How much pro shop merch is okay to buy? The Etiquetteist has thoughts

Masters merchandise at Augusta National Golf Club

The most famous clubs don't need your money, but they don't mind your support

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Pete from Memphis writes: A friend and I recently played as guests at a famously exclusive and prestigious club. After the round, my friend bought more than two thousand dollars in pro shop merchandise. I didn’t buy anything. I’m not a logo guy. I’m also on a budget. My friend told me I was being cheap. I thought he was being tacky. What’s the deal? Is there a minimum or maximum you should spend in a pro shop when you’re playing as a guest?

Dear Pete: Like you, the Etiquetteist is cheap, but for self-branding purposes, he favors the term “frugal,” which sounds more mature and fiscally responsible. It’s a good label if you’re running for political office, or trying to justify why you failed to shell out a single cent in the pro shop. You should try it on for size sometime. 

As to your question, though. The short answer is, no. There is no hard-set limit on either end, but there are some variables worth weighing.

If, for instance, you’re playing at a remote club that gets few visitors, or at a modest club in town where the pro owns the shop and draws proceeds from merchandise sales, common courtesy suggests that you should buy something, anything. It needn’t be extravagant. A cap. A shirt. A towel and a commemorative ball marker. Even a modest purchase will go a long way as a gesture of support. The same applies if you’re playing for free through some connection at the club; a pro shop purchase is a nice way to show your gratitude.

But that doesn’t sound like the kind of place you’re describing. “Famously exclusive and prestigious” clubs — the Shinnecocks and Cypress Points of the world — no more need your financial backing than Tiger Woods needs PIP money. You’re under no obligation to buy anything unless you accidentally knock over something precious in the clubhouse and it shatters on the floor.

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As for the flip side — loading up on pro shop merch — no one is going to quibble with you about that either. If anything, the club is likely to be thrilled that a sucker, er, shopper, opted to spend a mortgage payment on logo-ed apparel and accessories. Your host might even receive a quiet thank-you from club management for bringing a big spender onto the grounds, just as a casino would be grateful to a private jet operator for sending them a whale.

The only question worth examining has less to do with etiquette than it does with psychology? What, exactly, is your motivation for acquiring so much merch? If you’re buying gifts for friends, okay, fine. That’s nice of you. If, on the other hand, you’re buying stuff to resell, that’s bad form. You should find another way to supplement your income.  

And if you’re buying that motherlode of merchandise all for yourself? That’s another ball of wax. The urge to amass large amounts of logo-ed memorabilia is a complicated impulse, and the Etiquetteist can’t claim to understand it any better than he understands why anyone over the age of 12 not named Tom Brady would wear a Tom Brady jersey. If you want a memento of your special day, or a conversation starter the next time you play at your local muni, fair enough. But if that’s the case, one or two items should suffice.

Why you purchased so much more is a matter too tangled for the Etiquetteist, who would simply suggest that all that money shelled out in the pro shop would probably better be spent on a shrink. 

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