Technology in Golf: Golf Shoes

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments! (See the previous installment, Golf Balls)

Everything about the game of golf has evolved over the years, and golf shoes are no exception. While early golf shoes were not much more than loafers lined with sharp nails, modern shoes are meticulously designed for maximum performance and comfort. Let’s take a look at the path that golf shoes took to get where they are today.

Early Golf Shoes

Golf shoes have been around for at least 150 years. Although we can’t point to a specific invention date, one of the earliest mentions of spiked golf shoes can be seen in an issue of The Golfer’s Manual from 1857. In that issue, golfers were advised to wear shoes lined with sharp nails for proper traction on the golf course. Sadly, these early golf shoes were more dangerous than helpful, with the nails poking through the soles of the shoes and injuring golfers.

Golf shoes with screw-in spikes were made available in 1891. It did solve the problem with foot injuries, but the spikes would tear up golf greens. This didn’t sit well with golf course owners, and the shoes were eventually banned.

Saddle Oxfords

In 1901, Spalding introduced the Saddle Oxford shoe, so named because of the saddle-shaped piece of leather around the laces. These shoes were an instant hit with golfers, and their basic design remains popular today.

A Focus on Comfort

Athletic shoes continued to evolve over the years, with a renewed focus on comfort in the 1980s. Golf shoes became less stiff and more flexible during this time, and they even began to replace the metal spikes that lined the bottom with plastic spikes. Not only were these safer and more comfortable, but they were less likely to tear apart greens.

Spikeless Golf Shoes

In 2010, Fred Couples started a trend in golf shoes when he showed up for the first round of the 2010 Master’s with spikeless golf shoes. These shoes had dimpled rubber outsoles that provided all the traction necessary for a round of golf without the problems that spikes can cause. Spikeless golf shoes are standard today.

The Evolution Continues

Golf shoes continue to evolve today, with brands such as Nike and Adidas developing lightweight shoes that borrow technology from other performance footwear. Today’s golf shoes more closely resemble athletic shoes used in sports such as running or soccer, and they will no doubt continue to evolve as new technologies and techniques are discovered.

 

 

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Golf Skate Caddy is High-Tech at GreatLifeKC

Note: This is an excerpt from the September 2016 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide editorial by Bill Cromwell. Check out news, videos, and lots more at www.TeeTimesMagazine.com.

One thing I’ve learned after publishing this magazine for the past 16 years is that the golf scene surrounding the Kansas City Metro Area is ever changing. Whether it’s a course closing, new management company, new ownership or employees, just wait a minute and change will happen. But, that can be a good thing, as complacency or stagnant waters can be the demise of greener fairways. Change in the golf arena is more often a good thing for golfers, often leading to better course conditions and, what all golfers like best, lower green fees and membership rates.

Just in case you haven’t noticed, GreatLife Golf & Fitness of Topeka, KS, has been very, very busy purchasing legions of golf courses throughout the area over the last 24 months.

As of 2016, the principal partners of GLGF include Rick Farrant, Doug Albers, Sam Vanlandingham, Butch Eaton and Jim Klausman.

Currently, GreatLife owns and operates 14 golf clubs within the GreatLife Golf KC market and over 50 clubs nationally, making it one of the nation’s top 20 golf management companies. “We have a proven formula combining golf and fitness along with other club amenities that provides a strong model for growth,” said Great Life Golf & Fitness founder Rick Farrant.

When asked, “What do you want golfers to experience when playing a GreatLife course?” Co-owner Doug Albers said, “We want to give members the feeling of belonging to their own primary golf club where they also have the ability to have an extended family of several other courses to play. Frequently, a private or public club member wants to play golf on a given day but learns their club has a tournament and is closed to open golf. With a GLKC membership, golfers will have access to any of our family of courses to play. Plus, this gives them different courses to play at any time they choose, rather than being locked into one course day after day.”

