Fred Couples is about as cool as golfers come.
Let’s face it, he’s got plenty of game. And, as it turns out, he’s got stroke in the fashion world.
All it took was Freddie rocking out a pair of spikeless ECCO golf shoes during the 2010 Masters.
What happened next was nothing short of remarkable.
In a world that reluctantly swung over to soft spikes some 10 years ago, spikeless golf shoes are all the rage, selling like hotcakes … if in fact hotcakes still sell.
While some pros remain skeptical about the performance of spikeless shoes, recreational golfers are thrilled with the results, the feel and the look.
“The trend started in spring of 2010, with the ECCO Street,” said Todd Davidson, the sales and product manager for the golf division at ECCO Shoes Canada. “We didn’t know what to expect so we booked lightly.
“It really took off after Fred Couples shot that first-round 66 at Augusta. And it started to go mainstream.
“Just getting (people) to try the shoes is tough, but once you do, it’s tough to get them out of them.”
Conquering the initial skepticism was crucial for ECCO and others who saw the niche as being a potential cashcow.
FootJoy, Adidas, Callaway, Oakley, Puma, Ashworth Cardiff, Kikkor, Nike and Crocs are among those who have entered the fray.
“People loved the look,” said Davidson. “But once a bunch of tour players used it and played well, the questions seemed to disappear.”
It’s not just about the look at the golf course, though golfers seem to place an increasing awareness on fashion. It’s about versatility, the ability to wear them off the course as well.
“They look very trendy,” said Davidson. “I was at Pearson (International Airport in Toronto) and saw four different men wearing the golf shoes as a casual shoe.
“We’re starting to get multiple sales where a consumer buys one pair for the golf course and one for away from the course.”
FootJoy‘s Contour Casual is getting plenty of buzz.
“This shoe is the ideal option for the golfer who enjoys the convenience of wearing the same shoes from the practice area to the clubhouse, but still demands the premium materials, comfort and style that FootJoy has delivered for more than 100 years,” said FootJoy’s European Marketing Manager Russell Lawes.
There is some concern about less foot stability, but even without removable cleats, these shoes have plenty of built-in traction. Because the shoe moves around a bit, knees and ankles are getting a bit of a break.
Do you find your feet feel pinched, maybe a bit sore, after a long day on the golf course? What these companies are doing with these shoes is amazing. They’re light and comfortable – the kind of shoes you can pull right out of a box and put onto your feet. And you’re helping out your golf course, with less scuffing on the greens.
Former Canadian PGA Teacher of the Year Kevin Haime, who operates the Kevin Haime Golf Centre in Ottawa, sees the benefit to the shoes – to a point.
“It’s a huge, huge ease on walking paths and the carpets (at golf courses),” said Haime. “They’re good for a lot of things.
“But as a teacher, the shoes are too soft. You start to wonder what’s the difference between a golf shoe and a sneaker?
“Because most people swing improperly, they won’t notice a difference between the sneakers and the golf shoe. But for myself, I like a platform and a bit of stability.”
ECCO’s Street, BIOM Golf and BIOM Golf Hybrid have all found success in the surging shoe market.
“We’re proud to be leaders of the golf footwear evolution,” said Davidson. “I think you’ll continue to see hybrid categories grow. Over 75% of our business is in the hybrid category.”
By: TIM BAINES