Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Milled Wilson Staff 8802

So a little Wilson Staff love…….

It should be known that I carry Wilson Staff irons and wedges so i am a little bias.  Like a good friend of mine explained to me about why he still rides a steel Italian bike...some brands just seem to have soul.

Most will agree one of the best golf clubs ever invented was the Wilson 8802 putter.

From the sandtrap.com:

Arnold Palmer made it famous, but one of the best putters of all time - Ben Crenshaw - elevated the Wilson 8802 to a special place in golf's history. Nicknamed "Little Ben," Crenshaw's 8802 was with him through thick and thin, but a replica was used to win the improbable one in 1995 (see comments below). Said Crenshaw's dad of Ben's original 8802, "It was just a putter in Harvey Penick's shop. Ben felt it and waggled it around for a while. 'Dad, I'd like to have it,' he said, so I bought it for him. That club's been the best provider in the family." The putter cost Crenshaw's dad $20.
The 8802 is a simple putter with no heel-toe weighting to speak of and a very clean, simple look. Its design may have been inspired by Calamity Jane, and it won nearly as many majors. Arnold Palmer used the 8802 (and a small revision, the 8813) to win several of his majors, and Phil Mickelson has always seemed to putt best with his remake (currently made by his sponsor Callaway - i.e. Odyssey) of the venerable 8802.

There are many, many versions of the 8802, even if you are talking just abou the ones made by Wilson.
But to me, the best version is the Gun-Metal Milled version that was sold in the mid Eighties. These were crafted in the same manner that top putter makers today use. Take a solid block of carbon steel and mill out the desired shape. Pretty hard to find these days, I came across one that had seen better days. Here it is before:

A little elbow grease and sanding, a fresh treatment with Gun Barrel Bluing solution and I got her looking like this (I also hand-stamped a site-dot):

One last touch, I also found a 8813 that had a perfect original W/S leather wrap on it. I switched the shafts so that this now beautiful 8802 had all the trimmings:

She is a real beauty, and the best part.......I putted the eyes out of the ball the first time I took it out.

Fairways and Greens!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Suggestions for Golf Artisans?????

Happy National Golf Day!!!!

Know any Golf Artisans?  Post some suggestions for my review!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Royal Albartross Handmade Golf Shoes

What do you get when you mix 4 years of research, an Italian artisan shoemaker, 250 steps by hand, and over 70 hours of work?  A pair of Royal Albartross Golf Shoes.  

Once again, while on this selfish quest to meet and greet Golf Artisans I am floored by the products I have come across.  

It is hard to call this just a Golf Shoe, it is more a perfect example of golf and art coming together.

You can find Royal Albartross by going to https://www.albartross.com/.  They offer a variety of shoes for both men and women, all of which are handmade in London.  

These are anything but the massed produced shoes one can find at his or her local golf shop.  Alex's shoes are as stated on their website "Special golf shoes for a special few golfers".  

The end result screams of an obsession to not just make what was a vision a reality, but to make that dream come as close as possible to perfection.  

Alex was kind enough to share some dialouge with me from across the Atlantic, I invite you all to peek in....

First thank you for allowing The Golf Artisan Review to get some insight on your amazing footwear.  Finding companies and artisans like yourself is exactly what this site is about. 


You and your team have gone to great lengths to create a golf shoe without an equal as far as the time, energy and resources.  As you say, you had a simple idea, to create the world finest golf shoe.  What made you select the long road, and why golf shoes?

Brandon, I feel fortunate that I fell into the golfing arena simply by accident.
I initially studied fashion and woven textiles at Brighton University, UK, but working for a shoemaker during the course really sealed my future.  I learnt every step of how to make handmade shoes. I was so inspired by the craftsmanship and actually making 3-D wearable shoes from different components and leathers, I knew I needed to follow a career in shoes rather than textiles and fashion.
My wonderful Persian Tutor allowed me the flexibility in passing my course designing shoes from textiles which resulted in our initial Albartross mens brogues. Once showcased at my final show catwalk at University, they proved to be very popular. Many friends commented on how golf-like they were, and that was literally the start of how I fell into the world of golf.
I completed further footwear training at Cordwainer’s/ London College of Fashion and then found employment.  All the time I tinkered away in the background to find suppliers and learn everything about the technical side of golf shoe production and examine the competition whilst working for the likes of LK Bennett , Aspinal of London and Burberry. I was 27 when I formally launched the company.  I was awarded the UK Footwear Friends Young Designer Manager Award that year and as a result had the opportunity to be mentored by footwear industry professionals. This was invaluable, and many are still close acquaintances today. I launched my website with the help of a personal loan and started retailing online.  
Tell us more about your relationship with Bob's for Good Foundation* and the donation linked to the purchase of your Limited Edition Mooka.
(pictured above)

