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Long live the half set

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There has been a growing movement in golf over the last few years to simplify and make the game less complicated by using fewer clubs, and the groundswell has been building. Most golfers learning the game start with a half set to make the game easier and help clarify the decision process on the course. As golfers progress, the desire to “fill holes in a set” can lead to purchasing more clubs—but do you really need them? A lot of people don’t think so.

Using fewer than 14 clubs affects golfers differently depending on skill. For example, as mentioned off the top, it gives those starting out the basic amount of clubs to learn on and creates larger distance gaps between each one to help with club selection. For more advanced players, using a half set of 8 clubs or less brings in the opportunity to use more creative measures to hit shots and get the ball close to the intended target. Whether it be going full bore to squeak out a few extra yards or taking a longer club and finessing a shot, there is more than one way to execute and fewer clubs give you those chances more often.

The modern game of hit it far, use the shortest club possible into the approach, and make a putt is fun but has robbed the game of so much creativity and imagination. Using imagination is part of what golf architects have challenged golfers to do since the inception of the game, a perfect example of this took place at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne—one of the top golf courses in the world. During the matches, we got to see a lot of variance in how players chose to approach holes which made things entertaining to watch. What we saw at Royal Melbourne was the polar opposite of the day-to-day “target golf” we see in the modern professional game. “Target golf” is an odd term when you break it down, because regardless of the style of course you are playing, you will always be trying to hit a target, it just might not be where you initially expect and that’s where creativity makes this game fun.

Building a Set

If you already have a full set, remember, it means you also have a half set too! No need to try and put one together. But if you are in the market, for building a half set from scratch, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind

  • The putter isn’t going anywhere so build your set from the short clubs up. Regardless of how many clubs you are planning to carry, a majority of your shots are still going to be hit inside 100 yards.
  • It’s easier to hit shots that go shorter than trying to make a club go further. Pick the most versatile clubs in your bag to make sure you have the chance to hit almost any yardage.
  • Pay attention to iron lofts. Many modern sets have 4-5 degrees between clubs, but as you get to the longer irons those gaps can get smaller quickly. You don’t necessarily need every other iron in your bag.
  • A driving club is still very important. Unless you plan to go completely minimalist keeping a driver in the bag is a good idea. It has the largest face and is the most forgiving club off the tee.

Modern interpretations

As the half set trend continues to grow, manufacturers are getting in on the action. The most recent notable being Linksoul in collaboration with Miura Golf and their Color Theory Irons. Consisting of four clubs with the lofts 25, 32, 40, and 49 degrees, each one is marked by a color instead of a number as a way to differentiate, and in true Linksoul style creates something both understated and unique. As a limited edition they are on the higher end at $1,300 for the set/$325 a club, but that falls directly in line with standard Miura pricing, and should not be a shock to those looking for a club in that category.

Another niche player in this is National Custom Works. Having spoken with founder Patrick Boyd on multiple occasions, one of the biggest requests they get for their entirely custom sets is for short sets between 4-6 clubs. Each set is 100 percent bespoke, and with that, pricing varies per project. Please remember though, purchasing a whole new set is not a necessity and just an option.

Like many that I have spoken with about this topic, I fit into both camps of the club setup game. I love having the option of all 14 clubs, and when it comes to a properly fit set its always going to offer peak performance, but it’s not a requirement to get maximum enjoyment. Depending on the course or even the time of day, 6-8 clubs are really all I need—especially for a quick nine at dusk in the middle of summer. It’s easier to carry, allows me to walk faster, and its a great way to get in some shotmaking practice when a trip to the range is out of the question.

The beautiful thing about golf is you can play it any way you want—it’s a freeform game. If you have a course, some clubs, and a ball you can play—and speaking to clubs, you certainly don’t need all 14.

*featured photo via Wingtip Golf 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Pingback: 4 Tips for Buying the Perfect Set of Golf Clubs - The Leader Newspaper

  2. Night putter

    Feb 13, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    2 callaway woods D, 4w GBB2, steelhead
    2 hogan apex plus irons 5, 8
    2 ping wedge P, SW becu
    1 putter

  3. Nomad Golfer

    Jan 15, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    After many years of carting around a full set, I found that just 9 clubs can do the biz for me:

    Driver
    #7 wood
    7 8 9 pw sw lw
    putter

    I have no use for long irons, the #7 wood covers those. Wouldn’t mind adding a #9 wood at some stage but managing ok in the meantime.

  4. Oscar

    Jan 9, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    OEM’s to begin selling 1/2 sets for 3/4 the full set price. Brilliant!!

