How much are a good pair of golf shoes worth? Not how much do they cost, that’s easy to calculate, depending on one’s fashion and functionality preferences and an Amazon Prime account.
Rather, how valuable are golf shoes in the grand scheme of a round of golf? A recent unfortunate experience leads me to conclude that a good pair of waterproof golf cleats are worth at least $18 per round.
Eighteen dollars is exactly how much money I lost chasing presses in a pair of $2 Nassau games during a recent round on a waterlogged golf course, playing in sneakers instead of cleats because I left both of my pairs of golf cleats at home by mistake. Not having the proper shoes cost me more strokes in more weird ways than I ever would have imagined and hopefully serves as a lasting reminder to safeguard against it ever happening again.
Why even bother playing in soggy, cold conditions if I didn’t have the proper equipment? Primarily because I enjoy my friends’ company and, with autumn upon us, there’s no guarantee our schedules and the weather would line up favorably before the rain check we needed to cash in expired in 8 weeks.
Roughly three-quarters of the way through the 25 minute drive to Cherry Blossom, I realized that I had left my golf cleats at home. I was too far from the house and too close to the tee time to turn around to retrieve them. At that point, the die was cast: I was playing in the shoes that I was wearing.
What makes this episode particularly odious is that I have two pairs of golf cleats, specifically to ensure that I always have a dry pair of shoes. They are the same shoe model, the traditional styling of the FootJoy Dry Joy Tour shoes, in two different colors. Through trial and error, I have found they exhibit the best combination of traction, comfort, and water-proofing for my particular physique and golf game.
This was the first time I can remember playing in non-golf shoes. Even under soggy conditions, I arrogantly thought I could throttle back on my swing to help maintain my balance. Heaven knows that not swinging so “hard” would certainly do me some good. Truth be told, after the round, I could only legitimately blame a lack of footing for costing me one or two strokes, at worst.
Instead of the lack of traction inhibiting my game, it was my sneakers’ lack of water proofing that proved catastrophic for my golf competitiveness. My trusty Brooks Ghost 13 dad-kicks are a lot of things, but waterproof they are not. With air temperatures in the mid-50s, my socks’ complete saturation with chilling water by the third tee was conspicuous.
I’d like to think I got used to it at some point, but the cold and the wet were permanent distractions throughout the round.
In addition to the squishy discomfort going on in my wool socks, I could never quite make peace with the subtle difference in my height from wearing my sneakers rather than my golf cleats.
I knew that I would be shorter in my sneakers than in golf shoes, but the effect manifested itself in ways I did not expect. I was aware of the difference on each tee box, so I would choke up on my club and generally not have any unique issues, meaning I hit roughly the same percentage of fairways and hit the ball roughly the same distance as I might have otherwise.
However, I failed to make crisp contact with the club on my desired path on at the speed I wanted with my putter on at least half of my putts. The experience was horrifying. As the round wore on, I couldn’t remedy it in the moment.
I simply kept hitting my putts with an inside-to-outside path and couldn’t figure out how not to do that.
Part of that particular problem was that I choke down on my putter in my natural stroke; my hands don’t quite make it down to the steel, but they’re close. Standing flat-footed an inch or so shorter than normal was a variable that I couldn’t overcome with any consistency.
Standing more upright than normal threw my eye-line off. Choking further down on the club threw my feel and speed off. Changing the path or shape of my putting stroke is a blend of nightmare fuel that I want no part of under any circumstances.Yet there I was, a reasonably intelligent man, making the same God-awful inside-out, block right putting stroke all day, desperately trying to not ground the putter head on the way through the stroke.
There were also instances when a wedge felt awkward in my hands around the greens. I hadn’t previously put a lot of thought into how choking up or choking down on the club would affect not only the feel, but also the force I would apply with different holds on the club.
It added up to a miserable scoring day on the course, particularly around the greens, which would have remained true even if my feet were warm, dry, and cozy. The obvious moral of my story is take care to not forget your golf shoes when you’re going to play golf.
Perhaps a deeper lesson for all of us swing tinkerers is the enormous cascading effect of even the smallest changes to our equipment, grip, posture, swing, or any of the other hundreds of variables involved in attempting a golf swing.
I’m quite certain I won’t be repeating this particular accidental experiment any time soon. I can handle the odd round of playing poorly, but losing a handful of Nassau bets with no victories to speak of is more than my spirit can bear. That, or maybe I can learn some self control and not throw out stupid bets when playing with one foot tied behind my back.