Albers says this concept works equally well for the state-of-the-art fitness facilities GLKC offers. “Let’s say, a member works in Independence, but lives in Overland Park. That member can work out at Drumm Farm in Independence during the day and then play golf at Deer Creek that evening after work. So, while you belong to the one golf club where you joined — you actually belong to 14. So, your regular playing group of friends can travel to different courses and new challenges.”

For golfers considering a private club membership, but find themselves questioning whether or not they want the same scenery and challenges day-in and day-out then GLKC has the answer — join one course and have reciprocal playing privileges to as many as 64 (at last count) golf courses nationally sprinkled throughout the Midwest. Not a bad deal!

With the most recent June and July acquisitions of Osage National Golf Club at the Lake of the Ozarks and Tall Grass Golf Club in Wichita, KS, members have the ability to make day trips or weekend golf outings with reciprocal playing privileges. With Osage National, members can take advantage of the on-property condos owned by GLKC, and take advantage of the Stay-and-Play packages offered for individual or group Lake golf trips.

“We want our members to feel like we’re glad they’re here,” said Farrant. “We want members to feel like their primary club is their own club and provide a friendly atmosphere. Evidence that this is working is at Staley Farms where we recently filled the membership. Canyon Farms, which went Private in April, only has less than 80 memberships left. When we get in there and do what we do — it’s exciting for the members and us.

“A big part of the business for us is fitness. Many of our fitness members are not golfers, but once they get in the gym and look out over the golf course just outside the window, they often start exploring the idea of taking up the game. In fact, I could tell you story after story of the fitness members I’ve seen who end up spending more time golfing than in the fitness gym.”

It’s evident that GreatLife Golf KC is 
committed to being on the cutting-edge with 
its recent offering of the new Golf Skate Caddy (GSC) at six of its KC area golf courses. A single stand-up golf transport board for the golf course that gives golfers the experience of surfing, and it’s a great workout for the core muscles. Renting for $25, about $5 more than a typical cart fee, the GSC will truly add a new element of fun to your round.

“We’re trying to appeal to a broad base — the entire family,” said Albers. “If you’re going to be playing golf anyway, wouldn’t you rather have the option to hop on a Golf Skate Caddy sailing around the course having fun? Especially for the younger golfers — they just add a lot of fun to your round, and in many cases, will speed up play.”

I can tell you firsthand, the Golf Skate Caddy is fun. We all like the idea of the traditional two-person golf cart and the social interaction it provides. But, sometimes a single rider type cart or the new GSC can also help you better concentrate on your game, and you tend to play better when you’re not distracted by chasing down your riding partner’s errant golf shots or listening to endless complaints about their last bad shot. It’s a proven fact that single rider transportation will speed-up the pace of play — that is always a good thing.

“Throughout the history of GreatLife, our leadership team has been committed to making a difference in the lives of children and families,” said Farrant. “Our charitable organization, the GreatLife Cares Foundation, is focused on enriching the lives of families through fitness, healthy lifestyles and golf.
“With fitness and gym memberships, there’s always a high turnover. If we can attract people to fitness, then introduce them to golf, and get them golfing often— then we have a member for life. A GreatLife?”

How Wearable Technology is Affecting the Game of Golf

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments! (See the previous installments, golf clubs or the history of technology in golf balls)

Golf is one of the sports that’s enjoyed by celebrities, executives, and people who just like to have their workout in beautiful surroundings while associating with friends and clients. Players like to keep a competitive edge, and wearable technology allows golfers to do that. Using wearable (and smart) technology to improve your game is growing in popularity, and the market is filling up with more gadgets and tricks to monitor your game, help improve your shot, and track performance on the course in real time (like tracking how far the distance your golf ball just traveled).

Wearable tech can help amateurs as well as pros with features like shot-tracking technology that automatically records shot information, such as club performance, shot dispersion, greens in regulation, sand saves and the number of putts per hole. 3D cameras can record your swings and provide feedback. Fitness and activity trackers can record your heart rate and distance walked on the course. Smart golf balls can track distance, or even use GPS or bluetooth to locate themselves if you shoot into the rough! Apps can record data for courses, track your par, record the time for each hole, and more. As we see technology advance and players adopting it to improve their game, I expect we can see even more products come on the scene.

