What’s In The Box?
(Written by: Golfspy Dave) Not too long ago a package showed up, was a standard, boring mailer, and to be totally honest, I couldn’t remember what I had coming my way from Oregon. Then I cracked open the package and found the above package inside.
It was like a nesting doll, where the outer, nondescript package contained this more interesting tissue wrapped package. As soon as I saw the inner package, I remembered what was coming from Oregon. A little bit of my Scottish heritage was in that mailer. Inside that tissue was my nod to my ancestors who served in the Black Watch. You see, that package contained my new wool headcovers from Seamus Golf.
How Seamus Golf Got Started
Seamus Golf is a small company located in Beaverton, OR. Seamus is all about manufacturing golf headcovers from the highest quality wool. In this day and age of outsourcing, Seamus prides itself upon using wool milled in the Pacific Northwest, with all of the designing and sewing taking place in Oregon. In Seamus, you can tap into the heritage of golf, while at the same time knowing that you are buying and using a product that was made locally by someone who has put care and effort into its production.
So…what’s behind this little company that is named after the owners’ fun-loving Irish Terrier? For this information, we turn to one of Seamus’ owners, Akbar Chisti.
Why did you decide to start this business?
We started with our covers when my wife, Megan, went in to fix a great cover my Dad brought back for me from Royal Troon in 2001. Megan is an accomplished designer who worked her way up the ranks in one of the more prominent and local apparel companies here in Portland, Oregon. Many of her designs are featured in such great stores as Urban Outfitters, Nordstroms, and Neiman Marcus.
Below are a few of the photos from the process of fixing those covers and seeking out some new and fun designs using what we had access to….locally sourced wool and brand new black business socks that we could cut and stitch into the top.
Before we got serious with professional seamstresses, industrial sewing machines that require periodic tune ups like a fine sports car, and surgers, we had a couple of small home sewing machines to work with.
At this time, we really didn’t have any intentions of starting a ‘business’. Our only goal was to make some really awesome head covers for our buddies and consequently their buddies. We wouldn’t have been so driven to perfect our design if we were readily able to find a cover like what we had in mind.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
Sitting and relaxing when there is a day where there is no huge hurdle to overcome. Maintaining an open mind when discussing important issues with your business partner who is also your spouse.
What was the most rewarding moment in this process?
When somebody says, “I really like that head cover”. It means so much to hear that. It practically makes me want to give them away as thanks, but Megan reminds me that we can’t do that anymore (we have sewers to pay).
Explain the process of going from idea to having a finished product for sale. How long did it take?
Our current fairway cover took 3 years to arrive to. Initially, we started with a business sock attached to a tartan top, not unlike the typical ones you see with tartan fabrics. For a while, we settled and used a simple design that had a sock bottom. It was great for fairway woods, but would limit us when going to fit the 460CC drivers or customizing for the hybrids. Also, we hadn’t figured out how to add an elastic lining without impeding on our desired clean design.
There are several of the above floating around, but it is a decidedly inferior product to what we have today. We proceeded to work on our design with the help of a highly proficient and professional seamstress. Further, we relied upon friends that played between 80 and 90 rounds in a year to show us the results of the testing through the Oregon sun and rain. After use testing, and trying different knit bottoms, we found that there was no real solution for the stretchy sock part that could bear heavy use, so we shifted to a barrel style. Our decision to drop the sock was twofold:
1) We didn’t like the way the various knitted wool was wearing. After use, it hooked onto various things and would fade in the sun, and
2) We could get really easy single handed use with a barrel style and even further promote the clean lines we had been striving for if we could perfect the elastic lining. After using about a dozen various types and sizes of elastic, we found the right one so that the barrel cover would stay on perfectly.
The driver and fairway hybrids both took about a year, and took far less time, as they are variants on our fairway cover. Starting slowly with only one product, the fairway wood, was probably the best thing we could have done as it only improved all of our offerings.
The above represents the covers that took us many years of work, and are exactly what we were striving for. Long lasting, a unique design, locally made, and goes great with different patterns or even different head covers.
