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.
By Michael Zardet