There are many familiar sounds associated to golf.
There’s nothing like the sound of a well struck drive, a crisp iron from the fairway, and a putt hitting the bottom of the cup. For a while, another sound was nearly as iconic and immediately signaled to your brain – it’s time to play golf.
What was that sound like?
The sound of metal spikes on concrete or pavement. If you have worn metal spikes you know the sound very well and you definitely wouldn’t be able to sneak up on someone as they were loud!
But what about metal spikes? Why are more golf shoes being made without any type of spikes?
Keep reading to learn about wearing metal spikes, why they’ve been replaced, and an alternative or nonmetal spikes.
Metal Golf Spikes
Metal spikes were common in the past, but today almost everyone wears them (apart from a few PGA Tour players). When I first started playing golf, I can still remember the metal cleats coming out of your shoes – they were like little daggers. But they are part and parcel of the history golf.
According to the Golf Channel, “In an 1857 issue of a Scottish publication, ‘The Golfer’s Manual,” novice golfers are advised to wear sturdy shoes “roughed with small nails or sprigs,’ so as not to slip on wet ground. Hobnails were replaced by screw-in spikes in 1891, and they remained the standard for more than a century.”
It’s hard to believe that these spikes lasted more than 100 years! Before getting into who would ban metal spikes, let’s discuss the pros and cons.
Metal Cleats have their pros
Metal spikes have the advantage of anchoring your feet in the ground. This gives you more support and balance during the swing.
For those of us that have “happy feet” and excessive lower body movement, this equipment switch can make a big difference. They were particularly helpful when playing in rainy or snowy conditions.
They did more harm that good, apart for the obvious benefits.
Cons of Metal Cleats
While there are some pros, there are plenty of downsides too – which is why they got banned from golf courses. The biggest problem is that they can cause damage to a golf course. In a world where people don’t even fill sand/seed or fix divots, this would make some greens unplayable.
Golf course is more damaged by metal spikes than by soft spikes. This can cause damage on all levels, but it is most evident on the greens.
Plus, when metal spikes were legal you couldn’t repair spike marks on the greens either. You could. After you putt, but not before (that’s one of those weird Rules of golf that has luckily been updated).
This meant you had the responsibility of being careful about where you stepped in order to not cause any interference with other golfers putting line. And if you did step in their line, it could make for some tension filled conversations (especially if you’re in a tournament).
They would not only interfere with the line of a putt but also cause significant damage to greens that have frost. Frost is something that golf courses must be extra cautious about. Large metal spikes only made the course more dangerous.
They were also very loud! They could be disruptive to quiet environments if you walked on concrete or pavement. This led to the infamous Brooks Koepka “eye roll” when Bryson DeChambeau was walking behind him in 2021.
Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to see why replacing metal spikes became essential for courses to thrive.
Why are metal golf spikes banned?
Hence, golf got rid of metal spikes.
They caused major damage to the golf course. This made it difficult for superintendents and ultimately, affected the player experience.
Zac Richer is the co-director. Purdue University said, “There is a substantial agronomic benefit to using alternative spikes, they just don’t rip up the turf as much. Traditional spikes not just jab metal into plants but also get jagged when they walk on concrete or gravel. These small burrs break down grass leaves faster than usual.
Furthermore, metal spikes are generally longer than the alternative spikes. As a result, golfers are more likely and more likely to drag their feet across turf, causing more damage and more tearing. Alternative spikes rely more on surface area to grip the ground than a single deep spike, so this doesn’t happen nearly as much.”
The move to soft spikes happened in the early 1990s and now most golf courses have a firm, “No metal spikes” rule. It’s extremely uncommon to find a course that still allows amateur golfers the option to wear metal spikes. Not to mention, it’s almost impossible to find old-school spikes in modern golf shoes.
They are still used by a small portion of PGA Tour pros, so there are a few other manufacturers. According to Golf.com, “If you’re wondering if there’s a popular metal spike option on Tour, it would probably be Champ’s Pro Stinger. The hybrid offering — Tiger’s spike of choice when he was wearing steel — features a metal tip surrounded by a polymer outer (similar to what’s found on a soft spike) that allows it to hug the ground through impact.”
FAQs about spikes for golf shoes
Are you looking for information on the best spokes and shoes for golf? Continue reading to find out more.
Do pros still use metal spikes?
Yes, some professional golfers still use steel spikes.
It’s estimated that 15-20% of all players on professional tours still prefer metal spikes. However, they are almost always prohibited for amateur golfers because most golfers wear soft spikes.
Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and Bryson Delchambeau are just a few of the big names who still use metal spikes. This makes sense, as they all have a lot of foot movement and a lot of lower body movement. They can be better stabilized by the metal spikes that help to anchor them to the ground.
Pros like Tony Finau or John Rahm don’t wear spikes. They wear tennis-like golf shoes. Some professional golfers also wear soft spikes.
Professionals test out various shoes/spikes in order to find the best fit for their swing.
Are metal spikes permitted in golf? Are metal golf spikes legal?
Professional golfers can wear metal spikes. They are not allowed to wear them in amateur tournaments, however, due to local rules. Most courses prohibit metal spikes in order to preserve the course and provide the best experience possible for players.
Does Tiger Woods wear metal spikes?
Tiger Woods was a big proponent of metal spikes for a very long time and didn’t make the switch to soft spikes until later years. He now wears traditional spikes in his Nike golf shoes.
After his car accident, he was seen wearing FootJoy shoes. But reports say it’s a short-term solution as Nike develops a new shoe for him.
Can you fix spike marks in the golf course?
These marks can now be fixed by 2020’s rule change. In the past, you could not fix spike marks and only fix golf ball marks.
This caused controversy among players and had a significant impact on certain types. Some even believe that metal spikes, and the marks they left, affected the outcome big events.
Now, all players can fix spike marks or divots on greens before they start to putt according. Rule 13.1c. “Damage on the putting green” means any damage caused by a person or outside influence, such as: Ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks) and scrapes or indentations caused by equipment or a flagstick.”
You’re also allowed to repair old hole plugs, turf plugs, animal tracks, hoof indentations, and embedded objects as well. This is important to do before hitting your putt.
Bernhard Langer tried to putt around the spike mark in 1991 Ryder Cup. After he noticed a spike mark in front of his ball (at that time you couldn’t fix it) and putted around it. He missed, and USA went on to become champions.
Are your golf shoes required to have spikes?
This is a good question because there are so many options for spikeless golf shoes. It’s more of a personal preference than anything else.
Some players couldn’t imagine not having spikes while others couldn’t care less. It all comes down your lower body movement, your feet in the golf swing and playing conditions.
If you’re someone that slips a lot you should use golf shoes with spikes. Or, if you play golf in wet, winter conditions it’s a good idea to have spikes for extra traction.
You can still wear spikeless shoes if your feet are not susceptible to injury and you’re not likely to slip in warmer conditions.
Final Thoughts about Wearing Metal Spikes
Some tour pros are still using metal cleats on traditional golf shoes. Amateur golfers aren’t allowed to wear them at almost any golf club and have the option to wear spikeless or soft spikes instead.
Don’t skip on this decision because your feet play a big role in the golf swing. Some players won’t perform as well without spikes due to their swing and normal playing conditions. It’s a good idea to have a spineless pair for summer golf and a spiked pair for wet conditions.
Don’t let the wrong equipment get in the way of playing your best golf. Click here to see our recommendations favorite golf shoes.