Golf Shoes Have Come a Long Way, and Not a Moment Too Soon
I seem to recall an animated film in a prehistoric setting, where a young man straps wooden planks to his girlfriend’s feet so that she can cross a field of prickly plants. She is at once smitten with the concept and style – and so it has been ever since. However, such a story strikes near home for me as a fastidious young golfer of eight or nine. First of all, either on a muni or country club of my day or town, one never went to the golf course looking ill-groomed. It occurred to me one day in mid-round that I was better dressed than I was in church. One thing, however, that the church never inflicted on the faithful, was the 1950s golf shoe.
Eerily similar to the prehistoric wooden planks, the common feature of my golf shoe experience was “brown.” In the first years, everything was brown, one shade or another. The other distinguishing factor was that my shoes were invariably wing-tips. Not only do I not know why someone came up with the wingtip, but why they also decided to add a tassle on each with a flapping, grotesque piece of stylish awning over the top. Worst of all was the weight. I was not a big guy, and around the 13th or 14th hole, began to feel like my shoes had gone past the wooden plank stage. They had magically become lead-lined iron shackles. Walking the fairway of the final three or four holes actually became harder than playing the game.
Embedded in all that bulk were cleats, big needle-like cleats, just like the ones Jim Brown used with the Cleveland Browns. I credit these shoes with robbing me of strokes in the second nine on a regular basis, but on the other hand, developing my leg muscles over the years in a way nothing else could.. As for the golf shoe, relief was in sight.
I couldn’t believe it when a color came out other than brown. I had seem black ones before, but never gray hush puppies with more refined cleats. I got some immediately, but through the first round, my feet wouldn’t stay on the ground, so accustomed was I to wearing matching brown anvils. Then, to my astonishment, came the cream whites, some with stylish logos. More importantly, the cleats decreased to mere nubs, and were altered to plastic. Suddenly, that all-important hat, shirt and slacks weren’t the only style consideration. My feet had to look good and feel good. Evolution did its thing, and people started wearing upper tier tennis shoes, some with cleats, and some without. I I had worn a tennis shoe to the golf course in 1958, my junior membership would have been revoked. I would have had a better chance at church.
So now, we’ve figured it out. We carry ourselves, our clubs (at least from the front door to the car, and the parking lot to the range). Why carry another ten pounds of brown metal on our feet? Beside that, what a waste of advertising space. With my golf shoe alone, I can tell you whether I am Norwegian, Italian, or Nigerian – Oregonian, Marylander, or Alabaman with a maple leaf thrown in just to make you do a double-take. I can silently brag with the logo of a favorite university, brand name, or the corporation for which I work. I can salute the flag, fly the colors of my political party, and tell you just what I think about nearly anything – all the while looking stylish and at least reasonably affluent.. Even the lowly tennis shoe is expensive now. Vanity is a strange urge. These days it looks good to wear two dollar Keds at some country clubs before changing into torn jeans for the ride home.
We have seen professionals play clad in an all Union-Jack shirts. John Daley has shirts and slacks that make him look like a giant salad. Hats include the turtle look for older men, multi-colored visors for the bank teller look, and the flat cap that makes one look like Ben Hogan’s big brother.
Now, we can complete the picture. However, at my age, I’m more grateful than anything for the reduction of weight and better fitting technology. Vanity is not only expensive, but exhausting, and an old guy driving a Ferrari is still an old guy. That being said, we veterans deserve our due. With all the miles we’ve walked in wooden planks, we deserve the modern golf shoe.