The Early Days
The John Letters story began in 1918 with a small works on the north bank of the
River Clyde in Glasgow. Originally Letters Logan & Company, by 1923 the Company
had become known as John Letters, the name that exists to this day.
Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, club making was largely an ancillary
activity to the more lucrative and complicated activity of ball making. However
the advent of the gutty ball gave more scope for club design and with coal and steel
in plentiful supply around the coastal regions of Scotland, professionals of the
day turned their hand to head design and manufacture. By beating raw steel into
shape by hand through the use of rudimentary moulds and presses, small premises
around the great links courses of Fife, Ayrshire, the Lothians and Angus began to
dominate the world of club production.
Being a businessman, rather than a golf professional, John Letters was unusual in
the golf trade and choosing to locate his factory in the industrial heartland of
central Scotland made it doubly so. Therefore from the beginning, there was something
very different about the John Letters business. This may be one of the reasons why
the company grew from strength to strength as the century progressed, while other
great club makers like Forgan, Tom Morris and Nicoll, began to fall by the wayside.
John Letters made steady progress through the ‘20s and ‘30s and its proprietor proved
himself to be a shrewd businessman, always ready to try new ideas and techniques.
The Company was one of the first to experiment with steel shafts while the rest
of the British Industry lost ground to the USA by insisting on remaining faithful
to hickory. The readiness to innovate was to prove John Letters’ greatest strength.
By1939, the John Letters company had become established as a club maker of note,
but real breakthroughs came in the post war era.
The Golden Years
In 1946, John Letters introduced the Golden Goose putter. It is always a matter
of dispute which came first - The Golden Goose or the Bullseye - but, whichever
way round, they were destined to dominate the game on their respective sides of
the Atlantic for the next twenty years. During the ‘40s and ‘50s in Europe, it was
very difficult to find any player of note who did not carry a Golden Goose, even
today’s great exponents of the putting game continue to use the putter to their
Already riding high on the success of the Golden Goose, the John Letters place in
the club makers’ Hall of Fame was secured in 1947, with the launch of the now legendary
Master Model. In that same year, the great Irish Golfer Fred Daly used the Master
Model to win The Open and the British Matchplay Championship, Europe’s two premier
golfing events at the time. Immediately thereafter the Master Model became the club
that everyone wanted to play.
It wasn't just the professionals in the game that chose to play John Letters.
There followed a decade of unparalleled success for the John Letters Company. Throughout
Europe, nearly every professional and leading amateur was playing John Letters clubs
through choice. Unlike today, when players’ loyalties are purchased for hard cash,
forty years ago, players were more likely to select the clubs they wanted to play
with and then negotiate a modest retainer. More selected John Letters than all the
other brands put together.
Fred Daly, Dai Rees, Lee Trevino, Cathy Panton, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance,
Gary Player and Paul Lawrie are among the great names in golf who played and won
with John Letters.
Clubs, top entertainers around the world also selected the brand because of its
reputation for quality and innovation. Ertha Kitt, Danny Kaye, Jack Lemmon, Judy
Garland and Sean Connery are amongst some of the celebrities who have played John
Letters clubs and the biggest of them all, Frank Sinatra, played John Letters clubs
during most of his golfing life.
Fred Daly (11 October 1911 – 18 November 1990) was a Northern Irish Professional
golfer who was best known for winning The Open Championship of 1947 at the Royal
Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake.
Born in Portrush, County Antrim, he was the only Irishman from either side of the
border to have won The Open until Pádraig Harrington won it in 2007.
He won the Open in 1947 playing John Letters golf clubs while professional to the
Balmoral Club in Belfast. His winning score of 293 saw him home by a single stroke
from Frank Stranahan (an amateur) and R W Horne.
During his acceptance speech at Royal Liverpool, Daly said he was very honoured
to receive the Claret Jug and take it back to Northern Ireland. He went on to say
that the trophy had never been to Ireland and that he was hoping that the change
of air would help it. There was much applause and laughter at his humorous comments.
In addition he added the News of the World Match Play tournament which was the main
British Match Play Championship, becoming the first golfer since James Braid (1905)
to win both the Open and the Match Play title in the same year.
Daly went on to play in the Ryder Cup in 1947, 1949, 1951 and 1953.
A time for change
In 1983 Dunlop moved its club making operations to England, leaving John Letters
Scottish manufacturing facility threatened with closure and oblivion. The family
spirit which had created the company now came to its rescue and two members of the
Letters family - Jimmy and Hope - brought it back under family control - until their
retirement in the early ‘90s.
During the 80s and early 90s, time was taken to take stock of Letters position in
the modern golf industry. Craftsmanship and quality were no longer enough. So John
Letters responded in typical fashion. Heavy on craft expertise, but short on technical
input, the company rectified this by forging links with the universities of St Andrews
and Glasgow, two of Scotland’s oldest and most revered seats of learning. A detailed
programme of research and development was instigated using the latest computer techniques
and dynamic models; new materials were investigated to anticipate future development
strategies, and John Letters moved back to the forefront of the game.
This new spirit produced a series of new models, which created string of notable
firsts for the company. Trilogy became the first matching set of irons to include
cavity backed long irons and bladed short irons when first launched in 1989. The
TRILOGY TXD IRONS encompassed all the best features of its predecessors and is enhanced
with oversize playability.
The innovative spirit at John Letters is was very evident with the design and introduction
of the Tri-Logic 4.25 putter, the first vertically and horizontally balanced putter.
In addition, the launch of the TRILOGY TXD Driver took the golfing community by
storm with its striking appearance and exceptional performance.
Strength to Strength
Heading into the new Millennium, it was time again to take stock of John Letters’
position within the industry. Due to mass production of clubs by other manufacturers
and an increase in imports from the Asian market this exceptional company could
not compete in it’s current form any more. A successful new owner in 2005 saved
the company from obscurity and now looks forward to reproducing its golden years
again. With the introduction of the T2 Square Driver and the new T7+ range, the
company is pushing the limits of club design and going from strength to strength.
In May 2010 John Letters Golf signed Sam Torrance OBE, European Tour legend and
Ryder Cup captain, in a multi-year professional contract, 40 years after he signed
his first professional contract with John Letters.
Sam, 42 time winner, will become John Letters Golf brand ambassador and carry John
Letters on the European and US Senior Tours.
Today John Letters have brought back some legendery names such as the Master Model, Golden Goose an Sliver Swan ranges.
These have helped John Letters gain greater tour presence with the likes of Sam Torrance, Phillip Archer and Lee Shepherd using them on tour.
John Letters tour pressence doesn't stop there with the introduction of a state of the art Tour vehicle offering tour staff club changes and tweaks.
2013 sees the introduction of the revolutionary TR47 that has been launched and exceeded any previous expectations. The TR47 sees the introduction of a new relationship with UST Mamiya to create a shaft to match the performance of the new product. The product development team have also pushed the boundaries incorporating a 2.2mm face on the iron set and 15-3-3-3 titanium in the face of the driver. This is already a successful chapter in the John Letters story.
2013 also sees the extension of the relationship between John Letters and Sam Torrance. Sam was very happy to sign a 3 year extension to his contract as he started his career with John Letters and will now enjoy his career twilight years with the brand.