With our MacMonies golf bag (made in Portland, Oregon in the early 1900’s), we set out to take some photos and have some fun with our covers. A limited number of the special run, ‘INITIAL OFFERING’ covers in the photo below were sold or circulated in hand wrapped tissue and woolen yarn.
At this time, we never had intentions of putting any sort of logos or customizations on our very clean and simple head covers. We decided that it was all about letting the plaid do the talking, and our pop color fleece lining add some fun to the traditional styles. We haven’t mentioned the following in any other publication, but the pop color fleece lining was inspired by the modern works of our favorite artists Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, and our distinctive black labeling was drawn from some very fine wool accessories featured in the Modern Museum of Art in San Francisco.
After being asked by the right folks about logo options, we studied our options carefully learned about a solution that would allow us to maintain our clean design philosophy. A Portland, Oregon wooden iPhone case manufacturer called RECOVER could burn logos onto vegetable tanned leather, a material very similar to the materials used in high grade leather saddles. This leather we found is so awesome, and really isn’t anywhere else in golf. It ages really nicely to a dark tan with use, so you can really tell if the golfer is getting out to play. Below is a sample run we did for the January 2012 PGA Show
What unexpected challenges did you face?
The wool we use costs more than leather. Domestic production is very costly, particularly when you want to maintain control over each step of the way and want highly proficient production staff. We didn’t know any of this at the start and continually face financial challenges arising from this business approach.
We sourced patterns and woolen fabrics from 4 different mills in Oregon, Washington, and Scotland. Why wool? The tartan wool we sourced was all 100% virgin wool, and dyed/woven such that it would wear well through many years of use. One of the greatest things about wool is that it is a living fibre. So unlike cotton, it does not attract dirt in the same way and can be thrown on the grass and not pick up anything. With all these great patterns, it was really all about the sewing and production at that point. Onward!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a golf business?
There is one piece that I would offer more than anything else: You should absolutely love this business more than anything you have ever done. I think too many golf businesses are started with the hope of making money, and I think if that is your only hope there is a high likelihood of failure. If the goal is to do what you love, and you absolutely love this business at the start, it is hard not to find success. So far we’ve been doing pretty good by that metric.
Going forward our intentions are to continue making fun and traditional pattern head covers domestically with very talented sewers and really the highest quality wool ever introduced to golf. Our covers can be found in high end golf shops across North America, and in a few surprising professional / celebrity golf bags. We have shipped to some fun places, and continue to live vicariously through the little wooly covers we make and the sensational links they hang out at. At the current time, we have no plans of introducing anything other than fun new patterns for our finest woolen golf club head covers.
Golfspy Dave’s Observations
The Seamus Golf headcovers are everything that they are advertised to be. The construction is exceptional. While I am by no means an expert on wool, the fabric is very strong and also somehow seems to repel dirt. This coming from the occasionally-angry golfer who sometimes tosses a headcover to the ground when approaching the tee box. There are a few other things that I love about these Black Watch headcovers
If you are looking to add a bit of traditional flair to your stick sack, I bet that Seamus has a pattern that will catch your eye. If you go through the inventory on the Seamus website, you will find two pages of different patterns and colors to choose from. If you can’t find one that you like, they even have a custom section. In the custom section, you can select your pattern, select the color of the liner material, and even opt for customized leather tags. The tags are engraved and “vegetable tanned”. I didn’t even know vegetables could tan…
Quality and Value
Truth be told, these two Black Watch headcovers are not my first Seamus Golf headcovers. A few months ago, I picked up a hybrid cover from them. If you want to read more about the hybrid cover, go HERE. Regardless, based upon my experiences with the headcovers, I am proud to report that Seamus headcovers are indeed of the highest quality. The fabric is solid, and the stitching precise. The shape and internal elastic allow the headcover to stay put during walking and riding. The only thing to keep in mind with these covers is that they are a barrel-type headcover. If you are looking for a long sock that protects the shaft deep into the bag, these are likely not for you. And after reading what Akbar said above, why would you want that? I feel confident that they will protect my driver and fairway heads as I lope around the course.