    • jack

      Jan 12, 2020 at 9:40 am

      already reduced set from 3-pw to 4-pw and raised the price too!!

  5. Bar72

    Dec 31, 2019 at 2:36 am

    This year I was playing with six golf clubs.

    driver
    hybrid
    7 iron
    9th iron
    Wedge
    putter

    The best score is 78, which is much more fun and creative than in the past when we had a full set of 14. Also, even to adjust the distance, loose swings are strictly prohibited. I’ve been tired of playing golf for 25 years, but now I feel like golf is fun again.

  6. Andrew Provenzano

    Dec 28, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    The creative aspect of using less than 14 clubs is the main reason why I only carry 10. However, I do it for another reason. Confidence. I struggle to hit long irons and find myself never touching my 3 wood. I carry Driver, 4hy, 6-PW, 52, 58. I’m confident that I can hit any shot I need to with the clubs I carry. The courses I play are usually between 6500-6700 yards. The need to have more than 190 (the length I hit my 4hy) on par 4’s is just non existent. Yeah it sucks not being able to go for par 5’s from time to time, but to be honest, more times than not I think I’m better off hitting to a good wedge number and making putts. Just my 2 cents. Just have fun out there guys!

  7. Jake

    Dec 27, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Does anyone still make irons with loft instead of number stamped on the iron?

    • Jacob Maggi

      Jan 12, 2020 at 11:01 am

      I believe Ben Hogan makes irons with the loft stamped on them instead of the iron number

  8. Stephen D'Andrea

    Dec 27, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I carry 8 clubs and maintain an 11 handicap (not a low cap, but I’m proud of it). Driver, 7w, 5 hybrid, 8i, 9i, W, SW, putter. I almost never find myself in a situation where I feel I need another club. Creative shot making can be required, tho.

  9. Tim

    Dec 27, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Been playing with a reduced set of clubs from the start. My 6i is 27* (really a 5i) and the 5i is 24*, so I dropped the 5i in favor of a 22* hybrid. So I have Driver, 22* hybrid, 6-pw, 56*, putter. I can hit that hybrid 200+ and Im not making many approach shots beyond that, so leaving another wood out of the bag just keeps me out out of trouble. As for not having a handful of wedges – I can hit 99% of greens inside 120 yards with that jacked up PW and that 56* so I dont really fuss with with more wedges.

  10. TODD BARROW

    Dec 26, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    nice to have Don White Make your set 🙂

  11. Army Golfer

    Dec 26, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I walk and carry when I play golf. That’s how I started and still prefer when I play. I’ve begun using a cart when I walk with a full bag due to back issues. The half set in a Sunday bag makes it much easier on my back playing with a 8 or less clubs. It’s fun to be creative on shot selections and you actually have to think your way around the course based on the clubs you have and not just bomb it. What I’ve found is half or full set, I’ve shot the same score.

  12. Sundance Kid

    Dec 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Funny how things come around. I wrote an English paper in college on this very concept in 1980. The premise of my argument was that a person new to the game did not need 14 clubs. In fact prior to 1936, a player could have as many clubs in his bag as needed. The average at that time was 18-20. So, as it became rules were put in place and of course the manufactures of the day figured out what worked best for profits. So, here we are 2020 and you have manufactures and marketers working together…all we are looking at here with these 2 high end brands are profits: convincing a buyer to spend $1500 for a 1/2 set instead of $2500-$3000?

    Understand since 1980 I still believe that 14 clubs are not needed. But $1500 sets are not as well.
    There is always a market, but the millennial demographic going forward will not spend this kind of money.

  13. y2zar

    Dec 25, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Playing with half-set is a great way to train & practice. It forces one to focus; knowing the actual carry distance & controlling/shaping shots per club, in turn making strategic approaches the only viable option. Creative shots are cherished in this setup, which is a big plus.

  14. John B

    Dec 24, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I’m sorry, but no. This is horrible advice for newcomers, or even the average player. Unless you are capable of hitting a knockdown, shaping the ball, or comfortably hitting a club to increase or decrease distance, you’re better off with a regulation set. Trying to swing too hard, too soft etc. will only lead to poor habits. I’m surprised I’m seeing this on golfWRX.

    • Edin

      Dec 25, 2019 at 5:21 pm

      With respect, it’s great advice for newcomers. 1. It simplifies the game and decision making, removing the likelihood of 5 hour rounds 2. Newcomers don’t have the swing speed nor the consistency of strike to differentiate between their irons anyway (why not just have a 5 iron when their 4, 5 and 6 all go the exact same average distance?). 3. Those shots you described, how do you think people learn them? By needing to hit them.
      I am biased though! I’m a 1 hcp who only plays with a half set and a sunday bag.