Famed former Springbok captain, Bob Skinstad, and his friend, former entrepreneur, Ron Rutland, were both living in London where they encountered a lot of negativity and stigma about South Africa.  They decided that the best way to respond was to be part of the solution. They returned to initiate Bobs For Good Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on providing poor children with school shoes. The charity supports school children who cannot afford shoes to walk the miles to school to gain an education. We all know educating the youth is the key to Africa’s future, and so through the gift of new shoes, they actively promote the importance of education by keeping learners happy and in their classrooms.  Bobs for Good school shoes are also South African made, there is the added benefit in that every shoe purchase is helping contribute to jobs and wealth creation in the country.

Albartross decided to collaborate with the charity and produce a Limited Edition range of shoes using Nguni hair-on cow hide, that have proven very popular. Nguni cows are the favoured breed of cattle of African tribesmen as they are highly fertile and strongly resistant to disease. They are generally beautiful spotted cows with large curved horns and are a byproduct of the meat industry..

For every pair of Royal Albartross Mooka golf shoes purchased 20 children receive new school shoes.  The full £200 goes to the purchase of shoes, the beneficiaries are strictly screened with help from the government and grass roots NGO’s so they know exactly which individual children from each school is genuinely in need of the footwear being donated. 

What drew you to this cause?

I grew up in South Africa and so African charities and the extreme poverty there will always be something I feel strongly about supporting.  We have wonderful customer's who love our golf shoes.  They are fortunate enough to afford the finer things in life and with this comes the ability to give to worthy causes.  The Mooka collection are truly unique and quite beautiful. Every golfer who purchase a pair owns one of only ten pairs available in either black leather or white leather and they can walk the greens with pride in their shoes knowing they have supported a worthy cause.

I believe in giving back, in a sustainable and genuine way, where we aren't taking anything for ourselves, but instead are getting to the root of the problem and creating awareness. There is so much excess in the first world, and its sometimes easy to forget that there are people in this world who will never earn in a year what we spend on  a pair of shoes or a handbag

According to the Department of Education in South Africa, there are currently 7.5 million children who don’t have school shoes. That’s more than half the school student population. Of course we acknowledge there are many other social challenges that affect underprivileged children such as hungry tummies, inadequate housing, lack of public services but the focus on shoes does allow them to get to school and gain an education which we feel is so important in breaking the cycle of poverty. The truth is that shoes do make an enormous difference, a lot more than one may think. Having worked in some of SA’s most impoverished communities, the Bobs for Good team has witnessed the knock on effect that a single pair of school shoes can have on an individual, family and community, and there stories and photos inspired us.
Shoes are symbolic of pride and self-esteem, giving confidence to young learners in the classroom.  They restore children’s dignity by providing them with brand new school shoes.  In Africa shoes are vital. They are the protective layer between children’s tiny soles and the harsh realities of our tough terrain.Walking barefoot to school can cause infections and diseases so its imperative we shoe up as many children as possible to prevent unnecessary injuries. In winter months, children’s feet become cold and wet when barefoot in the classroom. Bobs For Good shoes are made using real leather so children stay warm and dry all year round.

Apart from the quality, style seems to be at the top of your list.  What inspires the style of your work?  Any particular eras, artists, or musicians?

It didn’t take us long to realise that golfers are looking for something unique when it comes to footwear.  If they are prepared to spend that bit extra on a pair of golf shoes, they don’t mind being noticed.  Our square toe shapes and unconventional colourways seem to have hit the spot.  I am personally inspired by quality as you say, but also coming up with clever details that you can feel and appreciate.  Tiny rows of double stitching, flat eyelets with just the right amount of shine, extra collar padding for ultimate ankle comfort, lace tips that feel great and don't rust or fall off...its all in the thoughtfulness and longevity I try to bear in mind when designing.

Eras and artists, thats a tricky one..there are so many- Tim Little, Paul Smith, George Esquivel, Mr Hare, Tim Walker, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Klimt, Moebius aka Jean Giraud, Jean Michel Basquiat, 
Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils. Everything from fine art to modern murals, music to sculpture to graffiti. I suppose like any designer I am passionate about visuals and textures, smells and combinations- these can be found anywhere especially with the emergence of Instagram etc.  I like vintage furniture and leather goods, anything from bicycle saddles to old golf shoes from my grandparents era. I like black and white photography, old French textiles, anything striped or colourful. I like things that work and look stylish- practical design.

