Holderness & Bourne is a brand that has quickly established itself in the top golf shops. John Bourne and Alex Holderness founded the company in 2015. It can be found at more than 90% of the nation’s top 100 golf courses. Holderness and Bourne will be seen at many high-level amateur competitions, as well as filling the lockers for the Instagram golf tastemakers around the globe.
What’s the secret to success? Holderness & Bourne’s flagship polos are a master of the interplay between classic styles and modern fittings and materials. We previously described H&B as a company that sought to be somewhere in between the oversized, boring shirts found in country clubs, and the slim, fitted garishness of European brands and companies aimed at younger golfers. They are without doubt succeeding.
We wanted to talk with Holderness & Bourne’s founders and find out more about who Holderness & Bourne really are.
GolfWRX: It’s been four years, Gents. What’s the story?
Holderness & Bourne : We are sorry for the delay. Our brand strategy and mission as a golf-focused company have remained the same since our last conversation in 2018. The brand that is unique and found in special places in the game. Holderness & Bourne can now be found in a wider range of places. Our stockist list currently exceeds 1,000 resorts and golf clubs around the world.
Like many brands, we have enjoyed the recent rise in golf’s popularity and are grateful to our partners for their continued support of the brand and our product lines. It’s been fun building this company and we have been focusing on expanding our staff and operational capabilities. Along with our focus on product quality and fit, we are proud of our ability to provide fast and efficient service to our customers. We have increased our embroidery capacity and machinery over the years, which has allowed us to respond quickly and take full control of the custom logo process.
We have added new styles to our product line but only when they are perfect from a design and longevity standpoint. We have remained true to our guiding principle of creating classics that fit better and we have created layers, belts and bottoms that are worthy to be in every part of the world. We believe that golfers shouldn’t wear the same style as us, so we don’t release it on the market.
This will be our eighth anniversary as a company. However, we believe we are still in the first nine stages of this journey.
GolfWRX: I think you guys have mastered golf and hit all the right notes. You were clearly unhappy with the market offerings. Based on your growth, it seems that many shared your opinion. Could you please speak to this?
H&B While we were at Yale business school, we played a lot together and noticed the dearth of great-fitting shirts. The market for golf apparel was completely different in the period between 2010-11. It was hard to find a few brands that could create a look for men who could easily transition from the course. We didn’t like the way it was dominated by companies that had a loose, baggy cut or knit collars that were flat. Both of us had an affinity to classic menswear so we thought, “Why don’t you bring more tailoring ethos into the category?” Based on what we know.
GolfWRX: A while back, I was talking about H&B and was asked by them if there was a Holderness or a Bourne. I was able to confirm that there was. Could you tell me more about the company and your history?
H&B There are actually people behind this name, Alex Holderness and John Bourne. We decided from day one to sign the doors like old English tailoring houses. This gives us a greater sense of responsibility for all that is associated with the brand. You can’t help but feel more responsible for everything when your name is on the company.
We met at Yale while we were working towards our MBA’s. Our friendship began at Yale. C.B. was a great friend. We were privileged to have a Macdonald classic at our disposal, and we took full advantage the student rate. During those years, we had many conversations about golf and other topics. Although neither of us were from the apparel industry, we both knew what it meant to look good and put together a well-dressed ensemble. We were able to see what was in our closets and avoid the temptation of buying golf shirts at the pro shops.
We both went to finance jobs after graduation. However, we maintained contact and played golf whenever we could. After a few years working in corporate finance, it was not until 2015 that we decided to quit our jobs and take a chance on this brand.
We spent much of our early days in New York’s garment district. We wanted to understand the manufacturing process of apparel and learn about made-in-America fabrics. The time spent in these factories was crucial for our business and provided us with valuable insight that we could use when building the brand.
From 2015-2018, our headquarters was a small office in New York City’s Flatiron with a few shirts. These products were a huge focus of our factory and we believed that we could create something new. The golf shirt has a more fitted collar and is slightly shorter. We were fortunate to be located in Manhattan and within easy reach of some of the most prestigious golf courses in the country. We wanted to take advantage of this location and so we began with Winged Foot, one of the most renowned golf clubs in America.
Grant Sturgeon, who is now the Arcola Country Club’s head golf professional, was Winged Foot at the time. He was Winged Foot’s top assistant and was kind enough to let us roll the dice on our first order. From there, a few clubs from the Met Section joined the fray: Wykagyl Country Club and Greenwich Country Club. All of these clubs sold their first orders quickly, and received positive feedback from their members. Without them, we wouldn’t be where they are today. The business gained momentum quickly and became a major player in the New York region over the following years.
Eight years later, the H&B team now has more than 50 employees and a product line of over 300 SKUs. Our hardworking and passionate sales team has allowed us to build relationships all across the country. We always emphasize quality products with excellent customer service. The other is meaningless without the first.
GolfWRX: Your wares are sold in around 90% of the top 100 courses. That’s great for business. But can you tell me why there is such enthusiasm at the top courses?
H&B We are firmly in the top ten and almost certainly in the top 90 percent of the top 100 US golf facilities. Clubs and resorts that make the list of the top 100 are there because they deserve the best. They expect a higher level of service when their guests and members visit the shop. Since the beginning, we have worked hard to offer the highest quality product possible using the finest materials and trims on the market. We also aim to give the customer a stylish, not tacky, shirt or pullover. With the intention of putting the focus on the resort or club logo, we have worked hard to reduce any H&B branding. These great properties have given us space to shop because of our attention to quality, classic styling and modern fit.
GolfWRX – What’s next in H&B?
H&B Although we are relatively new to the bottoms category, as of Fall ’22 (shipping currently), we have one short style and one pant: The Carter Short & The Warner Pant. The same cotton/performance mix fabric is used in both styles to create a product that is “best of all” Although it looks and feels similar to a lightweight cotton-twill chino with stretch properties, the fabric is made from performance yarns that provide moisture wicking and shape retention. The pant has a modern five-pocket design with classic jetted pockets at the back. The short and the pants have elastic waistbands and non-slip rubber waistlinings. H&B’s pants category offers a chance for brands like H&B to offer styles that are both practical and stylish on the course. Versatility is the key to success.
Our current headquarters, which is located on the second floor in a charming Victorian home in downtown Rye (New York), are for business. The space, although full of character and charm, is too small to accommodate the team we have built and will continue to build. We plan to move to a bigger facility in Armonk (New York), which will bring together both our corporate team as well as the warehouse operation under one roof. This move is a major stepping stone for the brand, and will allow us continue to grow for many years.