Performance Showdown - Polyester vs Merino Wool

The most commonly used fabric in golf clothing is by far polyester. Other materials such as rayon and spandex are also being frequently used for sports clothing. These types of plastic-based fabrics have come to dominate the industry because of their cheap, durable, and lightweight materials, often chemically manipulated to wick moisture better and enhance thermoregulation properties.

On the other hand, natural fabrics, such as merino wool, are naturally made for performance across all parameters, typically come at a higher price, and are rarely used for golf clothing.

In upcoming posts I will dig into merino wool versus other natural fabrics. As for sustainable topics, I will shed light on the environmental impact of natural and synthetic golf clothing. 

How the test was done

I will compare 100 percent polyester versus 100 percent merino wool by using a 0-to-3-point rating method with 0 representing “non-existent” or “not applicable”, 1 “below-average”, 2 “good”, and 3 “outstanding”.

Performance Comparison


Carrying your bag for long periods of time, walking through bushes, and repetitive body movements all indicate that you need durable clothing when golfing.

Polyester - Score 3

Its fibres are very durable and abrasion resistant. Polyester is a type of plastic, typically made from petroleum, that is manufactured to last (and it will, even after you discard it, for centuries to come). So, if your primary concern is whether or not your garment stays intact for decades, polyester might be the choice for you.

Merino wool - Score 2

Compared to cotton, merino wool is six times stronger and more resistant to natural wear and tear. You don’t need to wash merino wool frequently because of its natural antimicrobial properties, and its lifespan can be significantly extended with proper care. That said, polyester is the more durable fabric and when matching the two against each other, durability is the Achilles heel of merino wool.


Showing off your “six pack”  in your swing-release because your polo shirt has zero stretchability is a hint for you to make smarter choices when buying golf-wear.

Polyester  - Score 0

Is by default not stretchable at all, unless you blend it with its synthetic cousin, spandex or lycra. Polyester is often either blended with other synthetic or natural materials for enhanced performance.

Merino wool - Score 2

Wool fibres are stretchable by nature and can be extended by more than 30 percent without being damaged. Its ability to adapt and retain shape means that a merino wool piece of clothing will naturally wrap around the shape of your body. This gives a great feeling when swinging a golf club as if the merino wool polo shirt is an extension of your body movement.

Moisture control

Whether it’s a hot summer day or a cool spring morning, you tend to work up a sweat on the golf course. Wearing clothes that help you stay dry and comfortable is often key to a good experience.

Polyester - score 2 ( would score lower if no hydrodynamic coating is applied)

Most synthetic materials feel wet to the touch after they hit an absorption level of around seven percent (polyester is lower), with you getting your sweat on pretty early after you start being physically active. Polyester works similarly to merino wool in terms of wicking moisture but only when hydrophilic fibres (cotton and wool are natural hydrophilic fibres that absorb moisture well) are weaved into the hydrophobic polyester fibres or when chemical hydrodynamic agents are introduced as a coating. Adding to this, the chemicals used to enhance polyester’s performance do wear off when washing polyester clothes repeatedly, reducing their wicking ability.

Merino wool - Score 3

Merino can retain 30-35 percent of its dry weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch. Once the fibres get overloaded with moisture generated by your body, their natural wicking abilities transport the vapor away from your body to evaporate into the air, leaving you dry and comfortable.

Temperature regulation

The natural breathability and heat regulation properties of clothes come very much in handy on a four-hour walk through 18 holes.

Polyester - Score 2

While merino wool has natural built-in thermoregulating properties, polyester isn’t as breathable as natural fibres and can trap heat, depending on the weaving. However, when polyester is enhanced with PCM (Phase Change Material) or a nanocomposite finishing treatment its heat regulation properties can be enhanced. Unsurprisingly, the production process of these agents (particularly when hydrocarbon is used) can cause harmful emissions to the atmosphere, unless biobased materials are used.

Merino wool - Score 3

The fibres of merino wool are smart by nature. They very efficiently absorb and release heat depending on both your body’s temperature and any external climate factors at play. This means that the breathable merino wool polo shirt you are wearing has nature’s built-in climate control system, keeping you warm when it’s cold and cooling you down when it’s hot...


Facing the obvious, we often smell when we golf, then we wash our polo shirt and it retains that foul smell. It’s like a never-ending circle of bad odour. But what if you don’t have to...

Polyester - Score 0

Compared to other fabrics, synthetics, and natural, polyester absorbs and retains body odour to a significant extent. Even after washing, polyester often retains some of the smell. Bacteria grow when a warm and moist environment is created on the skin and since polyester is not antimicrobial, this can lead to lingering unpleasant odours, staining, and for those of us with sensitive skin it can lead to skin allergies and infections.

Merino wool - Score 3

Merino clearly outperforms other fabrics, including polyester, when it comes to odour resilience. The protective antimicrobial properties of merino wool keep the odour-causing bacteria at bay and they help prevent stains naturally. This means that often airing your garment will be enough for you to reuse it multiple times, without dealing with a smelly piece of clothing.

Comparing results

Based on the above measuring points, merino outperforms polyester heads-on across all areas except for durability. However, when adding chemical components for enhancements, or blending polyester with other fabrics, the difference in performance becomes less significant but still apparent. A natural next step would then be to put the synthetic fabric vs. natural fibres into the context of comfortability, blend-ability, and environmental impact.

Final results

Merino: 13/15

Polyester: 7/15

Final notes

When we started out conceptualising snöleo we looked for the ideal material for creating the perfect all-climate golf polo shirt. We researched and tested anything from recycled polyester to blends of merino and wood-based fabrics. I wasn’t biased then towards merino wool, but I definitely am now and the results speak for themselves. 

Not all performance factors are taken into consideration in this post but I believe that the most relevant are. I could have elaborated on e.g., UV protection properties, allergy factors, and washability, but they have been left out for the sake of reader digestibility. If you want to read more on this, visit our why merino section.

Jon Kølle

Co-Founder at snöleo

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