A Garmin Product

Game Golf Live – GPS Shot Tracking is a system that gives players their stats in real time, The Bluetooth-enabled setup has a mobile app that is Android- and iOS-compatible. It becomes operational when golfers attach one sensor to their belt and another to the butt end of the club.

Before making a shot, player touch the sensor with the club. With the aid of their phone’s GPS, the position of each shot, the club selected, and where the ball lands are all recorded. Using their smartphone, golfers can view their stats as they play a round. (The layouts of 40,000 courses world wide are included in the software.) When golfers get back to their PC or Mac, they can upload the information and get astonishingly detailed stats and an analysis.

An Arccos Entry

The Arccos Golf Driver Automatic Stat Tracking system uses the GPS that’s built into the iPhone to keep on top of driver distances. There’s no need to tap the driver. This inexpensive device screws into the butt end of the grip of the driver. By looking at their phone after a shot, players see stats about their longest drives, fairways hit and missed, and averages of driving distances. The driver-only system easily distinguishes between actual and practice shots. Another feature is that players can engage in virtual driving games with other players around the world.

Apple and Garmin Watches

Not all wearable technology attaches to equipment. Watches are helpful to golfers too. The Garmin Approach S6 GPS watch has a color touchscreen. It’s loaded with maps of 40,000 courses around the world. Its features include SwingStrength, which tells players how hard they swing. SwingTempo delivers the ratio between a player’s upswing and downswing. PinPointers aids golfers in making shots when the pin can’t be seen.

The Apple Watch, Apple Watch 2 (GPS), and iPhone have a large number of apps available for players of this sport. They range from information about 33,00 courses worldwide, including distances to each hole, detailed views of courses, and more. Some apps are free. The watch has a color display. It also delivers weather forecasts and can guide golfers as they drive to the course.

Sports are full of competitive people who don’t shrink from using whatever product or technique they think may improve their performance. This list barely even touches the tip of the iceberg. While you’ll never see a pro actively using it in competitive play, wearing technology to record your game is, for a pro, just like doing a play-by-play for a football team after a game. The amount of data you can collect is invaluable to a professional sportsman.

Technology in Golf: Golf Balls

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments! (See the previous installment, Golf Clubs)

The manufacturing of golf ball dates back to as early as the start of the 19th century. The initial balls were designed from animal skin and stuffed and compressed with the help of feathers. With the passage of time, the requirements of every sport keep changing because the people who play them become more pro at it. Their fitness, strength and the command of the game is enhanced and more advanced equipment are designed to meet them.

The golf ball has also undergone a number of changes and we have seen wooden, gutta percha, hand hammered gutta, bramble, and rubber balls. All these renditions finally led to the final ball which is being used during these times and have been tweaked a lot with the help of technology.

The best symbol to define the game of golf is a “circle”. The golfer starts from a point and comes back closer to it after completing a circle. The ball and the hole are also perfectly round. The modern ball has made the game of gold much more interesting and enjoyable for average players who want to play the game just to enjoy the fun element. Keeping in mind that none of the rules are violated while these amateurs play, the modern golf makes it fair and square for all kinds of players.

It is important that the golf ball must match the golf club as much as it matches the player. Although the golf balls are a bit expensive but this doesn’t make them unaffordable. The players must give a try to a couple of them before choosing the right one for themselves. The same should be done with the golf clubs as well. It is very important to keep in mind the swing and the effort which is utilized by the person while playing because they are essential determinant factors in choosing the right golf equipment.

In the mid-1990’s, the Top-Flite Strata golf ball was introduced which did the unimaginable in the industry. This three-piece ball played the role of two balls by being both high-spinning, soft-fleeting and well as a high-spinning ball of the irons. With rubber in its core which was encased in a thin middle or mantle layer, the only addition was a soft polyurethane cover.

Gradually, the three-piece ball met its counterpart which had a fast, soft, low-spinning core and a fast-spinning soft cover. This two-piece ball was designed with the latest technology and proved to be less expensive. Later, both the covers and the cores of the balls were softened by the companies.