Gatsby-esque fashion styling, the tap shoes of South America, chestnut brown derby's or wingtips from Cheaney's or Church's that have weathered the pavements of time- like the ones my dad would polish and tell me about! All of this comes to mind when designing.

Mostly I think its a longing and appreciation for a time when footwear was more about being smart and less about artificial materials.  Where people ate meals and ventured out in shoes that weren't trainers!  I am fortunate to have encountered and fallen in love with a craftsmanship and an age old manufacturing process that brings leather to life in the form of shoes. Everything the factory in Italy turns their hand to when it comes to sampling my designs has something that can be appreciated.

The ball marker on your shoes.  How did that trademark come to pass?

I have a love of hardware, and shiney magpie-type gadgets and closures.  The ball marker came naturally as branding- a stud of sorts, subtle yet distinctive.
Then I came up with the ball marker idea.  Whilst you are bending over on the green you may as well use the one on your shoe..and ours is designed with that in mind.  Its classy, clever and convenient!  Our customer's really like it, and buy the gold plated markers in addition to the stainless version that comes with each pair.  Distinctly Albartross.

Thank you again, keep up the great work and keep us posted.

Fairways and Greens to all....

*Note:  I received word from Alex that the Put a Foot Foundation is taking up the school shoe project at this time.  Royal Albartross will continue their charity efforts with Put a Foot forward.


Monday, March 12, 2012

James Ingles Handmade Putter in London

James began making these works of art in 2009 out of London.  These putters find their roots in the gunmaking firm Charles Hellis & Sons. Using the same set of skills and craftsman, these putter are as much beauty as performance. 

Simply stunning is about the only way to describe the first time I saw one of these putters.  I am a big fan of blending classic and modern into something new, and this is a wonderful expression of that concept.    

I had a change to exchange a dialogue with James and I quickly learned the most difficult task was going to be how to edit this down to a short post.  

Mission failed, this is just going to have to be a long post, there is too much I just can not leave out.  

Be sure to see the vast amount of pictures he shared with me after the Q&A.

I hope you enjoy!

James Ingles Q&A

G.A.R.-First I should state I have never held one of your putters, but from pictures they are truly amazing.  Your pieces really stand out to me as works of art above anything else.  

My first question is to ask what putter you currently have in your bag right now and share that putter’s story.

James Ingles-The putter I have in the bag at the moment (which is likely to change as I change putters A LOT) is a long slant neck mallet putter, in a barrel brown finish with one sight line and a brass bullet in the face. Other putters in my rotation are a copper plated 28g, a flow neck 12g in Barrel Black and a Bespoke Damascus 12g again in a Barrel Brown finish.

The mallet that I am using came about because being English I was always a big Faldo fan and always remember him using the Taylor Made TPA XVIII to great affect during his career (I have both a Wilson and Taylor Made TPA XVIII putter in my collection too) and I always liked the look of the putter but was never a huge fan of the bumpers on it. So the mallet I am using is a similar shape to the putter Faldo used but it effectively has a gentle curve on the back of the putter rather than having bumpers. The long slant neck is a neck that I like for three reasons, firstly because it has a fair amount of offset which is something I like, the second reason is that with the longer neck it almost face balances the putter which is something this season that has given me more confidence in my putting. The final reason is because it is a slant neck it tends to look less angular and more flowing, I prefer this look to a standard plumbers neck...or at least I do at the moment, my putter taste changes almost daily!

G.A.R.- What got you started in the putter making craft?

James Ingles- I got started in the putter industry by chance really. My father owns a company called Charles Hellis and Sons which is one of the old London Shotgun and Rifle makers who still make everything by hand, so I have grown up around skilled artisans crafting things from metal. In December 2009 I challenged him to make me a putter to add to my collection, which he did, and I was really impressed with the quality/look etc, so that started the wheels turning in my head. I then contacted one of the old forging houses that still serves the London gun trade to see if they could make forgings of some putter designs we hadn't yet made, they sent me a breakdown of costs etc and it seemed it could just work. So I used what little money I had in my bank account, took out a loan from the bank and got started.

G.A.R.- The hand engraving is something that sets you apart, is this something you offer to any of your customers? 

