There’s something natural about kicking off your shoes and feeling the grass between your toes while walking the golf course.
It may not be for everyone, but playing golf barefoot can be extremely liberating – and even more importantly, it can help improve your game when utilised correctly.
But the big questions most people want to know is: can you play golf barefoot? And can you play barefoot on the golf course?
Sadly, most golf clubs won’t let you onto the course without proper footwear, especially during competitions, as playing barefoot goes against their dress code. But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice barefoot – especially at the driving range. You may get some strange looks from other players, but practicing golf barefoot can help improve the balance and tempo in your swing, potentially leading to lower scores.
We’d probably advise against playing competition rounds barefoot – you don’t want to get in trouble with the club – but there are benefits to practicing barefoot (more on that shortly).
One of the greatest golfers to ever live, Sam Snead, who holds the record for most PGA Tour wins with 82, often practiced barefoot and famously played nine holes during a practice round at the 1942 Masters barefoot in order to try and regain his tempo and trademark smooth swing when out of form.
What are the benefits of golfing barefoot?
Golfing barefoot can greatly improve balance, swing tempo and the overall rhythm of your swing. Overswinging is a common flaw for the average golfer and playing barefoot will prevent you from going too hard at the ball, creating a smooth, fluent motion.
Many players think in order to hit the ball far they have to swing out of their shoes, so removing their shoes altogether – and the inbuilt grip or spikes that go with them – means players will need to slow down their swing and focus more on rhythm to avoid slipping over.
The end result is often a far more balanced swing – and a biproduct of better balance is a better consistency of strike, meaning you’re likely to hit the ball longer and straighter, more regularly, despite using less energy to do so.
The ideal golf swing requires players to complete a full turn away from the golf ball, before shifting their pressure onto their front leg and clearing their hip out of the way in the downswing as they deliver the club on-plane through impact.
The end result is a balanced finish with the player posted-up on their front leg, with their chest and eyes facing the target.
Practicing barefoot removes the urge to try and bash the ball as far as possible, instead allowing players to focus on performing the aforementioned moves smoothly and consistently.
Another way to practice your balance is with the DownUnder Board Training Aid, which is used by over 100 Tour pros to help improve their footwork. Click the link to read more about how it can help you.
So, if you’re someone who is guilty of overswinging, next time you’re at the range, try removing your shoes and socks and taking a few swings barefoot – you may get a few strange looks from other golfers, but if it makes you a better player, who cares!
WATCH THE BELOW VIDEO ON PRACTICING BAREFOOT:
Is it illegal to play golf barefoot?
Strictly speaking, there is no specific USGA rule that prevents golfers playing barefoot. However, the majority of golf courses around the world will not permit you to play barefoot as even the most relaxed of dress codes will typically require players to wear covered shoes.
While playing golf barefoot won’t have you thrown in jail by an unimpressed pro shop attendee, it will breach the dress code of almost all golf clubs.
Typical golf attire includes neat casual shorts/pants, a collared t-shirt/jumper and, of course, enclosed shoes. It may even incorporate a hoodie, a pair of joggers or even a visor for the real trendy players.
But as Shooter McGavin famously said in cult-hero movie Happy Gilmore, “this is golf, not a rock concert!”
Like it or not, golf clubs need to maintain a certain level of decorum and, sadly for all you guys and gals who like feeling the couch fairways between your toes, that usually rules out playing barefoot.
Can pros play golf barefoot?
Golf pros may be allowed to practice barefoot at some courses, but you won’t usually see them playing barefoot during tournaments. Pros will, however, remove their shoes when trying to hit their golf ball out of a water hazard.
But while it’s rare to see pros playing barefoot, that’s not to say it hasn’t happened before – and in fact, there is precedent in regards to this (albeit from nearly 80 years ago).
As mentioned earlier, golfing legend Sam Snead, known as Slammin’ Sammy, once played nine holes during a practice round at the 1942 Masters barefoot in an effort to rediscover his balance and rhythm.
“Honestly, I’m telling you the truth, I feel better when I stand up to the ball in my bare feet. Those thick-soled shoes keep you too far off the ground,” he remarked at the time.
The Hall of Famer was known to regularly practice barefoot.
A few years ago, PGA star Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman played a casual round together barefoot during an off-season trip to the Bahamas, drinking beers and enjoying the sunshine.
Similarly, two-time major winner John Daly once said in an interview, “wherever I set course records, or whatever, I would be barefooted, drunk, playing golf, making every 20-footer I looked at”.
But as far as playing tournaments barefoot, that’s usually a big no-no for the pros on both the PGA and European tours – hell, they aren’t even allowed to play competition rounds in shorts!
Is walking the golf course barefoot bad for you?
While it can be a freeing experience to peruse the golf course without any shoes on, it’s not recommended that you walk great distances barefoot. According to one leading podiatry clinic, “when we walk barefoot, we are not only putting the skin of our feet at risk but also the biomechanical function of the foot”.
They continued: “Our feet are naturally arched, and even though many generations before us walked barefoot, we should avoid it. Walking barefoot on hard surfaces causes our foot to collapse which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot but to the rest of the body too”.
If you’re looking to prolong your golfing career, it may be better to skip playing barefoot and instead invest in a decent pair of golf shoes or sneakers.
Is golfing barefoot better than wearing shoes?
While playing golf barefoot is comfortable for some, for most other players it’s essential you wear appropriate footwear during a round. Proper golf shoes will provide you with better grip and improved stability when taking your swing, which will help your balance and performance.
Unlike standard runners, which are fitted with flat rubber soles, golf shoes are moulded with rubber – and in rare cases metal – spikes to anchor you to the ground and allow you to use your legs better in the swing.
These shoes, with their sturdy yet flexible design, provide a far more stable base for you to swing from, ensuring you don’t slip and lose your footing during wet weather or if the morning dew hasn’t evaporated before you play your early morning round.
As someone who originally thought golf shoes were overrated, I eventually caved and bought my first pair – and I tell you what, I would never go back.
They give you far greater peace of mind that you will keep your footing in all conditions on the course, which can only be good for your game.
Is it necessary to wear golf shoes?
Of course not! The average runners will do the job just fine. But if you are looking to get every last inch out of your ability, personally I believe golf shoes are a must – so much so that I have two pairs: one with short rubber spikes for the dry summer months, and another with longer, removable rubber spikes for the wet winter.
What are the best golf shoes to buy?
New golf shoes are coming out each and every year, and what is best for you in the end comes down to personal preference and price.
Here are some of the most popular golf shoes on the market:
- Puma Men’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged
- Nike Roshe G
- FootJoy Flex
- Adidas Adicross Bounce 2.0
- Under Armour Spieth 4 GTX
Similarly, here are some of the most popular golf shoes for players with wide feet:
There is heaps of information online to help you determine which ones will suit you best. Personally, I have FootJoy golf shoes and find them to be super comfortable, and affordable.
While playing golf barefoot can be an excellent way to improve your swing balance and tempo while practicing on the range, it’s best to wear appropriate footwear while out on the course.
Not only will proper golf shoes give you better stability and grip, they will allow you to really push into the ground – which will result in more distance and power, and, in turn, hopefully lower scores.
They will also provide great comfort and protection for your feet so you can keep playing golf many days, months and years to come without injury.