My name is James, and I am an addict.
I am obsessed with golf. I love everything about it, and I seem to have an insatiable craving for knowledge about all areas of the game – from the way it’s taught, to history, to course design, to agronomy.
But the thing I spend most time thinking about is equipment. Golfers tend to pigeonhole other golfers, and a lot of people refer to me as an equipment junkie. I can’t really argue with that, but I don’t simply buy new gear for the sake of it. What I really love is tinkering with clubs until I can find a way of making them work – matching the right club to the right swing.
There’s only one thing better than hitting a perfect shot, and that’s hitting a perfect shot with a perfect club. It’s about the feeling – the way a club feels when you swing it, and the way it feels through impact. It’s actually pretty easy to make a club that produces the right numbers – but what’s the point of that if it doesn’t feel amazing when you do it? And when you get the feel right, you can really enjoy the result – the satisfaction of the perfect flight, knowing it’s optimised and seeing it fly, long and true. The frozen rope.
As I’ve lived with my addiction, I’ve learned something about myself. For me, it’s never been about the score. I’ve been completely heartbroken by most of the tournaments I played, and it took me years to realise that I’ve never been geared up for competition play. My practice time has always been about hitting balls – never short game, or anything relating to scoring.
So maybe I’m not an equipment junkie. I’m a golf shot junkie. I love that feeling of a perfectly struck shot with a perfect flight, making the ball do what I want it to. To me, the experience of playing this game comes through my clubs, and that’s why I mess around with golf clubs. It’s why I make clubs for other people. I love playing in a fourball with my mates and knowing that every club in their bag is as good as it can be. And I love seeing them enjoy the feeling the perfect club generating the perfect result.
Twenty years ago, I did what most golfers do – I bought (and sold) lots of clubs, and through a process of trial and error, I found a few that I liked. But I never really understood why. Then I put together my first workshop, and opened Pandora’s Box. Today, my workshop isn’t just a place to make the best clubs possible – it’s a place to have a great time while you do it.
It was in that workshop where I first met Cathal, and where the idea for Sounder took hold. He came to see me about building him a set of clubs, and I realised I had found a kindred spirit. He has the same relationship with clothes that I have with golf equipment. He’s dedicated his life to creating clothing that doesn’t just look right – it feels right.
A few years ago, I gave up my PGA membership and applied to get my amateur status back. The word amateur comes from the Latin amator – one who loves. And nothing better describes my relationship with the game than that.