James Ingles- Hand Engraving is something I love. Having been around shotguns for a long time the engraving on guns is something I have always admired, so much so that in 2008 I took a short Jewellery course to provide me with the basics of hand engraving, how to sharpen the tool (which is actually the most difficult part to perfect), how to make different cuts etc. Jewellery engraving is the same basic premise as gun engraving, just with a few mild differences. I had made a couple of friends within the gun industry who were involved in hand engraving so I also managed to get a few pointers from them on the intricacies of gun engraving. Now at some point in the future I hope to be able to do the engraving on the putters, however I don't feel I am yet at a standard befitting the quality of the putters, so all the engraving on the putters is done by practicing London gun engravers, so the best in the business basically. The hand engraving is open to anyone that orders a putter from us and can range from £10 for their initials all the way up to £1000+ if they want very intricate engraving with 24ct gold inlay. We can work to any budget so if a customer says, I can afford to spend £50 on engraving we can put £50 of engraving on the putter for them.

G.A.R.- How involved is the customer on getting a putter made?  Can you describe that process?

James Ingles- The customer is as involved in the process as they want to be, some clients simply say 'I want this putter, this finish, this grip, this length/lie/loft' and that is as involved as they are. Others want to be involved throughout the process, it varies wildly from one client to another. Some of the Bespoke putters we have made I have exchanged over 100 emails and many phone calls from start to finish. It tends to be the more out of the ordinary putters that have more involvement because after every bit of work you need to send over pictures to make sure the right route is being taken, you can obviously sketch what a design is likely to look like, but especially with the Bespoke putters the clients tend to have a very exact picture in their mind and that involves sending more in progress pictures so they can say 'I like this bit, I want this bit slightly rounder' etc. Everything is done by hand, and as such we dont use programmes like CAD or other modelling software, if a client wants a particular putter then I can sketch out a design to see if it is along the right lines, but invariably these really are basic sketches, just to give a basic visual representation of what we have understood the brief to be. This really is only for the very Bespoke out of the ordinary putters though, for example one recent client wanted a mallet putter like the one he currently uses but wanted it to resemble a Porsche Le Mans car, so having looked at some pictures of the car I did an extremely rough sketch of a cavity mallet putter with the bumpers resembling the front wings of the Porsche. Fortunately we do not get too many wacky completely out of the ordinary ideas through, mainly a good thing because my sketching skills are somewhat basic!

G.A.R.- Your Bespoke option really gives your customers a chance to see a vision they have come to life.  Is this the direction your want to grow in?

James Ingles- The Bespoke route is definitely something I am looking to expand on, I don’t like compromise so the Bespoke route is really a way where a client can have exactly what they want. We have had a great response to the more intricate Bespoke offerings and I want to start doing some limited runs (between 5 and 10 putters) of very intricate designs, lots of engraving and other features we offer. That way there is effectively another line we can offer, clients can have either the basic 28g or 12g putters, or a completely one off Bespoke putter, or a more collectible limited edition Bespoke putter. It is very important to me that people get a putter that they love and they enjoy using, after all putting is a lot about confidence and if the putter can even give someone 5% more confidence in their putting then that is a distinct advantage.

G.A.R.- I grew up with the classic blade style blade like your '28g'.  To me this is the highest form of putter making.  It reminds me of the legend of the artist Giotto.  The story goes the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto, asking him to send a drawing to demonstrate his skill.  Giotto drew, in red paint, a circle so perfect that it seemed as  though it was drawn using a compass and instructed the messenger to give that to the Pontiff.  These classic blade putters, if off just the smallest amount seem to fail.  

Your '28g' is a beautiful example of a classic blade.  The lines are just right.  Can you walk us through your thoughts on making this style in particular?

James Ingles- I completely agree regarding the classic blade putters. What looks to most like an easy shape to replicate it is only when you look more closely and realise there is only one flat bit on it and thats the face! Not a shape that lends itself to making by hand or machining, or at least easily. I have always liked the older blade putters, like the Calamity Jane, 8802, Geo Low Wizard, Designed by Arnold Palmer and the like. So what we did was try to make a putter that replicated all the best features of the putters of yester year with a more modern head weight. One of my favourite features is the undercut channel from the top line of the original DAP's so this was definitely something to keep and by having a thicker top line it meant that we could the weight up (the heaviest 28g we can do is 360g). The offset and neck length remain similar to the older blade putters but we can increase or decrease the neck length depending on customer preference and the shaping is fairly true to the older blades, the bad edge of the sole is definitely a bit chunkier, however the physical shape gives the same visual impression, again, it was all about keeping the shape visually true with a more modern head weight. To make the first putter we basically just kept making putters, shaving bits off here and there and then seeing if the putter looked 'right'. Sometimes we had taken too much weight off in one point and had to start again but eventually we got what we considered an excellent modern version of the classic, we then sent it to the forging house so they could set up the dies and tooling to enable us to have forgings made.


Thanks to James for all of his thoughts and the beautiful pictures.  You can find out more and get in touch with James by going to http://www.jamesinglesputters.com/

Fairways and Greens,