The Art of the Game
An Oceanside family business merges golf and art
Geoffrey Cunningham | Photo by Taryn Kent
530 South Coast Highway
Golf and art may seem like strange bedfellows, but for Linksoul Lab, the Oceanside-based golf apparel design studio and gallery space, the pairing has been the company’s key to putting a fresh spin on the quiet sport.
Launched in 2010 by North County native John Ashworth of Ashworth apparel fame and his nephew, artist Geoff Cunningham, Linksoul lends a youthful and inspired take on golf clothing and accessories that work on and off the greens, including cotton-cashmere sweaters, graphic tees, and waxed twill lace-ups.
After partnering with big names like Quiksilver, Ashworth decided to branch out on his own in San Diego and brought Cunningham, who had just graduated from art school, on board as co-founder and art director. Beyond the clothing, Cunningham, now 40, wanted to incorporate an artistic element. What resulted is a part-boutique, part-event space that showcases movies, art shows, concerts, and more.
The link between golf and art may seem fuzzy, but much like yoga or surfing, Cunningham considers both to be disciplines. “You’re not necessarily looking at it like a sport, but as a practice where you learn about yourself and nature,” he says. “We’re heavily influenced by surf culture because we’ve grown up here in San Diego. You can consider us a California lifestyle vibe.”
I’m looking for the people who are hiding in their garages, painting like mad, and not ever planning on getting known by anybody. Those are my favorite people in the world.”
Linksoul Lab hosts events about once a month, and in March they’ll welcome L.A. photographer Kohjiro Kinno, whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated. “I’m always trying to find local artists,” Cunningham says. “I’m looking for the people who are hiding in their garages, painting like mad, and not ever planning on getting known by anybody. Those are my favorite people in the world.”
Since its inception, Linksoul, which boasts more than 700 accounts in the U.S., has operated as mostly a family affair. Geoff’s uncle, Hank, is sales manager; his aunt Mary is head of customer relations, and aunt Joanne is head of the retail store, open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even the few non-related co-workers, like head designer Rebecca Bray, feel like family. Given the close-knit corporate team, it’s no wonder the brand is dedicated to promoting a sense of community. “We look at going back to the roots of where golf started, which is families going for a walk and playing this game,” Cunningham says. “That’s how it was until America made it this big industry where you needed to spend lots of money and focus on your score. It used to be more like surfing, where you go out and spend time with friends in nature.”
As if apparel and art weren’t enough variety for the golf brand, in addition to introducing Linksoul’s first direct-mail catalog last year, Ashworth, Cunningham, and a team of locals won a battle against the city to preserve Goat Hill Park, San Diego’s first official golf course, which has served the community as a public green space since 1952. With the help of Cunningham and company, Goat Hill will be developed into a golf course with community-supported agriculture and a children’s park. Other big plans for 2015 include a full women’s collection and expansions to more cities—they hope.
“We’re anxious to set up several locations around the country,” Cunningham says. “We want to reconnect people to the soul of the game.”