John Renslow: You’ve got to have sole
Cold feet may keep you from doing some things that you ought to do, but they shouldn’t keep you from playing golf in the winter. Although we haven’t seen much of the wet stuff this season, the forecast says it’s on its way.
As we enter into these cold and wet months, we should spend a couple of weeks helping you prepare for these rounds of golf that may not be played in ideal conditions.
Some days will be cold, some days will be wet, and often a day will start off very cool and then become quite comfortable as the sun breaks through. The last thing we want to do is give up on a round of golf and surf Netflix all day. You need to equip yourself to enjoy the game through the elements and ready yourself for a great day of golf.
Dry feet, hands that won’t slip and outerwear that keeps you warm without impeding your world-class, athletic golf swing is essential. There may even be a need to change our equipment (i.e. choice of golf balls) and the plan is to start from the bottom up.
First off, you gotta have sole. Comfortable, waterproof shoes are a must and, frankly, the list of good options is short. Simply, there are few things worse than enduring a long walk with squishy socks in an unforgiving pair of shoes. Let’s discuss what you need.
In years gone by, virtually all golf shoes had leather soles. Leather soles can be more comfortable, but they tend to weigh more than their synthetic counterpart. Today, synthetic soles have taken over the industry — initially because they are cheaper to produce. Yet, an added benefit is weight, or lack of it. Synthetic soles are lighter. For a seven-mile walk, that’s a bonus.
Attempts to achieve the best of both worlds — the natural, leather material available in waterproof — was expensive to produce and success limited. In fact, a ‘hybrid’ version (combination of leather and synthetic) that I wore resulted in a breech between the two types of material. Therefore, to rule out one problem, go with a synthetic sole.
Secondly, you gotta have membrane. All so-called “waterproof” golf shoes are not created equal. The length of time that a shoe is guaranteed to be waterproof will differ and there are variables in materials or waterproofing process to make the shoe. For example, some shoes are declared to be waterproof for one year and other shoes will be designated as waterproof for two years.
So, you say to yourself, “Self, I don’t play in the rain that often. I will go with the one-year waterproof shoe.” But, it’s not that simple. The construction of these two types can be significantly different. This is important, so read slowly.
Usually, with a one-year waterproof shoe, the upper part of the shoe (versus the sole) has simply been through a waterproof treatment. It is much more hi-tech than Scotchguard, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it that way.
The two-year shoes are usually built much differently. Rather than a simple treatment, they often include a space-age material to act as a barrier between you and the water. Depending on the manufacturer, this membrane will be given a unique, fancy sounding name like Gore-Tex or Semtex, but the principal is the same; the water stays out, but the shoe is still “breathable.”
Bear with me, this is an interesting “visual.” Imagine a hot cup of coffee. The material used for this membrane would be stretched and sealed across the top of the cup, like plastic wrap. You would see steam coming through the membrane covering cup. At the same time, when you turn the cup over, upside down, the coffee will not leak out. Like a screen door, the steam molecules are small enough to get out, but the water molecules are too big to get in. Cool, huh?
Granted they are not cheap, but when it comes to the wet months and an enjoyable round of golf, particularly if you like to play in the morning, spend the extra money and buy the two-year waterproof shoe. Get a synthetic sole, so you don’t have to worry about the sole being compromised and invest in a pair with a waterproof membrane that will keep the moisture out, even if you get a few scuffs on your brand new kicks.
Here are a few suggestions before you go shopping. If you like appearance of the traditional golf shoe, take a look at the “Tour X” by Foot-Joy. For a more hi-tech look, try the Pro/SL Carbon made by Foot-Joy.
From Adidas, we have a more modern, athletic appearance in the Tour360 XT.
Finally, if you really won’t play that often and just need a comfortable pair of shoes that will keep you dry without taking things too seriously, try the Sketchers Torque. They may not breathe as well, but they will keep you dry.
We’ve already had little rain, so have fun shopping and be ready before it gets real wet out there!
John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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As far as experts go, The Union’s “experts” have not exactly lived up to the billing so far this season.