The companies even approached the four-piece balls which had an extra mantel which acted as a conduit when the impact was applied and transferred extra energy to the core. All the kinds of balls are hard and you cannot cut or scrape them. They won’t even blemish so the only way to get rid of them is to lose them.

Today, it is easy to come up with a ball which has a large rubber core and carries the soft feel of the low-compression ball of the past years but will be able to fly far with a speed similar to that of a high-compression ball.

Technology in Golf: Clubs

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments!

The earliest days of golf club technology primarily consisted of players carving their own clubs out of whatever wood was handy. In 1502, King James IV of Scotland commissioned a bow-maker to fashion a “set” of clubs, which is the first reference to specially made clubs by a craftsman, and also to having multiple clubs in a set. Early recorded club sets usually consist of several play clubs (longnoses) for driving, fairway clubs (or grassed drivers) for medium-range shots, spoons for short-range, niblicks, which are similar in design and use to today’s wedges, and a putting cleek.

The club heads were wooden, and usually made from the denser, stronger woods for longevity. (Think beechwood or holly.) Heads were splinted onto shafts (which seem to have been mostly made from ash or hazel woods) with leather straps. Clubs were prone to breakage, and the effort it took to make clubs paired with the fact that you could expect to go through them fairly quickly meant that equipment was too expensive for the average person to afford.

With the exception of experimentation of bone and metal on the club face to make them last longer, not much changed in golf clubs until the mid-1800’s when several things happened: a club maker in Scotland began using hickory for the wood shafts, which caught on quickly and became something of an industry standard. Longnose heads were rendered obsolete with new ball technology, and replaced by “bulgers” which are pretty similar in shape to modern woods. Persimmon was found to be a sturdier wood than beech, and became the wood of choice for club heads, making both the preferred woods for heads and shafts wood imported from America, which kept the costs associated with the sport and it’s equipment high.

In 1900, we started to see aluminum heads, and there is some experimentation with steel shafts, although they aren’t allowed in the game until the Prince of Wales used them in 1929. Billy Burke becomes the first golfer to win the U.S. Open with steel-shafted clubs (painted to look like wood) in 1931. As technology grew and old traditional clubs remained popular, the R&A introduced a 14 club rule in 1939 to limit golfers, who could ostensibly have used an inordinate amount of clubs in competitive play. The standard recipe for clubs would be “wooden head, steel shaft, rubber grip” for several more decades, and handmade clubs were preferred over machined clubs for equally as long.

In 1973 the graphite shaft came into being, which made clubs just as rigid, but much lighter and less likely to bend or break than steel. In 1979 TaylorMade came out with a stainless steel club head, which allowed for the use of bigger heads. Bigger head = bigger sweet spot. “It was a big stir, like ‘Oh man, this guy’s using a metal wood,’ “ said Chandler Carr, a product manager in TaylorMade’s Product Creations Department. “They didn’t even know what to call it at the time. Was it a wood? Was it not a wood? They called it the Pittsburgh Persimmon, kind of blending steel and wood together and using that name was something that people could kind of relate to.” It took a while to catch on, and it wasn’t until Callaway’s giant steel-headed Big Bertha, released in 1991, that persimmon went more or less by the wayside.

It seems like the timeline of progress has sped along pretty quickly from there, with pros using clubs like the “44.75-inch TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 2.0 TP driver that features a 10.5-degree angle and Matrix Ozik TP7HD graphite shaft”. The best news about the advancements lately, is that in the vein of performance and cost, this is the most level playing field between pro equipment and Average Joe off-the-rack equipment since the invention of the sport.

“There’s no limit as to what we can use on a golf club,” Carr said, citing combinations of titanium, steel, aluminum, tungsten and graphite used in clubs. “When we came out with the first metal wood in ’79 with Gary Adams being the CEO at the time, basically he said, ‘Hey, we’re here to try something new, try something different, and here’s the performance gains because of that,'” Carr said. “So at the end of the day, if it’s not measurably better we’re not going to bring something to market. That’s kind of our mantra.”