      • Jacob

        Dec 26, 2019 at 8:05 pm

        I second this. Couple with the fact that most munis that beginners are going to play will have greens that may be 20 yards deep or more, you cut out that in between club. Play to the back, hope to land it on, and go.

        • Zach Bartness

          Dec 27, 2019 at 9:35 pm

          This can easily be done with 7-9 clubs. Driver, hybrid/high lofted FW wood, 6-PW, SW, Putter. If you want to cut it to 7, alternate iron pulls.

    • Larry Proffer

      Dec 27, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Agree

    • Harout

      Dec 27, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Couldn’t disagree more, newbs could hardly hit one club well yet alone 14. I’m a huge proponent for a first timer to only play with 4 clubs till they can regularly hit straight and only add clubs as they see fit till they work themselves towards a full set. Give me a 6i, 9i, 54 and a putter and I’ll break 90 just fine which is a great score for a newb.

    • Caroline

      Dec 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      Big difference between a casual golfer with an 18 handicap and a “Wanna” be with a 10 handicap…who needs more clubs…….

  15. Jack

    Dec 24, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    I usually buy my clubs at thrift shops. Find some old forgings from a broken set – Reshaft with x100 bend out the offset grind the soles. I usually throw together a set for under $50.

    Miura…lol…people have more money than sense. To each his own but I doubt they are any better than what I can make.

  16. Dario Priolo

    Dec 24, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I was surprised to see this article, but this is exactly what I did 3 yrs ago and it has rekindled my enthusiasm for the game. I carry 3w, 4h, 6i, 8i, PW, 58 deg and putter. As I’ve gotten older I’ve reset my expectations and reasons for playing. I play to enjoy the day out, get some exercise, and try to break 80. Fewer clubs means I can can carry easily these in a Sunday bag and enjoy the walk. I also think and stress a lot less on the course and score about the same as I did when I carried a full set.

  17. Acemandrake

    Dec 24, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    I’ve settled on 6 clubs after much experimenting:

    Driver (12°)…Hybrid (23°, set for 25°)…6 (28°)…9 (41°)…SW (56°)…Putter

    Maximum versatility & motivation to walk.

  18. Jeff

    Dec 24, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    I have about 20 (Of 78) rounds this year with 8 clubs and I LOVE it!
    Driver
    5w
    5h
    6i
    8i
    Pw
    Sw
    Putter

    What I love most about a half set is that it has made it super easy to carry while golfing which I totally forgot how much nicer it is than pushing or riding.

  19. Ray Neese

    Dec 24, 2019 at 9:41 am

    FIRST SET OF IRONS, 1975 WHEN I STARTED, 3,5,7,9. LEARNED TO HIT THOSE BEFORE FULL SET

  20. Frank

    Dec 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

    I once played a tournament in Malta (I was in the Navy) against an older gent who carried 6 clubs in a canvas bag with a broken strap. He putted and chipped with what looked like a cut down 2 iron. I was sporting a full set of Haig Ultras and MacGregor woods. He closed me out on the 12th or 13th hole. I am now 80 and carry a Driver,9wood, 6,8,P, gap and SW and an Otey Crisman putter. I love to play. My handicap is the same as it was years ago and my only concession is to move up to the senior tees. Golf is great

  21. Blake Stoops

    Dec 24, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Funny how Hogan did just this, and yet it didn’t go over. Instead of numbers, they put lofts on the clubs. Allowed you to pick which lofts and clubs you thought fit your game. Was just in the last three years maybe? Everyone laughed, now it’s trendy lol. We’ve played three club tournaments since I was just double digits. I’m 41 now. Not a new idea. Teaches creativity and simplifies the game. KISS ” KEEP IT SIMPLE,STUPID!”

  22. Pat Welch

    Dec 23, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    I have maintained for years that a “set” should be 10 clubs and about 6 degrees between clubs. Manufacturers would hate it.

  23. Keefus

    Dec 23, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    I grew up playing 1 or 2 clubs under 14 – and can easily now play with 10 +/-

    But I became more of a shot-maker, not a “banger”.

    Let’s get the tour to host a 7- club tournament, and see how the big boys do…

    And make them play 18 holes under 3:30 as well

  24. Christopher Christoforou

    Dec 23, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    If you want to improve your game see your pro, and watch lots of you tube lessons. Some of my best scores have been in 3 club + putter competitions. 9 wood, 9 iron, 52deg wedge always gets me 36 points, but, more fun with a whole bag to choose from. Get fitted by a pro.

