They look so harmless.
Why Can Pros Still Wear Metal Spikes?
By KorryFranke on 3/10/08
As is often the case, the 2005 Masters Tournament was filled with fireworks. The exciting final round climaxed with Tiger Woods draining a tourney-saving chip-in on 16 and then a monster 15-foot putt to win over Chris DiMarco on the first playoff hole. But long before that final showdown, two other former Masters champions had their own duel of sorts.

After rain and then darkness prevented the completion of round one that Thursday, Phil Mickelson was no doubt thrilled when he birdied number 12 to start his play the following day, April 8, 2005. Vijay Singh, however, was not nearly as impressed with Phil's work on the 12th green, especially when he discovered spike marks directly on his own putt's line. The crux of the issue came down to rule number 16-1c which says, "The player may repair an old hole plug or damage to the putting green caused by the impact of the ball... Any other damage to the putting green must not be repaired if it might assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole."

That meant that Vijay could repair all the old ball marks he wished, but Phil's spike marks had to remain as they were. And this, obviously, didn't sit well with Vijay, who then complained to one of the officials that Phil's metal spikes were too long.

While the officials determined that Phil's 8 millimeter long spikes were, indeed, regulation length, an increasingly popular question reared its head once again: why are professional golfers allowed to wear metal spikes when amateurs are not?

The actual answer to that question is that, at least according to the USGA, nothing in the rule book prevents a golfer from wearing metal spikes. The only guidance comes in the form of suggested etiquette that "On completion of the hole by all players in the group, damage to the putting green caused by golf shoes should be repaired." That by no means rules out using metal spikes; however, most golf clubs now mandate that players use "soft" spikes to prevent unnecessary damage to the putting surface.

There are still quite a few professionals who use the traditional metal spikes, such as Mickelson, but that number is shrinking rapidly. As early as 2002, the percentage of pros wearing metal spikes versus soft spikes was less than 25%. (For what it's worth, USA Today reported in 2005 that Tiger Woods uses a custom made shoe with a combination of metal and soft spikes).

Most proponents of using metal spikes argue that soft spikes simply do not have enough grip, especially for a golfer with a high-power, high-torque swing or in wet weather. But the technical advancements made in recent years coupled with the steadily decreasing number of professionals utilizing metal spikes both seem to negate that argument.

Still, the metal versus soft spike debate will undoubtedly continue for years to come... at least for the pros. For us amateurs, since almost all golf clubs restrict the use of metal spikes in the first place, we'll just have to get used to the goods and bads of soft spikes whether we like them or not. And in my humble opinion, we're probably not missing out on much anyhow... other than the cool sound that metal spikes make as you walk to the 19th hole of course!

Email Korry your questions at

Korry Franke is a Boeing 757 and 767 pilot for Continental Airlines where he flies out of Newark, NJ to destinations across the US and around the globe. He lives in Bethlehem, PA where he spends most of his time on days off at the driving range or out on the golf course giving his game the practice it so desperately needs.

[ comments ]
Kickntrue says:
I can't find a good picture of it online- but a recent issue of GolfWeek magazine featured a picture of Tiger following through from behind on the cover. It was a full body shot and you could see he was very clearly wearing metal spikes. It did not look like he had any "mix" of soft and hard. Considering that event was in the desert I don't feel like wetness could've had anything to do with it.

I wonder if they aren't just stuck on traditions and their stubbornness. Until Tiger changes it will always be allowed and he's not going to face any pressure on this.

It seems like they should be able to do an easy study on why or by how much more the metal spikes are more useful. The fact that 75% of all pros wear soft spikes now tells me the difference can't be too great.
Cal says:
There are a few green keepers in Aus that want the metal spikes brought back. They say the metal spikes actually cause less damage on the greens than a lot of the new plastic ones - some of which have quite aggressive tips on them.
TaylorFade says:
In response to the above comment; I can see that. Seems like the metal spikes might just be everyday aeration.

In any case, if you aren't careful your shoes are gonna tear up the green anyway.

