Behind the Scenes: Geoff Cunningham

story and photography by Lauren Milner

Early this week I had a chance to interview my good friend, Geoff Cunningham, Artist and Co-founder / Art Director for Linksoul golf apparel. Linksoul is located on the historic South Coast Highway in Oceanside, California. Referred to as the Linksoul Lab, where the company runs its business, Geoff’s day-to-day “office” is really local hub for art, music, golf, community and everything creative. It is here that Geoff spends hours on end curating everything from branding and photography, to graphic designs, and all the important stuff in between.

If you’ve read anything about Linksoul, you know that the small group of golfers involved in the company, and a full-hearted few of the Oceanside community, were the ones responsible for saving our beloved, Goat Hill. With the well known, John Ashworth, as the front of the operation, you best believe he does not do it all alone. It takes a team. (Insert Geoff here). Geoff is the design mastermind behind our revered Goat Hill Park logo, and much of why Goat Hill is where it is at today. Even though I’ve known Geoff for a good amount of time, I wanted to get to know him more. This guy inspires the heck out of me – and he miiiiight just be the most interesting man in the world. Enjoy.

>> Name
Geoff Cunningham

>> Job Responsibilities
Artist / Co-Founder + Art Director of Linksoul

>> When you’re not at Linksoul or Goat Hill, we can find you…. doing what?
Spending time with my family, surfing, in the studio making things, and procrastinating on my phone.

>> Where did you grow up?
All over San Diego.  Mostly in baseball stadiums (my dad was the baseball coach at USD and the Official Scorer for the Padres), on golf courses (my people are golfers), and around the ocean (the only place I secretly ever want to be… all the time).

 >> I don’t think many people know this, but you’re actually John
Ashworth’s nephew; and some more family members work within Linksoul.
What’s it like to work so close with your family?
It’s honest. And it’s real. There is no being fake. Which is really important for me personally.  But it also has another effect in that anyone who works with Linksoul will also just become family, because we can’t treat anyone any differently. It makes us all tighter and sharper and more accountable. Nobody here is hiding out playing solitaire on their computer. We have about two company meetings per year. We know what we need to do and we get it done. We don’t have titles…  You will mop floors and clean bathrooms here on top of whatever else you do.  We work hard and we trust that the others are all working hard too.  And we take the time we need for ourselves to be happy and we don’t question when anyone else has to do the same. This is what Linksoul is all about really.  And it is revolutionary nowadays compared to most of the corporate culture out there.

>> When did you start creating art?
I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t making stuff.

>> Your favorite medium of art?
I don’t have one.  I was taught to use whatever was necessary to best communicate something.  Sometimes it’s a brush, sometimes it’s a camera… right now it’s black flocking (for reals).  I will say that I respect painting the most as an art practice.  Because painting involves every aspect of art.

>> Who or what inspires you?
Everything.  I’m not always inspired, but everything gets me.  People, events, Oceanside, conversations, nature… all of it inspires what I make and explore. My wife and my daughter are what keep me going though. Without them it would be Netflix and crash every night.

>> What does GHP mean to you, and why is it so special to you?
I started playing the Goat in about 2006.  Before that I didn’t even know it existed.  I’d spent time traveling and learning about the roots of golf in Scotland with my uncle [John Ashworth] for our photoshoots and such in the years before.  And my family always played golf together growing up.  Through all that I gained a perspective of the real game that golf was meant to be.  What it was before it came to the US.

In Scotland there are no carts.  You walk.  And ahead of you might be four moms and behind you might be three twelve year olds.  The community walks together and plays together and enjoys itself. It is much more like surfing and going to the beach… That same feeling you get when time just goes away for awhile. And the courses are just far more natural, or “connected to the earth” still.  Not manufactured with fountains and perfectly mowed and delineated greens and fairways. Nature isn’t just a side note there, it is what you are actually conversing with.

This is a major point.  American golf mostly revolves around ego.  How far I hit it. How I look when I swing.  How do I compare… It’s a “sport”.   In Scotland, the game is so much more about the Soul. It is social, natural and physical.  It rejuvenates your spirit… It’s a practice.

When I found Goat Hill, this is what I found.  Real golf. No dress codes.  No perfect fairways.  Fairways being mowed by rabbits that were getting hunted by hawks.  Coyotes that steal your ball.  Nature literally digesting the cart paths in protest that they would ever exist. People from every walk of life… walking together.  The wild west like only Oceanside could produce.  And I absolutely loved every part of it. Since then I have walked Goat Hill nearly every week for 9 years, and some of those years nearly every day. American golf is not attracting new players.It’s not a mystery. Open up a golf magazine.  All the ads want to make you into some sort of golf terminator, and they all focus on how to make your tiny penis bigger.  They have no nature and they have no soul.  And all the company execs are sitting around scratching their heads and paying big dollars to focus groups to learn why…

And now those snake oil companies that are responsible for those “golf terminator” ads are all wanting to leave golf because it isn’t making them anymore money…  Besides the (literal) Billion they made last year.  Instead of taking that billion and buying any of these muni courses that are dying everywhere and fixing them up and helping to grow the game and the youth that would play it… They are taking their money and (not surprisingly) jumping ship.

That’s why we jumped in to save Goat Hill.  Because we love golf and what it can mean to a community.  At Linksoul our mission has always been “to reconnect people to the soul of the game.” 

The Goat is that place for us.  As are all local munis.  Real golf. You wanna save golf, save the munis. It’s just that simple. Linksoul is putting the very little money we have where our mouth is.

>> What is the inspiration behind Goat Hill Park’s branding and mission?  You’re the creator of this famous Goat Hill Park goat logo.
Tell me how that came about, and when you knew “this was it.”
The logo is my favorite logo I’ve ever made.  I do better work when I love something so much.

But first just the name… Calling it Goat Hill was a big move.  Because that is what the locals have called it forever.  By changing the name to it’s nickname we were saying that it was no longer up to the City to decide for us.  That the Goat is not a joke, it is what we love and we are claiming it. Something Oceanside does better than any place I have ever lived… embraces its faults. (Besides, “Goat Hill Park” is better than 98% of all the prefab course names in golf… Lookin’ at you, Shadow Mountain Ridge Pine River Dunes…)

As for the logo, I knew I really wanted that goat to stand proudly on that “O”.  And then I added the date to reflect on the history of the place, as it is one of the oldest courses in San Diego county (if not the oldest).

“World Class / Working Class” was my Don Draper moment. I was working on the original flyer to Save Goat Hill, to get everyone riled up enough to come to the City Hall Meeting and fight for it.  It was about 4am and I was losing my mind (as per usual) trying to figure out a way to really hammer home that, ya maybe this course was a shitpile in the eyes of high end golf… but it is OUR shitpile and we love it.

Our mission is to use that park to reconnect people to nature, to the community and to themselves.  That’s all the soul of the game is.

For a chance to meet Geoff and enjoy the Linksoul Lab, all are welcome to join for the opening of his new show “Sacrifice/ Souvenir”

Plenty of parking. Admission is FREE.
Friday, Oct 2 // 6-9pm.
530 S. Coast Hwy, Oceanside CA  

>> More of Geoff’s personal collection can be found here

>> For more on Goat Hill Park, and the story behind the story, visit here

>> linksoul.com

>> Get your Goat Hill Park logo tee here