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Linksoul founder John Ashworth wears Linksoul clothing


Surf and Turf

How Linksoul is bringing coastal cool to the everyman.

By Embry Roberts

Surf and Turf

By Embry Roberts

Linksoul’s office sits at the intersection of golf and surf – literally.

“Our headquarters is right on the Pacific Coast Highway, four blocks from the ocean. The golf course that we run is about a mile as the crow flies east,” founder John Ashworth explained. “So we’re sandwiched in between golf and surf, and that’s kind of what we do: we basically want to bridge the gap between land and sea.”

Man golfing in sand.
That means selling board shorts and surfboards alongside golf clubs and polo shirts. “It’s a complete, 100 percent reflection of our lifestyle here in southern California,” said John. “You don’t have uniforms for different parts of the day – clothing just transitions from one thing to the next. If I wear something to work, I want to be able to go play nine holes of golf at a moment’s notice and not have to change.”

It’s a valid concern at a company with mandatory “golf Fridays” at Goat Hill Park, the nearby public course that Linksoul restored and reopened in 2016. Goat Hill Park’s motto is “world class, working class,” and the green fee for the 75-acre course is just $26 in 2019. “We don’t have a dress code (at Goat Hill Park). Everyone’s welcome,” said John. “It opens up all kinds of possibilities. We play music…it’s about having fun.”

“There might be some stodgy people out there who want to get stuck in country-club-ville – you gotta wear pants, you gotta wear a collared shirt, all that stuff,” John continued. “Hey, I get it. I’m respectful of that – I play at a lot of places like that, and we make stuff that conforms to that too. We’re all for looking good!”

“But golf needs entry-level places to learn the game,” he clarified.

“If people fall in love with it and get addicted to it, they’ll get to know the country club etiquette as well … It’s your own game, you can make what you want of it.”

Co-founder Geoff Cunningham explained that Linksoul’s company ethos is also inspired by old-school approaches to golf in Scotland and Ireland. “If you go back, it’s a super communal game,” he said. “For example, when it started, each family in the community had a hole that they had to take care of. And still to this day, when you play out there, it’s this whole different experience. It’s a gathering space. You’re in nature. You’re walking. They don’t use carts at all.”

He continued, “Our goal is to make golf more inclusive, and also to focus less on the performance aspects and more on the communal and natural aspects. There’s so much to the game as a practice – like yoga, like surfing – where you can go do it and get in tune with yourself, and get in tune with your friends, and connect with nature. It doesn’t need to be based on your score and your swing.”

Goat Hill Park is also home to the Caddie and Leadership Academy, a training program for at-risk kids and teens. “I grew up caddying, and I caddied to help put myself through college, and then I caddied on the tour,” said John. “I feel like it was such a big help to me to grow as a person, to get people skills and life lessons and that kind of thing.”

“There’s gotta be a bigger picture,” he added.
Linksoul founder John Ashworth

“I think in today’s world, people and companies need to look at their communities, get involved and try to make a difference. We’re all on a hamster wheel anyway – we might as well help each other out."

For Linksoul, that means spearheading initiatives like the Caddie Academy and Make Par / Not War, a special collection whose proceeds support the Warrior Canine Connection in pairing veterans with service dogs. But it also means doing all of their day-to-day business with integrity and authenticity.

“I would say I’m always a big believer that you’ve just gotta put a lot of love into it,” John said. “It’s gotta be real. We have a true meaning, we don’t fake much – it’s pretty much just what you see is what you get.”

“We always laugh that Linksoul is like a weed,” Geoff added. “It’s an idea that was supposed to exist, and we kind of watered it and tended to it, and when it needed a bigger plant we repotted it – but I never really feel like I’m in charge of it, or I’m making it happen.”

He continued, “This thing actually reaches out and grabs people and pulls them in, and we’re tending to it and making sure it doesn’t get hurt. I try to get out of the way, personally, of the idea that’s trying to get through me and out into the world.”
Golfer at Goat Hill Park

What’s in a Name?

“The ‘links’ is where the game began (in 17th century Scotland) – it’s where the land meets the sea,” John explained of the company’s name. “And golf has this way of linking souls together, helping people become really good friends for life. Total strangers can show up and play together, and strike up a friendship that’ll be really strong.”

A Family Affair

John Ashworth co-founded Linksoul with nephew Geoff Cunningham. John is the company’s president and CEO, while Geoff is art director and photographer. “We’ve worked together in the past, and I felt like there was this unique circumstance of (Geoff’s) talent and my experience, and that we could bring it all together and it would translate to a broader audience,” John said. “We’re both very involved in product design – we have a designer that we work with, and we kind of do a three-head mind melt on stuff.”

“It’s awesome to work with a family member, because as much as you ever argue about anything, you can’t fully escape the person or shut them down,” added Geoff. “You know you’re getting the truth. We can tell each other, flat out, ‘That sucks,’ and know that the other person is going to let us know the same thing. I need that when I work, and I think it’s good for everybody else here too. We’re holding each other accountable. It creates a very authentic atmosphere.”
Linksoul long-sleeved shirt