How Comfort-Driven Shoe Brands Are Winning Over Golfers as Participation in the Sport Rises
When it comes to today’s golf shoes, comfort is par for the course.
Tiger Woods, a longtime Nike athlete, made headlines last year when he wore the FootJoy Packard shoe ahead of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. A highlight of the style is its plush OrthoLite footbed.
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More recently, Skechers ambassador Matt Fitzpatrick — who wears the brand’s comfort- driven Go Golf Pro 5 Hyper look — won the RBC Heritage in South Carolina in April, his first victory of the 2023 season.
Courtesy of FootJoy
“Whether you’re riding in a cart for 4-6 hours to play golf or walking the 6-7 miles, you need to be comfortable. Nothing can ruin a day on the golf course faster than sore feet,” FootJoy Footwear VP Chris Tobias told FN. “Because of our singular focus on golf, we understand the needs of the golfer better than most and create shoes to meet those specific requirements. [Also], FootJoy offers more sizes than any other golf footwear brand to accommodate the needs of more golfers. Wearing the incorrect size leads to discomfort and also a loss of performance and power as you’re unable to use the ground correctly.”
Golf pros aren’t alone in opting for comfort in their shoes, which has become a bigger factor than ever in the broader marketplace.
“It’s a sport where there’s plenty of uphill, downhill and sidehill terrain. It’s much different than walking around the block with your partner and your dog in the evening. Golfers walk an average of six and a half miles every time they play a round of golf,” said Ecco Golf regional sales director Todd Davidson. “Having a well-constructed, comfortable shoe makes all the difference to that experience on the golf course.”
For Cole Haan brand president David Maddocks, the increasing demand for comfort in golf shoes is simple: People want to have a good time. “There are all kinds of golfers, including those who want to perform at the highest level, but most want to be good at the game and socialize with friends. They want to have a pleasurable experience,” he said. “There’s a fine line between pure comfort and pure performance. We fine tune that.”
Maddocks said golf was a natural extension for Cole Haan, which entered the category in April 2021 (though it did explore the sport in the 1940s), because customers wear its shoes to and from the golf course. “It made sense for us to offer them a product they can wear on the golf course — and then of course to the 19th hole for socializing,” he explained.
Cole Haan has roughly 500 branded stores globally, and Maddocks said its golf range is in a large portion of them. The brand also made its first appearance at golf’s premier trade show, the PGA Show, at the start of the year and is now selling to green grass golf accounts. Maddocks said he hopes to be in 150 to 200 golf shops by the end of Cole Haan’s fiscal year.
Courtesy of Ecco
As for Ecco, Davidson said the company has added more than 100 retail partners since the beginning of the pandemic, and most of the growth has come from green grass accounts, specifically golf shops at private country clubs.
These comfort-driven brands are becoming more popular with consumers at a time when participation in the sport has increased.
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), golf participation has steadily grown in the U.S., with 41.1 million participants in 2022, a 9.7 percent increase over the year prior. Over the past three years, SFIA said participation rose 20.2 percent.
That popularity during the pandemic has translated to sales for Ecco. Davidson said, “We’ve had our best sales performance over that two-year span, from mid-2020 to mid-2022, for our golf division since we launched in 1996.”
As for Cole Haan, Maddocks said the growth of its golf business has been “very steady” and the brand is “very pleased” with where it is today.
Increased participation has also encouraged other comfort shoe leaders to enter the category.
Courtesy of Rockport
In March, Rockport announced the launch of Rockport Golf, a new arm of the company that will deliver high-performance, weather-ready styles designed for all course conditions and equipped with its comfort technologies.
Rockport debuted with three looks: TruStride ProWalker 2 Golf for women, and the Total Motion Links and Total Motion Ace for men. The shoes range in price from $150 to $170.
“With the creation of Rockport Golf, we’re able to provide everyday golfers with a supportive, stylish and, above all, comfortable golf shoe that will keep up with them from the first swing to the 19th hole,” Rockport Group brand president Steven Holt said at the time of the announcement.
Looking ahead, both Cole Haan and Ecco said they are working on new launches for the marketplace. While keeping details sparse, Maddocks said Cole Haan will deliver a collaboration with “a spectacular women’s golf apparel brand” this summer. As for Ecco, Davidson said the brand will expand on both its hybrid and spiked collection categories.
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