  25. Deacon Blues

    Dec 23, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    For the last year or so, I’ve only carried 11 clubs: driver, 18 and 24 degree hybrids, 6i-PW, 52 and 58 degree wedges, and putter. All my clubs are reliable and forgiving, distance gaps are manageable, and decision-making is much easier.

    If need be, I can get down to 8 clubs by leaving out my 7 and 9 irons, and using a 21 degree hybrid instead of the 18 and 24.

  26. AWW

    Dec 23, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    13 – 270yd
    20 – 235yd
    27 – 205yd
    36 – 175yd
    44 – 145yd
    51 – 120yd
    57 – 100yd

  27. Victor Funk

    Dec 23, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve been carrying a very abbreviated set for years. A seven fairway wood with a longer shaft, a six iron, a nine iron, and a putter. Very convenient in a little carry bag and it’s surprising how many pars you score and how good you get a creating shots especially around hazards. Pure fun.
    So light to carry.

  28. SV

    Dec 23, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    I think this is a very good idea. For my part I carry 11 or 12 clubs so reducing that to 7 or 8 wouldn’t be that big of a problem. I would think if I or anyone looked at the clubs they actually use in a round it wouldn’t be more than 10 at the most. When I think about it, the “ideal” set might be: Driver or 2 wood for tee shots, plus 4 hybrid or iron, 6 iron, 8 iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter. The nice thing about a 2 wood or strong wood is that it can also be used off of the fairway. Even if a fairway wood is added you still only have 8 clubs.

    • Bob Jones

      Dec 23, 2019 at 10:00 pm

      That is exactly the short set I use quite often. I used it once to shoot an 81 on a course I had never seen before. It was fun to have to be creative on almost every hole–the art of golf.

      Our men’s club has a 3 clubs and a putter day every year. Almost everyone shoots the score they normally shoot, or very near it, and asks, when it’s over, “Why do we always take those extra clubs?” which they do the next week when it’s back to normal. My choices? 19* hybrid, 7-iron, sand wedge, putter.

      • Cj

        Dec 25, 2019 at 12:23 pm

        I was at the driving range and a pro told me the difference between them and amateur is that they can hit a 4iron 230 or 55 on command without any problems or any other club in the bag for that matter.

      • Jifmoli

        Jan 8, 2020 at 11:14 pm

        I do that often on Sunday: 4h, 7i and pw. Sometimes don’t even bring a putter as am ok putting with a wedge. Fun round carrying few clubs!

        Can put 11 club bag together but usually leave half my irons so play with 8.

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Equipment

Golf 101: 5 Tips to building your golf bag with CH3 (+ Charles Howell III WITB)

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I think at this point it’s safe to say that Charles Howell III is the adopted son and patron saint of WRX.

Not only is he a member of the site and visits regularly, but he’s also an avid club nerd and tester. I’ve become friends with CH3 over the past couple of years and have had some fun gear geek sessions with him. Want to know the coolest thing of all? He’s still as passionate and curious about gear as we are and not just Titleist (who he is on staff with) he’s curious about it all.

So who better to ask about how to build a great golf bag than with a man who knows it, does, and plays for his livelihood week in and week out?

These are 5 Charles Howell III golden nuggets that any golfer can learn from—and oh yeah, his take on the future is spot on.

Rule #1: Stability over speed no matter what

“Even for the guys on tour, stabilizing the clubface is paramount to good driving. One of the reasons I love testing shafts so often is to see if there is that magic combo of speed and control. However, the stability of the clubhead and shaft have to be there—I could find a combo that’s 20 yards longer, but if it’s something I can’t control, it doesn’t have a place in my bag. Extra yardage is fun until it isn’t.”

Rule #2: Find wedges that can do it all

“I chose the Vokey SM8 M Grind in the 56 and 60, because as the grind spectrum goes, they fall dead in the middle for me but everyone is different. I discovered that finding a middle ground grind wise solves the “different wedges for different grass problems” some players find themselves in. Even at Augusta, there was more Bermuda sticking out than normal which made shots from behind 15 different for example a little trickier. Not only are you chipping back towards a downslope with water behind, but it’s also now into the grain. Knowing I had wedges to combat either scenario made it that much easier. As a player, you have to put all the grinds through the paces and see what one checks off the most boxes. It might be something you never considered.”

