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Opinion & Analysis

The spikeless golf shoe movement

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Much has occurred in the golf world since 2005, the year in which many remember as having the big four in golf. Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els all found themselves in the top four positions of the World Golf Rankings. Some may also remember the bad blood and feuds amongst the game’s best. It was the second round of the Masters and the fourth ranked golfer in the world, Mickelson, was playing ahead of the No. 1 player in the world, Vijay Singh. Nothing sums up the storyline of this confrontation better than the statement made by Mickelson in the press room:

“On the 13th hole, two officials approached me at two different times,” Mickelson said. “They were sent by Vijay to check my spikes because he felt they were unduly damaging the greens. If that is the case, I am very apologetic and will make every effort to tap down what spike marks I may make in the future.”

Merely six years later, the 2011 Masters had an all-new media attention surrounding golf shoes. This time the conversation was very opposite to spike marks when Freddy Couples was noted for his wear of the Ecco spikeless golf shoes. Clearly, the world of golf is very open to change and innovation. Every year there will be new drivers on the rack, updates to courses and commercials showing the latest gear. Every so often though, a trend is born that will affect the traditional pattern of thinking. As many consumers do, golfers buy what seems to be popular, innovative and relevant. So when Mr. Couples, arguably the master of calm, cool, and collective, was seen in the “Street Wear” shoes, it raised a few eyebrows and left some to question, “What are they?” Well, very soon after that the golf world was made well aware of just what they are, a shoe capable of functioning on the course thanks to small rubber nubs on the sole while adding higher levels of comfort with a lower profile to the ground.

Fast forward to 2012, another great season of action on the PGA Tour and also a successful year for the growing trend of spikeless golf shoes. All of a sudden, Ecco was not the only player in the game. Major companies such as Puma, FootJoy, Nike and Adidas all debuted spikeless golf shoes this year that come with all types of praise for their amenities. Also, new and smaller companies such as True Linkswear were born only making spikeless golf shoe models. What was missing roughly a year ago was a stronger presence on the PGA Tour. People knew Eccos as “Freddy’s shoes,” but it did not take long to recognize stars such a Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore and Sergio Garcia all sporting this new trend proving that it can hold up on the PGA Tour and in some cases even lead to victory. If spikeless shoes are good enough for the best players to compete and win with, why wouldn’t amateurs want to sport a shoe that has such levels of comfort and function?

Innovation to the golf shoes we most commonly recognize with rubber spikes may feel unnecessary, but there is a downside. Those who have already purchased spikeless golf shoes will commonly note that there is an obvious trade off — traction for cushion. The bigger question that has to be asked is, “What caused the sudden strive for comfort?” Well, there is no secret that the original golf shoe is overshadowed by not having the appearance of something an athlete would wear. Even the most common models of golf shoes that have spikes are much more athletically inclined than in the past. Golfers do not want the irritation that a less-advanced model can unfortunately provide while spending countless hours on the course. These new styles may have sporty colors and looks that are a marketer’s dream, but also, they have the support of walkers and many tournament golfers. Next time you get the chance, see how many walkers at your local course are wearing a classic styled golf shoe. Most likely they will be the minority. Even a few years back they would still be the minority. The difference in 2012 is, now you may be inclined to finding several walkers supporting the spikeless trend.

From my experience in collegiate events, as well as caddying and playing in USGA qualifiers, taking advantage of the latest athletically styled shoes over the years has become the absolute norm in the world of golf. But now I’m starting to see that many golfers of all skill levels, including professionals not only take interest, but also believe quality spikeless shoes are a clear advancement in the game. Some words for thought — originally I did not think highly of the spikeless golf shoe because I was content with the traction of rubber spikes and the comfort in the many models I wear. Overtime could we see a new norm in golf be spikeless golf shoes? Would you buy a pair? Do you already have a pair? It seems like a long shot, but ultimately time will tell if they are either a fad, or an actual asset to the game. But even the most traditionalist golfer cannot deny its rising success.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

By Michael Zardet

GolfWRX Contributor

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: 6 Best Spikeless Golf Shoes 2015 | Golf Gear Lab

  2. Travis

    Apr 3, 2014 at 6:44 am

    I for one prefer the traditional spiked shoe, I bought a pair of spikeless shoes about a year ago and have found that after 9-12months traction has decreased to the point where I no longer feel good about wearing them. Unlike the traditional spikes, to replace a loss in grip is to replace the whole shoe, an in my case, I’m looking towards the FJ DNA, very comfortable and look amazing.

  3. tony

    Jul 31, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I have a very difficult time finding my size spikeless shoe.

    14/wide

    Any suggestions??

  4. Brian

    Nov 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve experienced very little loss in traction. In fact, grippy plastic spikes tended to get grass and leaves stuck all over them. After a round, my spikeless shoes would have hardly any grass on their soles.

    To take a bit further, I’ve also started to bring the “minimalist” movement in running to golf. In other words, we’ve started beefing up golf shoes with support and spikes to compensate for bad form and over-swinging. By going to a very flexible, low profile shoe, I’ve found I get better feel for the ground, and much less tendency to be out of balance.

  5. John

    Oct 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

    As a golf walker, I’m a big believer in spikeless shoes. They provide greater comfort, particularly as we age.

    Any loss of traction is offset by an improvement in tempo as we adjust our swing rhythm in order to maintain balance. This is especially noticeable with the long clubs.

    One word about shoe brands. Not every spikeless golf shoe will be comfortable. The Ecco golf shoe, much like the Ecco street shoe, will be superior footwear. Just ask any car salesman.

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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