John Letters: A brand steeped in historyFebruary, 2012 News & Tour
This iconic equipment brand is back on the scene. This is its story
A LITTLE under a century ago the John Letters story began with a small works by the River Clyde in Glasgow so it was fitting that the company’s new showroom and custom-fit workshop opened this year in St Andrews.
Just a short drive from the Old Course’s 18th fairway, on North Street, sits an impressive facility which fits 80 to 100 clubs a week, a small museum with pieces such as the original Golden Goose putter as well as a showroom with the latest equipment and clothing. What once was an arts gallery and disused shop now looks very different.
The focus here is very much on the customer with an emphasis on attention to detail. Every club receives a handmade sticker and there is the chance to test them at the nearby five-star Fairmont hotel.
And if you wish to designate your own colours on the club’s lettering and numbering that’s not a problem – in the workshop were a very striking set of irons with the Italian flag and new owner’s initials waiting to be dispatched.
At the heart of the operation is Peter McCalla, a PGA professional who is the master clubmaker. Learning to make woods and irons in an ‘old-school’ style with Alistair Johnson at JB Halleys in St Andrews, he actually signed as a John Letters player before moving to Brodick on the Isle of Arran where he lived for nearly 30 years.
There is the capacity to customise 60 clubs a day and every last one will be crafted and prepared as well as the first.
If you know your specifications, there is every chance that McCalla will have guessed them anyway and he will tweak your chosen clubs in no time.
With the majority of manufacturers assembling their equipment in the Far East, John Letters are bucking the trend by hand-assembling everything in the country where it all began and, if you’re in or around the Auld Grey Toun, it is well worth a visit.
The focus here is very much on the customer with an emphasis on attention to detail. Every club receives a handmade sticker.
John Letters Timeline
1918 Letters Logan & Company founded in Glasgow
1923 Company renamed John Letters
1929 Become one of the first companies in Europe to experiment with steel shafts
1946 Launch of the now famous Golden Goose putter
1947 Launch of the original Master Model irons
1949 8 of GB&I’s 10-man Ryder Cup team use John Letters clubs
1952 Launch of the Silver Swan putter
1957 Dunlop Sporting Company purchase John Letters
1971 Sam Torrance joins
1973 Hope Letters introduces carbon fibre technology, inspired by changes in bicycle frame manufacturing
1983 Jimmy and Hope Letters buy John Letters back from Dunlop
1989 Trilogy irons launched – the first mixed cavity/blade set
1990 Paul Lawrie joins as staff player
1991 Darren Clarke joins
1991 Tim Morrison purchases John Letters from Scottish Heritable Trust
2000 Gordon and Marlon White purchase John Letters
2006 PGA professional John Andrew buys, and relaunches, John Letters
2010 Sam Torrance re-signs and T9+ range is launched
2011 Master Model irons and Golden Goose putter relaunched. Showroom and Workshop opens in St Andrews
Red Letters days
1947 Open: Fred Daly, Hoylake
THE first Northern Irishman to land the Claret Jug finished ahead of amateur Frank Stranahan and Reg Horne. He did so using the new Master Model irons.
He also won the British Matchplay, the first player since James Braid (1905) to hold both titles at the same time.
1968 Open: Gary Player, Carnoustie
THEN the longest Open course at 7,252 yards, the South African overtook Billy Casper and Bob Charles in the final round. Also won the 1974 Open using the brand and finished up with nine Majors spanning three decades.
1972 Open: Lee Trevino, Muirfield
TREVINO won four Majors using John Letters including this one when he saw off Tony Jacklin. In the third round he scrambled five straight birdies with outlandish chip-ins and putts. In the final round, he found another ridiculous chip shot from behind the 71st green while the Englishman three-putted.