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

Fairways and Greens,