From The Ground Up

Play with your best foot forward in the latest golf shoes

PGA General Manager And Director Of Golf At Ko Olina Golf Club

Long gone are the days where a serious golfer’s main option was a heavy leather spiked shoe that needed many rounds and caused many blisters before they were ever broken in. Shoes today are lightweight, waterproof and designed totally for performance.

In the old days, a new golfer would be part of the “tennis shoe” brigade, identified by the shoes that they commonly wore on the golf course. Now even the best golfers in the world are sporting athletic “tennis” shoe designs. Adidas’ Powerband Sport shoe and Nike’s Shox II designs were certainly inspired from other sports and are perfect for the cross-training athletic golfer. Puma, long known for its luxury line of running shoes, is now big time into the golf industry, sponsoring last year’s U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. Its Smart Quill technology uses green friendly “quills” (think porcupine) that not only provide superior traction for the shoes, but also disperse the weight more evenly for superior comfort and feel. The signature shoe carrying this technology is the Swing GTX brand, which retails for $250.

Traditional leather upper designs are of course still available and in demand. Golfers can choose a completely custom-built pair of shoes offered by English designer John Lobb that costs a tidy $5,000 and take more than five months to make, or styles from German-based shoe genius Walter Genuin, who always sets the gold fashion standard for casual elegance in a golf shoe. Walter Genuin’s beautiful designs for men and women generally run between $300 and $700 at retail.

The trend with most footwear design has been hi-tech, just like golf equipment and clothing. Heavy metal spikes have gone the way of heavy metal rock music and are mostly obsolete – replaced by lightweight soft spikes. While there is still a handful of professionals wearing metal spikes on their shoes – Tiger Woods being one of them – most opt for lightweight comfort.

A hot new technology developed by FootJoy has even made shoelaces obsolete on several of its shoes. Called the Boa Lacing System, FootJoy shoes feature an actual dial on the back of the shoe that allows the player to “dial in” the exact tightness they prefer. FootJoy offers this technology on both its Classics Tour shoe for men as well as its Reel-Fit model for both men and women.

Adidas is gaining huge momentum in the marketplace with its exciting new ThiNTech technology and Powerband line of footwear. Its research team found that the lighter materials and more athletic construction of golf shoes were having an adverse effect on the better player due to the torque created in their more powerful swings. The lighter shoes basically didn’t provide enough support to handle the increased force and drive of these better players. The Powerband Chassis is a unique, cradling frame that provides increased leverage and support. It then added a GripZone that locks the foot in place to prevent slipping and adiPRENE+ cushioning for improved energy management.

Tour players such as Sergio Garcia and Paula Creamer were also telling Adidas that they wanted to get closer to the ball and feel more connected to the ground. This led to ThiNTech, a revolutionary new outersole thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) construction characterized by a single-layer sole which positions the foot as close to the ground as possible without going barefoot. It should be noted that the great Sam Snead swore that practicing barefoot was the best way for any golfer to learn better balance and rhythm in their swings.

Better players understand that a good golf swing really starts from the ground up. The importance of proper footwork and use of the legs is vital in producing a powerful and consistent golf swing. A great tip or drill if you wish to improve your footwork is to place a golf ball underneath the bottom right-side sole of your back shoe when practicing on the range. This encourages a “braced” feeling for you on your backswing, which helps create torque by the resistance of the lower body against the turning of your upper body. On the downswing, you will then feel your lower body fire more instinctively toward the target. You should end up perfectly balanced with all your weight supported by your lead foot and balanced on the toe of your rear foot. To add more value to this drill, try to maintain this balanced finish position until your shot hits the ground.

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