SLMan Meets… Golf Creative James Wilson
SLMan Meets… Golf Creative James Wilson

SLMan Meets… Golf Creative James Wilson


James Wilson is out to make one of the world’s oldest sports cool again – one piece of content at a time. Here, he tells us how he hit upon the unlikely combination of golf and design, reveals his favourite courses, and explains why it’s an exciting moment for the game…

Golf has been in my family on my father’s side for generations. On top of that, my mum and dad run a golf accessories business. My hands were tied from the start. I was playing a lot of sport from as early as I can remember, but golf led the pack. From a young age, I had aspirations of playing golf on tour. I worked hard in pursuit of that goal, and reached a promising point in the 2019 season. That year, I played in the St Andrews Links Trophy, one of the most prestigious amateur events in the world. The final two rounds are played on the Old Course. I’d played well all week and managed to make birdies on the iconic 17th and 18th holes in front of sizable crowds to finish fourth. It was a big moment for me.

Everything changed after that. I played some events in South Africa in February the following year then returned home to the Covid-19 lockdown. During that time my outlook shifted, I started to invest more time in the creative pursuits that had always interested me. The creative director at MANORS spotted my work on social media and invited me to an event they were hosting. A few months later, I decided to stop my pursuit of professional golf and we spoke again. I did some freelance work for them and a few months later took on a full-time role. 

I took art classes in school and always enjoyed creative practices. Towards the end of my school career, I had to decide between studying architecture and focusing on my golf. I chose the latter, but in the years that followed I was always tempted to pick up a sketchbook or learn about new design software. Through curiosity I eventually got proficient in bringing ideas to life. My skill set is very much still developing – I would only tentatively refer to myself as a designer – but I have made a few designs in the last couple of years that I genuinely like.  

A lot of legacy golf brands produce incredible products. Peter Millar & Kjus are probably leading the way with conventional, premium apparel.

When I finished university, I worked a few retail jobs during the winter to fund my golf for the following season. The first of those jobs was particularly grim, so the following year I was determined to make some money on my own terms. I started to do some commissioned drawings, and designed some prints and managed to scrape by. Eventually, it made sense to combine my passions for golf and design. I created a catalogue of minimalist course maps and began to write about the experience of pursuing a career on the fairways. 

The project needed a name, and I landed on Short Side – a golf term that refers to a chip shot in which the pin is placed on the side of the green that you are approaching from. It’s a nod to being out of position. The Instagram page I was showcasing my work on plodded along for a year or so, but when I began working with MANORS I started documenting the trips we were going on. I started recording hole vlogs and posted them at a regular cadence, all the while getting gradually more proficient at editing. It slowly became clear that the travel element combined with some leftover golfing ability made for good viewing.  

Short Side has always been a side project, but that might change in the coming months. There hasn’t been the immediate pressure to meet revenue goals or create brand partnerships, so I’ve used it as a learning tool to this point: figuring out how to build a website, edit videos, write engaging stories. At times, it has been frustrating when hard work in those areas has felt like it hasn’t paid off in terms of views or sales, but if it takes me closer to figuring it all out, then it's valuable.  

I’m always on the move. I’m currently at Dornoch Station hotel in the Scottish Highlands. MANORS has just hosted an event to celebrate the launch of its Frontier Collection Vol. III. We invited a group of 40 friends of the brand to enjoy what true links golf is all about. The wind blew a lot, but we had a great time. From my last couple of weeks of travelling, I have a really nice backlog of footage. I’m looking forward to editing it and getting it out there. Next week I’m heading to Portugal to do some filming and write stories about golf venues near Lisbon. I’m most excited about playing at Monte Rei and Terras de Comporta.

A few years ago, no one would have imagined a world-class golfer rocking oversized trousers & a knitted polo on the PGA Tour. This is an exciting new avenue in the pro game.

There are a few bits of kit I swear by. First, there are the MANORS recycled greenskeeper trousers. We released them at the end of 2023. The aim was to blend the traditions of the game with a more contemporary look, and a looser-fitting, pleated trouser – with workwear-inspired pocketing made from recycled nylon – was the answer. It's difficult to find a trouser that makes you feel stylish on the golf course, but this is it for me. Second up, Bando towels. These micro-fibre towels are made from recycled plastic bottles, but the real kick is that you can get absolutely anything printed on them – from a photograph to a customised design. They’re functional, they’re sustainable and they're a great addition to your bag. Finally, G Fore Saddle Gallivanter shoes. They are incredibly comfortable – they have this crazy, textured, spongey insole – and classically smart. Even if I throw on shorts and a t-shirt to play the local muni, I can put on my Gallivanters and the outfit transforms from beach to golf course. When I’m not wearing those, I tend to wear a pair of Salomon XT-6s. Not really golf shoes, but they have all the traction you need. They’re really comfortable and they make a golf outfit a little more interesting. 

A lot of legacy golf brands produce incredible products. Peter Millar and Kjus are probably leading the way with conventional, premium apparel. But there have been some cool partnerships coming up in golf. Adam Scott and Uniqlo is a perfect partnership – he’s elegant and understated, and the clothes fit his frame flawlessly. Jason Day’s new partnership with Malbon is a turning point for golf. A few years ago, no one would have imagined a world-class golfer rocking oversized trousers and a knitted polo on the PGA Tour. This is an exciting new avenue in the pro game. Keith Mitchell has nailed the traditional golf look with Sid Mashburn – pleated trousers with classic Footjoys is a perfect combination. If you like a vintage golf hat, @HowlInOne offers some incredible inspo.

5 Of James’s Favourite Courses…

North Berwick

Rich in history and with quirks only a really old course could have, North Berwick hugs the East Lothian coast and is home to the original Redan green. Stone dykes are built in unconventional places. 

Moray Old

Every year I played a marathon golf tournament here during my university career. It's in the north of Scotland on the Moray coast, weaving through gorse and then along the beachfront. The variety of holes and the cadence in difficulty is perfection.  


Visually, this is one of the most incredible courses I’ve played, with the addition of being an artfully designed championship links. History has been made on the fairways there, and you can feel that. 

Leopard Creek

Not necessarily my favourite golf course layout, but it’s difficult to beat for location. In north-east South Africa, near the border with Mozambique, the course is within Kruger National Park. Elephants bathe in the river by the 12th green as giraffes chew on the green-side foliage. Just watch out for the brown snakes.  

The Berkshire 

A little closer to home is The Berkshire. My friend is a member, so I’ve played it enough now to have developed a real affinity with it. The setting is quintessential British heathland. Tall pines and heather line the fairways and, with six par fives, you’re guaranteed to make a few birdies. 

Inspired? Here’s all the kit you need…

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