinos, bone-colored pleated pants and the snapback hats with the Metalwood logo that have become ubiquitous in social media golf-fit pics.

But in a post-Supreme, drop-ship world where a wide range of styles are easily imitable and reproducible, you need something bigger than a wholesaler account and an Instagram following for a brand to matter. You can’t merely sell cool, though it helps. What you need is a fully formed idea, worldview and aesthetic. With Metalwood, Young tapped into the bizarro futurism that emerged during the shift from analog to digital life—a condition mirrored in golf equipment during the transition from actual woods to metalwoods.

This is not your father’s golf scene. This isn’t even your older brother’s. We are well beyond the “Can golfers wear hoodies?” faux drama from a few years back.

“I’m very romantic about the era of golf from 1990 until 2005—the funny club and apparel designs. That’s what we pinpoint,” Young, who was raised in North County San Diego, says. The golfers who first caught his eye were Ian Poulter, Jesper Parnevik and Adidas-era Sergio García. Young admired the characters bold enough to rock flamboyantly bright polos, the ones who “carried themselves with a different type of swagger.”

He may not be a high-fashion obsessive, but Young innately understands aesthetics, world building and the mood-board collage mentality that has become pervasive in highly online circles. Plus, there is an inherent charisma that aided his ascent. Metalwood works because it’s an extension of Young’s natural charm: the cool homie offering you a beer, telling you which pants pair well with that beanie, giving you the lowdown on the best approach to the hole and which club to use.

In the process, Metalwood has nurtured a scene. Young jokes in person and via hashtag about a #LaBreaGolfClub, but it’s become something of a viable entity. He estimates that there are about 250 people within their social hemisphere who regularly play the municipal public courses at Rancho or Griffith Park. At least once or twice a week, they try to hit the driving range. In addition to the small Metalwood staff, the regular crew includes managers from myriad La Brea stores, videographers and art directors, fashion models and designers at skate brands.

“There had been a weird golf DNA around here that was like a dormant volcano. We were like the activating agent,” Young says. “It’s become kind of a think tank for counterculture golf—like, what does a punk-rock Ralph Lauren look like? Why not give the pill to kids at Stüssy who are like, ‘Oh, golf’s not dumb? Sick. OK, now let’s go to the range.’” 

The La Brea Golf club Metalwood studios

History will look back on 2017 as a golf-fashion tipping point. In the early years of that decade, perceptions of golf style began evolving. Tyler, the Creator’s Golf Wang and Golf le Fleur designs toyed with the traditional preppy aesthetic and country club dress code attire. Supreme rolled out fitted knit polos and funky cardigans that Arnold Palmer could’ve worn to the 1966 Masters. Stüssy’s look books offered proportions, shapes and silhouettes once found in your grandfather’s closet.

The revolution began to be Instagrammed on Fairfax Avenue, the streetwear Lourdes of Los Angeles. Two retail shops opened up on the block within spitting distance of Supreme: Tyler, the Creator’s Golf Wang flagship store and Malbon Golf. The latter was billed as a “lifestyle brand influenced by golf,” and people flocked to its spacious Swing Studio simulation range that they rented out for 18 holes and even used for lessons from pros.

Malbon was the brainchild of Stephen and Erica Malbon, a married couple with vast experience in the marketing, fashion and magazine worlds, and it was quickly lauded in Vogue for “Making Golf Gear Cool—With Help From Justin Bieber.”

Erica told Vogue that their mission was “to introduce the sport to the youth, because golf isn’t at its peak right now.” British GQ hailed their vision: “[They] don’t design clothing for golfers to golf in, [they] design clothing for skaters to golf in.”

Malbon rolled out baggy pastel sweaters, fluorescent pants, and splashy collaborations with Beats by Dre, Budweiser and New Balance. Soon, Grammy-nominated gangsta rapper ScHoolboy Q was constantly seen wearing and endorsing the brand; it helped that Stephen was his regular playing partner. One of their most frequently invoked slogans was “Invest in golf,” a catchphrase lifted from the ticket to an old Masters tournament.

Stephen echoed the sentiment in a profile with designer fashion website/e-retailer Mr. Porter: “[We’re] letting them know that this is the greatest game on Earth, and at the same time, you know, educating them about the old-guard traditions. Share this awesomeness with more people. It’s your duty.”

With Young as the company’s brand director from 2018 to 2020, Malbon’s reach increasingly transcended worlds, bringing golf to previously foreign spheres. The brand’s celebrity fans included Zoomer icons like Travis Scott and Bieber, who famously stopped by the shop on his way to the PGA Championship to acquire a lime-green Malbon hat. Even Stephen Curry, the NBA champion and Under Armour poster boy, was spotted rocking Malbon apparel.

“[We’re] letting them know that this is the greatest game on Earth, and at the same time, you know, educating them about the old-guard traditions. Share this awesomeness with more people. It’s your duty.” —Stephen Malbon

“Golf had been missing what [Malbon and Young] have brought to the table,” says Curtis Buchanan, a buyer at Supreme and a member of the La Brea Golf Club orbit. “[Malbon] opened doors for people. Both brands have helped bring people into this world from different cultures and different backgrounds. They’ve revamped classic golf style and freshened it up with more comfort and better aesthetics. Golf needed this.”

When the pandemic struck, Malbon shuttered its retail operation on Fairfax, but reopened with a new spot on Melrose Place. Around the same time, Young parted ways with the company, in search of his own vision for the next phase of golf-inspired style. Without massive amounts of capital, Young relied on his Metalwood Instagram feed. It was immediately singular: steeped in dystopian post-internet meme culture, nuanced sarcasm, bootleg riffs and nostalgic golf advertisements.