Rule #3 Forgiveness looks different for every player

“Iron set makeups have changed so much in recent years. Pay attention to the soles when choosing your irons, even in the longer irons. It would be easy to think that bigger heads wider soles would be a no-brainer to hit, but to be honest, it’s not that simple. Sometimes finding a sole that will help the club get in and out of the ground easily will get you that center contact you were looking for. Although guys on tour may choose beefier long irons, it’s pretty rare to find one with a really wide sole. Soles that large encourage a player to try and sweep it off the turf which is counter-intuitive with an iron in your hand. When getting fit, pay attention to attack angles and center contact with your longer clubs; you may find that thinner soles help you more than anything else.”

Rule #4 Enjoy the process of learning and testing

“Obviously playing for a living gives me the advantage of testing a ton of stuff, but it’s just as fun doing the research at home (online) and understanding what certain equipment can do and the idea behind it. I still rely on testing as much as I can to see what works but it’s the pursuit of knowledge that keeps it all fresh week in and week out. Technology is so good these days but like anything you have to ask questions, look around try some stuff and then make a decision. Remember it’s your golf bag, take some pride in demanding that every inch of it works for you.

Eyes on the future…

“I think as we go down this Bryson/distance chase, the ultimate result on tour will be a lot of two driver bags. Look at it this way, having a 47-inch driver for long bombs, and a 44.5 inch for tighter drives, and a 4-wood isn’t all that hard to imagine. Players can tweak lofts in the irons and wedges easily to adjust to gapping. It’s not rocket science, and I don’t think we are that far from seeing multiple players on tour doing it that way.”

Charles Howell III WITB

Driver: Titleist TSI3 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)

Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD XC 6 TX

3-wood: Ping G425 LST (14.5 degrees)

Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Tour Spec 8 X

7-wood: Ping G425 Max (20.5 degrees @20)

Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Tour Spec 9 X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4-6) 620 MB (7-9)

Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5 (hard stepped)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48-10F @47, 52-12F, 56-08M, 60-08M)

Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron 009M

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Align

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GolfWRX Classifieds (12/3/20): Mavrik SubZero, rare Scotty Cameron, Wilson Staff

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member CLRMTgolfer – Wilson Staff forged combo set

This is one extremely nice custom combo set of irons from Wilson golf – from blades, all the way to the Staff utility, this set has everything you need for shotmaking.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Wilson staff iron set

Member EHSgolf1 – Callaway Mavrik SubZero driver

Your chance to get an almost new Callaway Mavrik SubZero for less than new price!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Callaway SubZero

Member Champ 2430 – Scotty Cameron Timeless longneck prototype

As they say “if you know you know” and this rare Scotty Cameron Prototype longneck is a thing of beauty – the only thing is I really hope you have a big golfing budget.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Rare longneck Cameron

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Adidas X Vice Golf launch The Vice Golf Shoe by Adidas

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Adidas has teamed up with Vice Golf to launch the new Vice Golf Shoe inspired from off the course which includes a dozen Vice Pro Drip Lime x Adidas golf balls.

The Vice Golf Shoe from Adidas contains ultraboost and a signature lime-green colorway to accent the designs for life both on and off the golf course. The shoe features a camouflage pattern in gray and white on the top of the shoe, while a brand-new drip pattern decorates the boost material at the bottom.

The shoe features branding “discoverables”, such as a subtle Vice logo on the tongue of the shoe while a collab logo is celebrated within. The company’s motto “Embrace Your Vice” runs down the spine of the heel, while another Vice logo lives underneath the 3-stripe caging on the inside of the foot.

If golfers want a brighter color pop, the alternate neon lime laces give that option.

“Based in Bavaria like Adidas, we have always looked up to this global ambassador and brand that has made big moves in both the golf and footwear in recent years. It is a great honor to finally present the result of 22 months of work with tears of happiness when the final pair of shoes arrived” – Vice Golf founder and CEO Ingo Duellmann

In addition to the shoe, the packaging of the Vice Golf Shoe by Adidas is made to look, feel and act exactly like their signature golf ball packages. 

The bottom of the box is wrapped in a neon lime camouflage pattern, and the top cover features the exact, embossed Vice logo colored in neon lime drip pattern as seen and felt on the brand’s golf ball packaging. The connection continues after lifting the lid and discovering an actual box of Vice Pro Drip Lime golf balls, with Adidas logos, sitting in its own compartment.

The Vice Golf Shoe from Adidas (plus one dozen Vice Pro Drip Lime X Adidas golf balls) costs $219.95 and is available to purchase from December 7, 2020, 11 AM EST at ViceGolf.com.

 

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