P.S- Vijay is such a whiner.
chipotle mg says:
i disagree with the "rules" and think they should be amended to include repairing spike marks as well as ball marks. the rule book also has a rule 1-4 "points not covered by the rule book should be decided in equity" and i personally would repair a spike mark in my putting path and not take a penatly and cite rule 1-4.

if i was vj i would ask the official if i could get phil to repair his own spike mark. phil was probably only be 1 hole away. also if i was vj, i wouldn't care what type of spikes tiger was wearing.
falcon50driver says:
I agree with the "aeration" theory.There are shoes made for wearing while mowing your lawnwith spikes for that purpose.True also, some of the plastic spikes are very agressive. I've seen greens torn up by people wearing them who just need to be taught how to walk, especially around the hole. Probably the main reason clubs ban the metal ones is the damage to the floors in the clubhouse.
chief550 says:
Quite a few players at the Byron Nelson in Dallas were using steel spikes. I was surprised to hear the distinctive clink clink as they crossed the bridge to 14 green.
John Flanagan says:
There is a big difference between the pros playing for a living and us playing with our buddies. Soft spikes are great for guys like us because the majority of us cant pick up are feet most of the times and tear up the greens where its costing the club more money then whats it worth.
PapaJoe says:
What's the matter with all you guys??? Metal spikes last much longer. Spike makers weren't making enough money because the "spike replacement" market was slim and trim. So... invent equipment that will HAVE to be replaced more often, much more often. Ergo "Soft Spikes" rule the market and the money makers all go to the bank very happy people!
cartcam says:
PapaJoe---get off the conspiracy theory. My soft spikes last as long as my shoes do. We only change the spikes because WE CAN. The biggest reason is the clubhouse issues stated above as well as any wood porches/bridges. That alone should explain metal spikes are more damaging. 99% of golfers don't need any more "traction" than a tennis shoe offers (unless in wet conditions). Aeration of greens is where you actually take a "plug" out of the turf, not just stick a hole in, so that theory is a farce as are the shoes you buy for your lawn.....
falcon50driver says:
I personally would not invest in lawn aerating shoes , but I can see how it might be beneficial to perforate the turf if it was packed down as greens sometimes get, so that water and fertilizer could penetrate the root system better.
Cartcam, where do you play?
dunks says:
My golf club (Letchworth, Herts, UK.) insist we wear metal in the winter and they have recently fitted new carpets in the changing rooms so the course manager must think they do less damage, or the club just want the revenue from selling new metal spikes!
Michael Ehmke says:
Have you ever been behind an old group of men who shuffle...or a group of kids who think spinning and running on the green are fun??? I think some of the hate of metal spikes came from the increased risk of lightening strikes while wearing the metal spikes....honey here are some new golf shoes....heeheehee. The other reason for no metal spikes....too many inebriated fools falling in the restrooms suing the club.
JWHpurist says:
Another set of interesting points: My two replaceemt sets of "Vintage Carbide Spikes" become junk, as the thread is different than the new spikes in new shoes! We always removed the golf shoes before we went into the 19th hole at Rancho Bernardo Country Club and anyone that can't walk on hard surface with steel spikes never played varsity football with "Oldstyle Steel Tipped Cleats", which require skill to walk on concrete floors without "busting your ass"! JWHpurist
400cc says:
PapaJoe is right.Everybody else is wrong.End of issue.
NickJacklaus says:
Recently I purchase a pair of FootJoy DryJoy Tour golf shoes with the new Tornado soft spikes. These spikes are very aggressive and much more durable than the Black Widow soft spikes I had been using. However, from Autumn to Spring I have been using the Champ Pro-Stinger metal spikes for a few reasons. I am a "walker",and my favorite course is very hilly and often wet from September through May, these Pro-Singer spikes provide excellent traction and do not clog up the bottom of my golf shoes with leaves and mud as the Tornado spikes do. The courses I play do not prohibit metal spikes and these Pro-Stinger spikes have a flat plastic base with a hardened steel stem that is designed not to leave dimple marks on greens as the old convex base metal spikes did. I highly recommend these Pro-Stinger metal spikes to anyone who needs the traction and stability these spikes provide.
DougE says:
cartcam says:
PapaJoe---get off the conspiracy theory. My soft spikes last as long as my shoes do. We only change the spikes because WE CAN.

Sorry cartcam, disagree with that statement. If you walk on concrete or asphalt cartpaths, parking lots or walkways with soft cleats they will not last as long as your shoes unless you are buying the cheapest shoes out there. I have a pair of Footjoy Synr-g shoes that have well over 200 rounds and probably another 100 practice sessions on them. They are still waterproof and in great shape. However, I must change the spikes regularly, as the hard surfaces will wear the plastic tips down rather quickly and walking on these surfaces is nearly impossible to avoid. They are probably on their 7th or 8th set of soft spikes. Each time I change them, it feels like I have a new set of good gripping shoes under me.
shalshah says:
Allow metal spikes. Just pick up your feet when you walk. Soft spikes damage greens too if you drag your feet. I secretely use metal spikes. I just put my shoes on when I get to the 1st tee so the starter or nobody else hears the metal clang. The provide great traction and stability when driving the ball in wet conditions.
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