Fred Couples was an unlikely fashion icon. Then he took an early lead at the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament, and suddenly his feet drew more attention than Tiger Woods’ domestic woes. Couples appeared to be wearing sneakers—oh, my! Such an unconventional choice for a sport dominated by well-heeled traditionalists.
Actually, his footwear was from ECCO’s Golf Street, designed to be worn on and off the course. Couples ended up in 6th place, but ECCO was the winner, as the company’s soaring sales figures attest. This year the Danish shoemaker expanded its hybrid sport-casual Golf Street collection with a dazzling array of colors and a luxury version in camel leather.
Hybrids, which are influenced by the worlds of surf, skateboarding and street apparel, appeal to duffers and champs alike. Built with
deeply textured soles for traction, not spikes, they travel light and well. And they look cool.
“The traditional, classic shoes will always be there and they should be there—it’s part of the heritage,” says Thomas Maymann, ECCO’s product development manager for golf. “But we also see, with younger professional entering the game, sportier and more fashionable clothing, and that translates into footwear.”
Other recent golf shoe trends include enhanced performance features, casual silhouettes and fashionista accents.
Sandbaggers, for example, is a sassy women’s line linking function and flair. Designer Anna Gilbert researches sportswear trends and translates them into comfy, orthopedically engineered footwear. The 2011 collection includes ballet flats, slip-ons, spectators, Mary Janes and sandals.
Gone are the days when women had to settle for pared-down versions of men’s shoes, she says.
“Women today want beautiful clothing that reflects their lifestyles,”she says. “They don’t want a generic, clunky black-and-white golf shoe that doesn’t flow with any piece of clothing they own. It’s got to have good support and good traction, but it’s also got to be fun, stylish and relevant to the times.”
An ultra-casual player is the Spackler flip-flop by Golf Gators. Here’s the story: Michael Ray and his golfing buddies always wore flip-flops because, well, that’s what they wore. When they realized didn’t get much traction to swing, they made a better flip-flop rather than don golf-specific shoes. Spacklers, which are named for Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Caddyshack,” have removable soft spikes, protective toe bumpers, contoured footbeds and handy tee storage.
“We know these aren’t for everyone, but for the person who takes the 19th hole as seriously as the first 18, Golf Gators is an ideal reflection of their lifestyle,” says Ray, who founded the company in 2007. “And let’s be honest, there are a lot more of them playing than not.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum is legacy brand Etonic, which emphasizes advanced performance and classic styling. New this season for men is the Stabilizer, a lighter, cooler microfiber saddle shoe with an aggressive soft-spike system. For women, popular choices are the soft-spiked Sport-Tech saddle and contemporary Lite-Tech.
There’s a golf shoe for everyone, says Kent Wheeler, Etonic’s director of marketing and sales.
“Are you playing 9-hole links while you’re on vacation or are you preparing all year for a tournament?” he said. “It makes a difference what you’ll wear.”