In 1857, a helpful little tip appeared in a Scottish golf publication called The Golfer’s Manual, urging golfers to try shoes “roughed with small nails or sprigs” to best maneuver around slippery links and hills. Maybe not the best sounding advice, but at that time players were also whacking balls filled with goose feathers; Old Tom Morris was only 36 years old; and the first British Open at Prestwick was still three years away. It wasn’t until 1891 that the removable metal spike was introduced to the bottom of the golf shoe—much safer than the earlier suggestion of sticking nails into your soles.
Golf is nothing if not a game of tradition, and it requires a truly revolutionary technology to intrude on the game’s equipment. It took steel to bring down hickory shafts and space-age titanium to shove aside persimmon driver heads. So one can imagine what is required to get golfers to abandon their centuries-old golf spikes. It took the plastic spikes of the 90s to boot the metal spikes, and now the battle is waging between golf shoes with spikes and completely spike-free options. Spikeless golf shoes are a rather new invention, but it took a few years for them to pick up steam.
How Exactly Can Spikes Help Your Golf Game?
A good, accuracy-producing golf swing begins from the feet up, and the best shots come when feet feel anchored and the body turns around the base. Obviously, a base that’s spiked into the turf offers the best protection against slipping or sliding off balance during the course of the swing. The harder the swing, the more important spikes become. Professionals are generating swing speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour, so their need for grounding is paramount.
However, metal spikes (which offer the sturdiest anchor) are the bane of groundskeepers everywhere. Feet drag across greens, leaving tiny trenches in the putting surface. For that reason, metal spikes are banned just about everywhere, often replaced by their more forgiving plastic cousins. Because of this, one might conclude that the only way to play your best game is in spikes. Is that true?
Enter the Spikeless Spokesman
Spikeless shoes received the greatest endorsement any golf product could imagine during the 2010 Masters when Fred Couples haunted the leaderboard at the game’s most popular tournament while wearing golf shoes sans any kind of spike. What’s more, when Freddie answered questions about his unusual footwear, he responded that they helped him play even with back pain – golf’s most popular injury.
Manufactured with a broad shoe base and larger sole, spikeless golf shoes promote balance and do not inhibit proper footwork. This freedom of movement in the foot turns out to be more important than digging a cleat into the turf for stability, and so spikeless golf shoes began showing up in the lockers of stars like Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, and Matt Kuchar.
Do Spikeless Golf Shoes Belong on Your Feet?
First off, if you are a walker and putting six to eight miles on your pedometer each round, you will be doing your feet a favor by investing in the lighter weight, significantly more comfortable spikeless options. There is no better way to keep your dogs from barking as you finish up the back nine. If you are chasing contemporary style, this footwear is styled similar to other athletic shoes and are made for wear off the course as well.
But what about your golf game? It turns out that maybe all the talk about traction and spikes has been overblown all this time, even if you are sweeping the dew with early morning rounds. Research has demonstrated that the key to balance during a golf swing is pressure points on the soles of the feet. Additionally, spikeless shoes have strategically placed nubs on their soles to insure that no slipping occurs during the swing.
So, for traditional style and a more anchored feel, buy shoes with golf spikes. For contemporary style and comfort, score it for spikeless shoes. For performance, it is a draw. In the end, it just comes down to personal preference.
For additional insight, visit our Buyer’s Guide article on whether you should buy spiked or spikeless golf shoes.