Golf has some familiar sounds associated with the awesome sport.
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?
The sound of metal spikes on the pavement or concrete. 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 happened to metal spikes? Why are more and more golf shoes coming without any sort of spikes?
Keep reading to learn about wearing metal spikes, why they’ve been replaced, and an alternative or nonmetal spikes.
Metal Golf Spikes
In the old days, everyone had metal spikes but now hardly anyone no longer wears metal spikes (aside 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 of the history of golf.
In fact, 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.
Pros of Metal Cleats
The biggest upside to metal spikes is that they essentially anchor your feet into the ground. This provides more support and balance throughout 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 especially helpful when playing golf in the rain and winter conditions too.
Honestly, other than those benefits, they did a lot more harm than good.
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 downside is that they tear up a course. In a world where people don’t even fill sand/seed or fix divots, this would make some greens unplayable.
Metal spikes damage the golf course much more than a set of soft spikes. From tee to green this can cause damage but most noticeably 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 to be extremely careful about where you stepped to not interfere with fellow 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).
Not only would they interfere with the line of a putt, they caused considerable damage when the greens had frost on them. Frost is already something that golf courses need to be extra careful about and big metal spikes only added more damage to the course.
The final downside is that they were loud! If you walked on a hard surface like concrete or pavement they were obnoxiously loud and could interfere with a quiet atmosphere. 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?
So, why did golf get rid of metal spikes anyway?
The main reason is that they damaged the golf course. This made it harder for superintendents to do their job well and ultimately impacted the experience of players.
As Zac Richer, co-director of 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 only jab a piece of metal into the plants, they get jagged from walking on concrete and gravel. These small burrs on the spikes tear grass leaves even faster.
Plus, metal spikes are longer than alternative spikes, and so golfers are more likely to drag their feet across the turf, which causes more damage, 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.
But since a small percentage of PGA Tour pros continue to use them, there are a few manufacturers as well. 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 in Golf Shoes
Do you have more questions about using the right golf shoes and spokes for your game? If so, keep reading to learn more now.
Do pros still use metal spikes?
Yes, some professional golfers do still use metal spikes.
It’s estimated that 15-20% of all players on professional tours still prefer metal spikes. But they are almost always banned for amateur golfers due to local golf course rules as most wear soft spikes anyway.
Some of the biggest names to still use metal spikes include Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau. Which makes sense as they all have a ton of lower body movement and very active feet. The metal spikes help them stay anchored to the ground for better stability.
But on the other hand, pros like Tony Finau and John Rahm have no spikes at all. They wear golf shoes that look like they are wearing tennis shoes. While some professional golfers wear traditional soft spikes too.
Each professional tests out different shoes/spikes to see which ones work best for their swing.
Are metal spikes allowed in golf? Are metal golf spikes legal?
In professional golf, yes, they can wear metal spikes. But in amateur tournaments they are not due to local golf course rules. Almost every course has a ban on metal spikes to protect the conditions and provide the best experience 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. Now he uses traditional spikes in his custom Nike golf shoes.
He was spotted wearing FootJoy shoes after his return to golf after his car accident. But reports say it’s a short-term solution as Nike develops a new shoe for him.
Can you fix spike marks in golf?
Yes, thanks to a rule change in 2020 you are allowed to fix these marks on the greens. In the past, you were not allowed to fix spike marks but could only fix golf ball marks.
This made for a lot of controversy with players and had a big impact on certain types of greens. Some even say that metal spikes and the marks they left changed the outcome of big events!
But now all players can fix spike marks and divots on the greens before they putt according to 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 you hit your putt to give yourself the best chance of making it!
Just ask Bernhard Langer who tried to putt around a spike mark in the 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 team USA went to become the champions.
Should your golf shoes have spikes?
This is a good question as there are so many spikeless golf shoes on the market today. 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 comes down to your lower body movement, 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.
But if you rarely slip and play in warmer weather, you can get away with spikeless golf shoes.
Final Thoughts on Wearing Metal Spikes
While metal cleats are dead for the most part on traditional golf shoes, a few tour pros are sticking with them. 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 find out our favorite golf shoes.