Aced It: Inside the Rapid Rise of Pins & Aces

Meet the trio of Denver millennials making golf wear more relevant


Story By Jamie Siebrase

Photos by Christian Marcy-Vega and Brendan O’Keeffe

Pins & Aces co-founder Jon Major isn’t exactly giving off PGA tour player vibes. The business executive looks more like a linebacker than a golfer—which, in fact, is exactly what he was a decade ago when he played D1 college football for the Buffs at CU Boulder.

Like many athletes who have competed at a high level, Major was feeling a little lost after graduating from college and leaving football behind. He was looking for something to scratch his competitive itch, he says, and provide a higher purpose.

Major had played the occasional twilight round, smacking the ball around with college roommates. But it was his brother-in-law, Pins & Aces co-founder Nicklaus Mertz, who inspired him to get serious about golf as a young adult.

With his history of football injuries, Major was immediately drawn to a competitive game he could safely play for the rest of his life. The sport’s inherent struggle also appealed to him. “You work tirelessly for marginal improvement, and it’s impossible to be perfect,” Major explains. But that’s all part of the game’s beauty and allure, right?

Blame it on his athletic upbringing, Major has all sorts of cliches in his toolbox, and he’s not shy about tossing them out. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Small victories lead to bigger victories. Business is ninety-five percent preparation and five percent perspiration.

“I grew up in a world of -isms,” Major says. “And business,” he adds, “is the ultimate team sport.” (You saw that one coming, too, right?)

When asked about his title with Pins & Aces, Major says, “I don’t believe in titles.”


Don’t worry, that statement, with its strong millennial undertones, is fitting since the typical Pins & Aces shopper is, most likely, a weekend golfer from a younger generation. “They’re not so worried about the score, and they’re probably drinking,” says the company’s other co-founder and president, Nicklaus Mertz, when asked to describe his core clientele.

Headquartered in Arvada, the popular golf retail store sells an assortment of quirky accessories and irreverent apparel that speaks to a new crop of golfers. (Metal ball markers shaped like cheese crackers, anyone?) In addition to their flagship headcovers, themed to everything from state flags to presidents and popular television characters, Pins & Aces also sells colorful printed polo shirts and pullovers, towels, gloves, beer and seltzer sleeves, plus a portable speaker that magnetizes to the company’s latest offering, its Player Preferred golf bags.

“If you’d have told us a few years ago that we’d be wearing crazy patterned shirts and listening to music on the course, we would have laughed,” says general manager, Alex Bard.



Major and Mertz opened their e-doors in 2018 with $6,000. In less than a decade, the company has grown from an online side hustle to an international brand projected to do $20 million in sales in 2024.    

How’s that? Mertz and Major credit some of their success to a willingness to embrace risk.

• Quitting their day jobs to grow a small business while raising families

• Competing against established industry brands

• Unabashedly bringing loud colors and music to a quiet sport like golf

If Mertz and Major hadn’t taken these risks, they wouldn’t have found themselves in the right place at the right time. The entrepreneurs were selling unconventional golf gear at the same time quarantined millennials and Zoomers discovered golf—one of the few social activities permitted under stay-at-home orders.

Colorado wasn’t unique. Golf participation exploded across the U.S. in 2020, when more than 24.8 million people played the sport, marking the largest net increase in 17 years, according to the National Golf Foundation, a golf-business research and consulting service. As the sport grows, it’s hooking a younger, more diverse crowd.



Mertz and Bard met in 2012 while working together at a mannequin business in Louisville, Colorado. During those giant doll days, the colleagues made key connections in the fashion industry, and they also learned about cut-and-sew factories used by top apparel brands in Vietnam, South America, and Asia.

On a whim, Mertz and his brother-in-law, Major, started hawking a few sundries on an Amazon page. “We were trying to figure out what consumers wanted,” Mertz admits, listing off items such as knife magnets and cigar cases.

Nothing much was happening until late 2018 when the duo added a few driver headcovers to their repertoire. Here, Mertz offers up a typical entrepreneurial tale that involves seeing a gap in the market and filling it.

“I was disappointed with the headcover that came with a driver I’d purchased, and I wanted a new one,” Mertz explains. The problem was, the headcovers he found were “terrible,” as he puts it. Available options were poorly made, and some cost as much as $150. “There was no real design aspect,” he recalls.

Mertz and Major designed three headcovers featuring the Colorado and Texas state flags and a general USA theme. “That’s when we saw some traction,” says Mertz.

He and Major hired a photographer to bolster the company’s social media presence, and they added ten additional headcovers. A year later, they had their own website and were building a brand that included offbeat golf apparel.

Bard was still working at the mannequin company when Covid hit. He was so eager to run Pins & Aces that he invested most of his savings to join the enterprise as a partner. While other small businesses shuttered, Pins & Aces expanded to include 27 employees plus a team of international sales reps.


After operating out of Mertz’s garage, the team moved their growing company to a condo in a business park in Arvada. “We quickly outgrew that space,” Mertz says. Pins & Aces doubled its footprint by purchasing a 14,000-square-foot distribution center and store, and now they’re expanding, again, with a 5,000-square-foot addition that will offer more space for manufacturing and embroidery.    

The new facility also has space for shipping, fulfillment, and distribution, as well as a storefront for walk-in customers.

The Pins & Aces retail model is largely direct-to-consumer; about 80 percent of the company’s sales happen online. “Ask us again in a year, and it’ll probably be different,” Bard notes.

He oversees the company’s wholesale accounts and is the first to admit that middlemen weren’t in the original business plan. The Club at Rolling Hills in Golden was the first course to reach out to Bard. “We’re about to hit a thousand wholesale accounts in the U.S.,” he says, including Golf Galaxy and PGA Tour Superstore.


The brand has taken off in Japan and South Korea, where there’s a big demand for American products, specifically ones with quirky colors and designs. As the company grows from a mom-and-pop operation to an international name, licensing and collaborations are aiding in brand recognition.

Since 2021, Pins & Aces has been licensed by the NCAA to offer university logoed headcovers, and one of the company’s biggest partnerships is with Paramount Studios. A recent NASA collaboration aced it. New this year, look for products based on SpongeBob SquarePants, Top Gun, MTV, and Yellowstone (the television show, not the national park). Pins & Aces invests heavily in research and development. “One thing we do really well is listen to customer feedback,” Major says.

He and Mertz have big dreams. “We want to become a top-tier golf business,” Major says bluntly. Adds Mertz, “We’re confident we can grow the business and stay nimble enough to continue taking care of our customers.”


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