London-based custom putter maker James Ingles has reached an agreement to make putters exclusively for Scratch Golf.
Scratch will take orders for the totally customizable putters at its headquarters in Chatanooga, Tenn., starting Feb. 1. They will be handmade in London by Ingles’ company, James Ingles Putters, and will have a base price of $999. Scratch and Ingles are currently budgeting between 200 and 250 putters for 2013. Orders will be slotted on a first-come, first-serve basis, with only about 20 putters being made per month.
Ari Techner, CEO of Scratch Golf, said the decision to partner with Ingles was based on the quality of his work and the uniqueness of his design. He said he could not be more excited about working with Ingles, who shares a similar age, background and passion for custom golf equipment.
“I started Scratch because I couldn’t find an OEM that could give me the grinds I wanted in a wedge,” Techner said. “The same is true for custom putters. It’s hard for me to find a retail product that I really like.”
Techner was introduced to Ingles through the GolfWRX putter forum, where Ingles had posted pictures of his gun-inspired handmade putters. He contacted Ingles about creating two matching custom putters — one for use, one for display. Techner and Ingles traded more than 200 emails during the design process, settling on a pair of putters constructed with precious metals — Damascus steel inserts, gold inlays and handmade gold screws. Unbeknownst to Techner at the time, he was Ingles’ first custom putter customer.
See the photos of the putters Ingles made for Techner below. For more photos, click here.
Ingles’ father is the sole owner of Charles Hellis & Sons, a London gunmakers that produces premium handmade shotguns with an entry-level price of more than £30,000. Ingles was involved with his father’s business in his youth, but was also an accomplished golfer. He was good enough to flirt with the idea of moving to the United States to play collegiate golf, but he ultimately decided to attend St. Andrews University in Scotland instead, where he studied business. But he continued to play golf and remained an equipment junkie.
“In the UK, it’s harder to try equipment out,” Ingles said. “It’s not like the U.S. The UK is about two years behind the U.S. in golf equipment. You can go to Edwin Watts and hit clubs into nets, but the only thing you can really try are the putters.”
In college, Ingles’ fascination with putters continued to grow. He started playing high-end putters such as models by Scotty Cameron and TP Mills. As a gift one year, he received a limited edition “Inspired by David Duval” Scotty Cameron putter, and began tracking down handmade TP Mills putters for his collection. After graduation from St. Andrews in 2005, Ingles began as a property manager in London, but he continued to be drawn to putters. One day Ingles had an idea — he challenged Hellis’ head gun maker to make him a putter in the Hellis style. He posted the results on the GolfWRX putter forum, which is how Techner originally viewed Ingles’ work.
Ingles received more positive feedback from the GolfWRX community, which he said led him to establish his putter company in 2009. The first obstacle was finding out whether he could locate forgings for his putter heads in the UK, which led him to Victoria Forgings, a 100-year-old family-owned forging house located in the Midlands which still serves the gun industry, but now specializes in producing forgings for the aerospace and engineering industries.
Ingles said his putter company is about the quality, precision and craftsmanship typical in the London gun making industry. His decision to join Scratch was based on the fact that the two companies share a common goal — creating custom golf clubs that are exactly what their customers want.
“In terms of irons and wedges, [Scratch] does what we do,” Ingles said. “For the future of my putters, it makes sense to partner with Scratch. America has been my best market, and Scratch has an unbelievable reputation in America.”
This is not the first time Scratch has entered the custom putter market. In June 2009, Scratch partnered with Gene Nead to make custom putters for the company, but the deal fell through shortly after. Scratch’s master craftsman Jeff McCoy has also designed putters for special Scratch customers, but Techner decided it was in the best interests of the company to have McCoy focus on the company’s irons and wedges.
Techner said Ingles’ extensive background with managing firearm production will help Scratch manage customer delivery dates and the flow of orders, which has been a problem for Scratch in the past.
“I’m really excited about this new partnership,” Techner said. “I feel like the stuff [Ingles] is on another level. James is making the most beautiful high-end putters available, and I think our customers will appreciate his craftsmanship.”