One of the most common worries for people starting to play golf is around wearing the right outfits. Golf sadly has a reputation for being stuck in the past and that includes dress codes. I know plenty of guys who’ve gotten looks fom club members for their outfits when on the course. Does this apply to driving ranges as well though?
Do you actually need to invest in proper golf shoes if it’s your first time at the range hitting the golf balls? The short answer is no, the vast majority of driving ranges do not have a requirement for proper golf shoes. You aren’t walking on manicured turf so there’s really no need. You’re perfectly welcome to turn up in your sneakers if that’s what is most comfortable. The exception to this would be if the driving range was attached to a private golf course, then a dress code may be in force.
But even though you don’t have to wear golf shoes to the driving range, is it a good idea to anyway? Read on to find out.
Do you really need golf shoes?
If you’re just heading to the range, or even if you’re heading out for a quick 9 holes after work on a nice summer evening, you may not want the hassle of getting fully kitted up in all your golf gear. After all, golf shoes just become one more thing you have to carry. One more thing you can possibly forget. You have change your footwear…normally in the parking lot of the course you’re going to play. It’s all just an annoyance when you just want to get to the first tee!
You’ll often see other people on your course who just don’t bother with the expense of golf shoes (and they can be expensive, especially from some of the top brands). You start to think “why should I spend all this extra cash on more golf stuff…”, especially if you’ve already spent a fortune on your clubs!
The key thing though, is that those golf shoes are making a difference in your game. Especially out on a course where they are comfy and designed for you to spend hours walking around. Now I get it, it’s fine for on the course but do you really need them on the range? Well, surely your practice conditions should be as close as possible to the conditions you find yourself playing in on the course?
Golf shoes are designed to enhance your game by providing more stability on your shots and the best way to get used to them is to practice with them – including at the range.
When compared to regular shoes, golf shoes are different –
Bigger Soles – the greater surface area afforded by having larger soles means that you have more contact with the ground. This gives you a greater balance and the ability to really summon some additional power – don’t forget most power in a golf swing comes from you pushing into the ground and then driving upwards!
Very Low Cut – somewhat uniquely among many types of sports shoes, those made for golf are quite low cut. You can often see those bones on your ankle that stick out to the side. The reason for this is that golf is very much a game of rotation. You need to be able to rotate the lower body in order to swing the club. If you can’t then you’ll almost certainly have problems with slicing the ball.
Spikes – traditional golf shoes come with metal spikes that help you to grip the ground and stop you falling over, particularly in poor weather conditions. I do have to say though that some golf clubs have started to ban these as they can tear up the greens pretty bad. In that case there’s no point wearing them to the driving range either! Far more popular nowadays are spikless shoes which have a moulded rubber bottom. You still get exceptional grip but without the damage that can occur with their metal cousins!
What can I use if I don’t have golf shoes?
Pretty much anything at the driving range, just be aware that you might not neccessarily be able to take your ordinary shoes on to the golf course. I’d advise something without too severe a tread for the course. Absolutely do not wear cleats as these will damage the greens and you’ll find yourself barred pretty quickly!
If the reason you’re not buying them is because money is tight then it is absolutely not necessary. You’d be better off putting your money towards clubs and lessons and maybe saving for a nice new pair of shoes at a later date!
Are spikeless golf shoes worth it?
Every golfer wants the latest and greatest gear for their game. Shoes are important as they’re the only contact the golfer has with the ground. If you’ve ever played winter golf and slipped in the middle of your downswing you’ll know it never really turns out great. This is why specialist shoes can often help.
All the major manufacturers offer a variety of shoes for taking to the range or course. There used to be major differences between spiked and spikeless shoes but the tech has advanced so much now that spikeless shoes are superb. They’re often almost indistinguishable from sneakers unless you’re looking closely and they’re far more stylish than their metal-toothed cousins!
One of the biggest factors golfers think about is traction. Spiked shoes, traditionally made of metal, help grip the ground. The majority of today’s shoes though have done away with metal in favour of softer, plastic cleats. This is because courses have generally banned the traditional style show because of the damage it does. The replaceable spikes do still provide a lot of traction that groip the ground as yourotate through your swing.
Spikeless shoes have come a long way though. They have rubber bumps and ridges along the bottom of the sole which dig into the ground as you turn without doing the same amount of damage to the course. So while it’s certainly true that spiked shows have more grip the difference really isn’t as big as it used to be. The major time you’ll see that difference is playing in wet weather. If you play a lot of golf in wild conditions you may want spikes but if you live in a fairer climate you can probably forget them!
Another thing to consider is how long the shoes will last. The spikes in modern shoes are often replaceable. So as they start to wear down you can simply purchase some replacement spikes, get a wrench and swap them out yourself. It’s like having a brand new pair of grippy golf shoes for next to nothing.
Spikeless shoes unfortunately don’t have that advantage. Once the soles start to wear down you will start to lose grip and the only thing to do then is to replace the shoe entirely at full retail price.
Comfort is, for me, probably the key factor in choosing a pair of shoes for the course. I prefer to walk rather than use a cart so I need something that’s going to get me through 18 holes. I find this is definitely where spikeless shoes start to show their advantage. Spikeless shoes are generally lighter (I mean there’s no spikes….) and they don’t have the pressure points associated with the spiked shoes pushing up into your feet. Newer tech in some of the major sneaker brands is closing the gap on this though so it’s not as pronounced as it was, say 5 years ago.
The versatility of spikeless shoes is another factor in my preference for them. I can put these on before I leave the house, I can drive to the course in them, wear them into the clubhouse afterwards (provided they’re clean!) and generally no one will comment. With spiked shoes you cannot do that. They’re made for one thing only and that’s playing golf!
In the end, it’s each individuals choice what they prefer. The best way to decide is to consider the facotrs I’ve outlind above and see which ones are important to you.
If that’s more traction, then you will want to go with spiked golf shoes. If versatilityis the most important thing, then you want a spikeless shoe you can wear can use off the course as well as on.