When I became a top 100 golf course panellist and started my blog the two things, I thought I would really need was good content and a very large supply of golf balls.
Whilst looking through Instagram one morning I came across an advert for Sounder Golf and I saw that they manufactured golf balls as well as having a very different looking fashion range.
I wrote to them to see if I could get some of their balls providing me with ammunition for the rounds ahead and hopefully some interesting content. They kindly provided me with a supply of balls and tees both came in a swag bag no plastic or cardboard wrapping with these guys. The balls looked good and were marked very differently with not a number in sight but a selection of coloured stars.
I have to say I was a little sceptical at first as we are brainwashed by the big manufacturers that only their balls go further, spin better and how could you play golf without them. I liked the feel and the look of the ball straight away and when I hit my first shot, I was a convert.
I invited James May and Jon Davie two of the people behind Sounder Golf for a game at my home course Sunningdale Heath to find out more. James launched Urban Golf the first UK indoor golf venue and Jon had worked for Zone in the IT and e-commerce business. The other Founder of the business is Cathal McAteer who had also founded the award-winning fashion brand Folk twenty years ago. Apparently, Cathal had to keep his love of golf secret from his fashion and music contacts for many years so as not to be seen as uncool.
I asked James if he would like to take on “The Round with Niall Challenge” and as an ex-pro and now a competitive 1 handicapper at Highgate Golf Club he jumped at the chance and I took 8 shots without any negotiation fearing the worst after my recent run of results!
I soon learned that James is a complete golf nut he really does live, eat and breath golf and believes passionately about making the game more accessible, more rewarding and more fun.
He got my attention when on the 4th hole he teed off using a persimmon headed driver. I don’t think I have seen one of those used in over 25 years and brought back all my yesterday’s trying to hit a balata ball with a wooden-headed club in the pouring rain!
James explained that Sounder Golf was set up for people who truly love the game and are sometimes frustrated by golf as an industry. With the game now becoming popular and even seen as cool Sounder have set out to provide something away from the mainstream for both traditionalists and those just taking up the game and want to look and feel good both on and off the course.
Now in my mid-Fifties I wasn’t sure that the clothing would be right for me but seeing it close up I think I might just get away with it. It actually has some 90’s features which back in the day I thought I could pull off, others might disagree! James was most insistent that every Sounder product has been conceived, designed and tested on the course by James and Cathal and only the products that they truly believe in make the cut.
James is a very good player and could shape the ball both ways and his short game was excellent however I was keeping my own and at the turn and with a little home knowledge and a few shots I was 3 up.
James and Jon are both members of Royal North Devon and James is also a member of Machrihanish. We discussed why people become members of a club and both were in agreement that clubs have to be a little more relaxed, really encourage juniors and make golf fun doing away with too many rules and regulations from yesteryear. Sounder arranged a photo shoot at Machrihanish and they got lucky with the weather but the photos they took show off their brand and the ethos of their business perfectly.
As we played the back 9, I asked James more about the ball and I learnt he had completed around 10 years of research on the ball. The Sounder ball is a three-piece ball with a urethane cover which meant little to me.
However, one of the key findings from Golf Ball Selector’s rigorous testing was that weight consistency might be a successful ball’s single most important attribute which I found most interesting.
Consistency is reliant on the manufacturing processes because manufacturing millions of identical golf balls is no simple process. If the processes are not tight, even the best-designed ball will prove to be inconsistent. It might be argued a golf ball is only as good as the factory it’s made in. James found the right factory in Taiwan and is very confident of the consistency.
Sounder Golf also makes a range of accessories such as gloves, headcovers, tees, towels, hats & caps, belts and they will be launching a shoe range with more ideas and items being tested on courses every week. The one thing really I want them to add to the range is a right-hand glove for the left-hander golfer as I have bought into everything else in the range!
My ball was going well, and I kept on keeping James at bay winning the game 4up, but the result was not important I loved listening to James’s passion for all things golf and his knowledge about fashion, equipment, and architecture. We discussed the Criteria for deciding the top100 courses and he made some interesting suggestions based on like for like courses and highlighting the Fun course Top 100 as an example.
Jon and James have very kindly invited me for a return game at Highgate and we discussed the possibility of working together as there seems to be a number of synergies so watch this space.
I for one believe that Sounder Golf will not be for everyone but golfers who like to engage with the golf community about equipment, course architecture and playing the game will be drawn to the brand whether it be for tees or the very latest hoodie.
I see James and Cathel being at the forefront of making the game truly cool in the years to come!
Until next time