Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wondering About Barefoot Golf

I used to be a golfer, but now I only get to golf a few times a year.  After I get out golfing, I always say I'm going to start going to the driving range regularly and regain my former skills, but I never do.  I think I've mentioned that before.

I also think I've mentioned that when I was young I used to golf barefoot.

Well, tonight I did get to the driving range, and again I didn't really want to put on my old running shoes, and just went to hit balls in my Tevas.  I kind of figured it didn't really matter what I wore because we were just going for fun.

But I saw this pair of golf shoes on a table in the pro shop on sale and I almost bought them.  They were kind of different and they looked really comfortable.  DAWGS Golf Shoes.  They looked like crocs a little bit, and I thought they might be easy to just slip on for those times I hit the driving range or went out for a round of golf while visiting my dad.

Well, I got into a discussion with a knowledgeable person about it and I learned from this person that a golfer needs stabilizing forces, and that any croc-like shoes might not have these stabilizing forces which are good for the golf swing.

This sounded so much like the claims for "motion control" made by running shoe companies that are being challenged and questioned, that my brain jumped to start to wonder if some of the claims of the golf shoe companies will be examined as well, as part of this whole minimalist shoe movement.  In fact, I wonder if the spirit behind the barefoot running movement will pervade other sports soon as other player seek to find freer movement.  I began wondering if people wearing golf shoes got more injuries or less in golf shoes.

So, when I came home, I just googled around a little and I found a couple of interesting pages.  Most of it is anecdotal stuff and not anything research-y or scientific.  One of them was in a blog post where the golfer has been wearing Vibrams to golf and feels that this minimal shoe has been helping his golf swing.

Another one was in a blog where the blog author accidentally tried golfing barefoot and found it to be beneficial.  A couple of the commenters on that post mentioned they had golfed barefoot too.

My knowledgeable golf friend says that golf is different than running because golf is an unnatural motion and needs a stabilizing force to help with the swing. But in some of my random readings tonight  I read that some golfers think the toes may make some stabilizing contribution, once they are freed from the golf shoes.

Here's a discussion I found on a golf discussion forum where the poster is kind of pondering the same questions I am here.

One of the posters there left a link to this very good article about barefoot golf that finally explains that being barefoot may help achieve balance in the golf swing.  It seems that the feedback the feet get from the ground aid the proprioception of the golfer. Again, nothing scientific yet, but getting closer to a potential theory as to why some golfers say they are experiencing performance improvement when they try swinging barefoot.

And from this forum I got a link for what I was looking for -- Aha! -- minimalist golf shoes: True linkswear.

From these little scant references I was able to find, what I first suspected -- that the barefoot running and minimalist shoe movement is going to spill over into other sports, specifically golf -- is starting to happen already.  It seems like a little trickle right now.  I'm going to be very interested to see if this develops more.  What will be next?  Barefoot tennis? (Or are they doing that already too?)

I wonder if someone will begin to study it?  Will we find out that golfers in golf shoes have more injuries than golfers who are barefoot?  I wonder!


Barefoot Neil Z said...

I played a round recently in the 5's and it was amazing. I shot an 82, which is only 4 stokes off my best and the best part was I wasn't fatigued at all at the end! I found it forced me to be more balanced and not twist out of my spikes like I would normally do. I liked it alot!

Avocational Singer said...

I remember that post of yours, Neil Z, about playing in your 5's. I thought, Oh, I forgot to tell them about Neil Z's post on the same subject, and was going to come back and edit and add it, but I'll add it here in the comments section. Everyone, here's Barefoot Neil Z's post about golfing in his VFFs: Golf in My 5's

Julie said...

The lovely greens on golf courses are just begging to have bare feet on them. I'm amazed more people don't golf barefoot!

Avocational Singer said...

Julie, I remember how good it felt to golf barefoot! But there really is a protocol to wear shoes on the golf course. I'm not sure why no one at the club my family belonged to never stopped me, because I'm sure it wasn't allowed.

But I have a feeling that astro-turf mat at the driving range might feel kind of cool beneath one's feet, and might try it next time we go there.

The only concern I would have now for barefoot golfing would be all the pesticides they use in the grass.