Can we talk about fur-lined pockets for a moment? I realise it's not usually in the nature of polite company to discuss what's inside our trousers but in this instance it's justified.
In the UK, the summer of 2003 has been glorious but wouldn't you just know that virtually the only day in August where it rained from dawn to dusk was the day when myself and a bunch of golf recidivist buddies met in Kent to contest an annual fixture known as the Miteca Cup. It will mean nothing to you but for us it's the Ryder Cup and Open Championship rolled into one.
And it rained. By golly it rained. At one point in the afternoon round one of my playing partners enquired: 'Where are we going to find an ark and two animals of every kind on a day like this?' By this stage of proceedings I was wet through to my underpants, every club in my bag, and the bag itself, was sodden; I could feel cold water trickling down the back of my neck and every time I stood over a putt dewdrops were running off the end of my nose and splashing onto the ball.
It was this moment that another playing partner chose to ask: 'Do you want to put your hand in my fur-lined pocket?'
He was being smug because, unlike the rest of us, he was wearing a Sunderland rainsuit and was therefore relatively well protected against the elements. I say 'relatively' because, in my experience at least, no-one has yet designed golf clothing that will keep you dry through 36 holes of driving, incessant rain. But what the good suits will do is keep the worst of the weather at bay for considerably longer, and in golf that may just be the difference between winning and losing.
My companion was really making the point that details matter, and in the case of his Sunderland trousers, one such detail is that the inside of the front pockets are lined with a soft, fur-like material so that when your hands get cold - as they inevitably do when the rain is hissing down - you can warm them up again between shots. So I came back to Scotland, rang Sunderland and asked for one their suits to test and if I were to give a summary of the GT Pro suit they subsequently sent, it would have to be: 'They take care of the details.'
In fact, in some instances such care is taken that it runs the danger of becoming counter-productive. For instance, the trousers have zippered openings at the bottom of the leg to allow easy access - essential, in my view, when you're wearing wet, muddy golf shoes. But not only is this opening zippered, the bottom fastens with a pop-stud (more of which later) and if that weren't enough, the flap of material that overlaps the zip is Velcroed. Attention to detail is one thing but three fastenings for one opening is over-egging the pudding.
You want more attention to detail? Okay, try this. The furry material (Tricot) that lines the front of the trouser pockets, is also in the jacket pockets and the inside of the elasticated sleeve cuffs - a particularly nice touch. Jacket pockets are zippered and the zips have large, easy-to-grasp tabs, essential for cold fingers. Oh, and the same pockets also have a Velcro fastening underneath a storm-proof flap of material. The jacket comes in a convertible option, which means the sleeves are detachable, so you can convert it into a blouson; there's a double storm collar; there are two inside pockets, one zippered and located underneath the storm flap for security and even the wee piece of material that you use to hang the jacket up with is fixed inside a plastic sheath, for greater durability.
In short, pulling on this suit you get the distinct impression that the person who designed is a golfer, who knows what we need, and has then embellished that knowledge with a few ideas of their own for an overall package that is difficult to surpass. My only criticism, if it's a criticism at all, is that sometimes they've gone a tad too far but hey, would that we could make such criticisms of everything we buy.
Another small example of this is the pop studs that help fasten both the jacket and trouser bottoms - they're an extremely snug fit, presumably so as not to unpop in the middle of your swing - but the result is that they're difficult to prise open. I hate to start yanking hard on any clothes, especially a new rainsuit, and getting a thumbnail into the gap and trying to lever them open isn't easy either.
But these are extremely nit-picking criticisms because this GT Pro suit is an excellent bit of kit. It keeps the rain out without becoming it's own walking sauna, thanks to a breathable material called 'Toray'. Gore-Tex were the first into the market with a truly breathable material and the concept works, allowing moisture out but not in, but now several other manufacturers have at least matched the Gore-Tex innovation. And the first day I wore this suit in the heat of battle, so to speak, was blustery with regular showers but quite mild temperatures, so I needed to stay cool as well as dry.
The Sunderland GT Pro passed every test with aplomb. It is quiet, waterproof and so well made that no hint of a breeze penetrates any of the zips or seams. Sunderland of Scotland made its name with well-manufactured, good-quality outerwear and it continues to both innovate and set the standard for the industry.
It is difficult to recommend this suit too highly but that's simply because it's difficult to find a fault with it - unless you're being really fussy.
Sunderland GT Pro jacket - black, navy, £100 (convertible jacket - black, navy, red, stone, £115)
Sunderland GT Pro trousers - black, navy £65.
|| 19 - NOVEMBER 2003