sealPurdue News

July 1997

Yikes, spikes! Non-metal cleats offer advantages to turf, golfers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- As serious golfers know, traditional golf shoes with metal spikes are no longer welcome at a growing number of golf courses.

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But many golfers wonder if this is just another fad, like orange golf balls, or if it's a change that's here to stay, like metal woods. According to Kelly Elbin, vice president of marketing for Softspikes, the leading manufacturer of alternative spikes, 1,600 courses nationwide have banned metal spikes.

Zac Reicher, co-director of Purdue University's Turfgrass Diagnostic and Research Center, says that alternative or nonmetal spikes are a change that golfers are going to have to get used to. The reason is simple: Alternative spikes are good for golf turf.

"There is a substantial agronomic benefit to using alternative spikes," Reicher says. "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."

Mowing turf as short as one-eighth inch tall can place extreme stress on the grass plants that make up golf's fairways and greens, making the plants susceptible to diseases and pests. According to Reicher, metal spikes tearing the leaves of grass weakens the turf even more.

Theoretically, using alternative spikes means that there is less need for chemicals to fight pests, so there is something of a general environmental benefit to using alternative spikes, too.

For golfers, the inconvenience of replacing metal spikes in golf shoes will be offset by improved course conditions, Reicher says. "Traditional golf shoes leave spike marks. Late in the day, the greens on any course are bumpy from all of the spikes. If you watch the television coverage of tournaments, even the Masters has spike marks on the greens at the end of the day," he says. "But at the end of the day at a course that doesn't allow metal spikes, the greens are still smooth."

Despite the advantages, many golfers have been reluctant to change to plastic cleats because of concerns about slipping during the golf swing. According to Reicher, this may have been a legitimate concern three or four years ago, but not now. "There have been dramatic advances in the quality of alternative spikes in the past three years," he says. "The new spikes last longer and are more stable to play on."

An independent research study funded by Softspikes found that the company's original cleat provided 72 percent of the traction of a metal spike during the golf swing, and that the company's latest offering, the Extra Performance cleat, provides 93 percent of the traction of metal spikes.

"But to be honest with you, if you are playing in the middle of the afternoon in the summer during dry weather, most golfers can get enough traction just by wearing tennis shoes," Reicher says. "But golfers should never wear softball or soccer rubber cleats on the course."

Tom Marcinko, a sales representative for Softspikes, says Indiana golf courses have taken a "wait-and-see" attitude compared to courses in neighboring states. "I can't tell you the number of courses in Indiana that have told me that they plan to ban metal spikes in '98," Marcinko says. "If even half of the courses that have said they're going to do it follow through, then alternative spikes will become very familiar to Hoosier golfers."

He says these 22 courses in Indiana have already banned metal spikes:

Public Clubs

Covered Bridge Golf Club, Sellersburg
Idle Creek Golf Course, Terre Haute
Rock Hollow Golf Club, Peru
Plum Creek Golf Club, Fischers
Timber Ridge Golf Club, Millersburg
Lake Hills Country Club, St. John

Private Clubs

Country Club of Indianapolis
Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel
Elcona Country Club, Elkhart
Fort Wayne Elks Country Club
Hillcrest Country Club, Indianapolis
Lafayette Country Club
Morris Park Country Club, South Bend
Orchard Ridge Country Club, Fort Wayne
Royal Oak Country Club, Greenwood
South Bend Country Club
Terre Haute Elks Golf Club
Valparaiso Country Club
Wolf Run Golf Club, Zionsville
Woodmar Country Club, Hammond
Woodstock Club, Indianapolis
Youche Country Club, Crown Point

Sources: Zac Reicher, (765) 494-9737; e-mail,
Kelly Elbin, (800) 638-0075
Tom Marcinko, (317) 875-3670
Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo caption

Many golfers are replacing the metal cleats in their golf shoes with nonmetal or alternative cleats, like the ones shown here. More than 1,500 U.S. golf courses have banned metal spikes because they tear up the turf on golf courses, says Purdue turf expert Zac Reicher. (Ag Communications Photo by Jessica Fickle.)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Reicher/Spikes
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