Everything was initially designed on Young’s dining room table, until the business expanded to where the house was covered in product. When a friend offered the retail space on La Brea, he jumped at it.

“I was writing a love letter to the ugliest era of golf, but only because I was so in love with that era of golf clubs,” Young says. “It really started with the idea: What if a golf club was a clothing brand? I wanted to bring back that gearhead mentality. I had no intention of opening a store. But when I saw this store window, it was so amazing that it made sense to do the full thing.”

The timing couldn’t have been better. During the pandemic, a new generation discovered a fun and safe outdoor activity that offered a chance for exercise and camaraderie. Warding off social isolation, millennials flocked to the greens. Between 2020 and 2021, there was a net increase of more than 60 million rounds of golf, the biggest one-year leap since 1997—when Woods earned his first major trophy. According to the National Golf Foundation, more than 3 million people played for the first time in 2021.

Those numbers included players all over the hip-hop world. During the pandemic, Grammy-winning “Thrift Shop” rapper Macklemore spent countless hours honing his golf game. Seeking to imprint his own sartorial flair on the sport, he launched the burgeoning Bogey Boys brand.

The phenomenon has become so pervasive that you can now buy banana-yellow Malbon × ScHoolboy Q golf polos on the website of the rapper’s record label, TDE, alongside merch from other platinum artists. No less than Chief Keef, the people’s champ and standard bearer for hip-hop subversion, launched a capsule line with Malbon, confirming the totality of the revolution.

“The influx of new golfers has fundamentally altered the nature of the game from the ground up,” says Drew Millard, author of How Golf Can Save Your Life. “This movement is way more about golf as a lifestyle. [Young] was the first I saw who treated vintage clubs like people treat vintage clothing: as ‘grails.’ That appeals to people just coming to the game because it’s way more accessible to buy a really cool-looking $50 TaylorMade driver from 2009. It democratizes the game through aestheticizing it. And remember, this was a sport started by Scottish peasants. What’s going on here is really getting in touch with its older and more pure spirit.”  

It’s a crisp spring evening at the driving range in Griffith Park. Only three months have elapsed since the party at the Metalwood store, but the company’s growth has been striking. Young has released the first official Metalwood collection, available in eight retail stores across the country.

Most notably, it’s landed in LA’s Dover Street Market, perhaps the most exclusive positioning possible for an up-and-coming brand. It’s where all the most prominent stylists shop, which explains why platinum rapper Lil Uzi Vert was recently spotted wearing a Metalwood hat before getting his forehead tattooed. During breaks between hitting balls, Young receives word that the Scottish soul singer Lewis Capaldi was spotted wearing Metalwood during his show tonight at the Greek, only about half a mile across the park.

“It’s a very legitimizing thing to put a golf brand in Dover Street. It’s definitely the proof of concept,” Young says between hammering 300-yard drives in black Metalwood technical pants, a green sweater and a throwback Apple Computer/Porsche hat. It’s clear that while he’s been busy, his game has not been neglected.

“You can look at the concept both ways,” he continues. “Is it Trojan-horsing golf with fashion or is it Trojan-horsing fashion with golf? I feel comfortable making the argument for both. I love the idea of people shopping at Dover having a monologue with themselves: Fuck, am I into golf?

Between Young and the rest of the La Brea Golf Club gathered here, it’s hard not to see the appeal: about a dozen guys in their 20s and 30s—art directors, photographers, store managers and miscellaneous creatives—hanging out, cracking Modelos, smoking cigarettes and whacking balls into the cool LA evening. Some are very good; some are clearly beginners. But the vibes are relaxed and amiable with some good-natured trash talk. A smiling pit bull named Tony scampers around. No one has their phone out. There is something clearly therapeutic and meditative to it. You get out of the house, focus on hitting the little white orb into oblivion and catch up with your crew.

Jayden Williams got golf-pilled about a year and a half ago. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, the assistant store manager at Stüssy skated his entire life, but eventually it got to where it became much easier on his body to get up at 6 a.m. to hit balls rather than grind rails. Now he’s playing 18 holes a couple times a week.

It’s hard not to see the appeal: about a dozen guys in their 20s and 30s—art directors, photographers, store managers and miscellaneous creatives— hanging out, cracking Modelos, smoking cigarettes and whacking balls into the cool LA evening.

“COVID definitely had something to do with it. I just started talking about it and then I noticed everyone else was too,” Williams says between drives. Pointing at Young and the Metalwood staff, he continues, “They’re probably the reason I play more than I should. I work down the street. I come down there, chat up with them every day. [Young] puts me up on game. He tells me what’s dope and what isn’t. You couldn’t get a better golf mentor.”

There is a tangible excitement in the air. Young has just returned from his first trip to the Masters. (“Life-changing,” he calls it.) In a few weeks, the Metalwood crew will take their inaugural trip to Paris Fashion Week, where they’ll unveil their spring/summer 2024 line. It’s clear that growth is on the horizon. Young insists that they won’t change anything for the sake of change.

“We’re really good at being scrappy, and that grit develops a unique and interesting brand if you’re on the outside looking in,” Young says. “If my job is to make golf cool, then I need to convince already cool people to play golf. I just want to continue to really challenge the way that people look at golf clothing.”

He pauses for a beat, smiles widely and takes a step toward the tee before finishing his thought. “That is, if you want to call it golf clothing.”

TGJ No. 20 launch party Metalwood Studio