Spikeless Golf Shoes Now the Norm
When I was a kid, the idea of playing golf without spikes, good, heavy metal ones, was as unthinkable as going to school in one’s bathrobe. That didn’t mean, however, that I hated it any less, preparing for Saturday like a knight preparing for combat.
My generation didn’t suffer the worst in the history of golf spikes, an attempt to stabilize the game, especially in wet weather. First mention of the practice occurs in the 1857 Golfer’s Manual, which recommends embedded nails, by one process or another, in order to prevent slipping. At least, by 1891, screw-in spikes became available, and we no longer had to go at our shoes with an arsenal purchased at the local hardware store. Eventually, we went to a more rounded spike, and things began to become civilized. Not entirely fast enough for me, however.
Golf finally learned in the 90s what football learned. Traction doesn’t need to mean metal. For football, it was a harder lesson, as people were putting holes in other people, but I suppose that, in golf, that’s possible as well.
The new spikes were something straight out of Star Wars, three-pronged, hexagonal or octagonal, as a rule. I no longer noticed the weight on the back nine, and you could even put them in moccasins if you wanted to. The mower could eat them right up if you lost one, and they didn’t hurt so much if you found your hand under one. But then, there was a new problem.
At my age, how stable do I really want my feet to be? Do I want them bolted to the ground? When I rotate, when I swing hard, when I go for it, and I still do because it’s in the genes, something’s gotta give, and I’d prefer not to come apart at the ankles or knees. A little slipping isn’t so bad.
When the weather is wet, I’ll still go with something a bit more hefty, especially on my coastal courses in Oregon. But if it’s dry, nowadays I tend to go spikeless or with something that shows a moderate tread, as I did in the old days. Whichever it is, I do like to wear something with traction, perhaps a hybrid sneaker (by that, I mean a sneaker that looks better than a sneaker). The type of “sneaker,” however, is important. Shoes built for a flat court or a skateboard (which no one over thirty should step on under any circumstance, anyway) don’t match up with miles of uneven countryside, hills, knolls, molehills, hazards and walks through unknown woods or deserts. However, the golf industry is ahead of the game, so to speak, and specially built examples exist of precisely what’s needed.
They thought I was crazy as a kid to think this way, but I was, as usual, prophetic – they just didn’t understand. Of course, with all the new comfort, new fabric and air-conditioning, the rule is still the same as it is for street shoes. They have to be supportive and comfortable long term, and on the golf course, one is never sure what long-term means. And if you think you’ll avoid the whole issue and ride, think twice. Unless that cart’s really necessary, get out and walk. It’s major part of the game’s ability to keep us young – save the cart fee, and put it into a great pair of shoes.