In surveying today's golf apparel scene, it almost seems as if trends are running on parallel tracks. One is heavily influenced by the Tour—white belts, technical fabrics, bold blocks of geometric color, racing stripes—in short, clothes that shout power and athleticism. The other quietly draws from the game's traditions and roots—clean cuts, solid colors, understated or absent branding—the kind of stuff that a guy could wear to the office, or on a date, without being immediately pegged as a Golf Bore. While the former category will always be with us, the latter is perhaps more in keeping with the zeitgeist. All but the most casual of observers will have noted the recent movement toward a simpler, more sustainable game. The question is: Can we also dress the part? Can we uphold those values while still looking sharp?
John Ashworth's new concern, Linksoul, seems to have an affirmative answer. Following his divorce from TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, Ashworth may not be involved with the brand that bears his name anymore, but he has his freedom and is clearly enjoying himself. Launched in a gallery space in Oceanside, Calif., midway between L.A. and San Diego, Ashworth brought together an "all-star team" of friends and family—brother Hank works in sales and marketing, while nephew Geoff Cunningham contributes art and design. The "corporate culture" is anything but—one of the few hardline company policies is known as MGF...Mandatory Golf Fridays.
Linksoul's spring 2012 line demonstrates an admirable mix of SoCal cool and golferly restraint. Most of the polos ($65) come in simple, solid colors and feature what the company describes as a "modern American cut"—translation, somewhere between "athletic-fit" and a tent...but closer to the former. They're finished with Ashworth's "Innosoft" treatment, a holdover from earlier lines, which gives the fabric a buttery-soft feel while also maintaining breathability and eliminating the need to iron. The debut line also includes a great range of sweaters—cashmere or cotton, in both half-zip and jersey—and several styles of shorts. (Long trousers, not so much—I guess they don't see much need for 'em in San Diego.)
Linksoul is a greengrass-only operation, so you'll have to seek out their products in the pro shop of your favorite club. (The company is also planning to debut an e-commerce engine on its website, linksoul.com, within the next month or so.) It's worth noting that you'll also want to pay attention to the items featuring the club's in-house label—a big part of the company's strategy comes from its Linksoul Club division. For example, if you see a polo labeled "US Open 2012" at the Olympic Club this summer without any other brand name on it—that's Linksoul Club—and that's good.
And now I'm off to talk to Jack Purcell about those Mandatory Golf Fridays. Enjoy the weekend!
Editor's Note to Tom: Our half-day Fridays in summer are de facto MGFs.