We hardly think about them when playing golf unless one pops out or needs to be replaced, but the cleats on our golf shoes play an important part in our inventory of golf gear. Gone are the days of the familiar click clack of metal spikes. There is no doubt that the metal spikes of the past provided better traction than the plastic spikes we use now, but the damage they caused on putting greens and clubhouse floors, combined with some clever marketing from the early manufacturers, lead to the virtual extinction of metal spikes.
Softspikes, the leading manufacturer of plastic cleats, has held that position for over 15 years. Its products are in use by 70% of PGA Tour players even though the PGA Tour still allows the use of metal spikes. That number amounts to more than 300 victories and 44 straight majors. The Softspikes brand has become one of the golf industry's greatest success stories. Pride Manufacturing Company purchased Softspikes, LLC in December 2003, launching the non-metal spike revolution. Today, metal spikes account for less than 1% of the spike market, and the vast majority of U.S. golf courses have banned the use of metal spikes.
Softspikes introduced the original Black Widow spike about a decade ago, and one would think that there isn't much room for improvement after 10 years. I mean, what could possibly be done to improve a little piece of plastic that attaches to the bottom of our golf shoes? Apparently a lot!
In late May, Softspikes released the Black Widow Tour golf cleat, along with a website to promote the new product and a Facebook fan page to boot. The website – blackwidowtour.com, is designed to promote the new spike, the first adjustable spike in golf.
According to the website, it will allow the golfer to adjust the cleats to their swing, balance, and weight distribution. The main innovation in the new spikes are the "support rings" that enable golfers to customize the level of comfort of the spikes. The spikes have eight teeth, or traction elements, along with four large flexible legs to provide a high level of traction. The cleat is completed by four cushioning areas that absorb shock and distribute weight among the cleats. Combined with the support rings, this allows the golfer to turn the ring to change the spikes' effective performance.
The two main settings are Tour-Comfort and Tour-Firm. The Tour-Comfort setting provides maximum flex, comfort and extreme traction, where the Tour-Firm setting provides traction through a firmer, spike-like feel by providing more impact resistance. You can even adjust each spike individually, to create custom settings. The website shows a few examples, such as setting the cleats on the outsides of the shoe to the firm setting for better lateral support during the swing, and comfort setting on the inside for better cushioning while walking. Another possible custom setting places the firm cleats on the outside of the right foot, creating a more stable platform during the backswing. The new Black Widow Tour cleats will retail in the $12 to $15 range.
We have seen the rise of adjustable shoes, with the FootJoy BOA lacing system, and we have seen adjustable clubs with the TaylorMade R9, Callaway i-Mix, and various other adjustable hosel clubs. It only makes sense that we now have adjustable spikes, right?
While it's hard to argue with the market dominance of the Softspikes brand, it remains to be seen if adjustable spikes will really catch on. Wouldn't it be great to see a PGA Pro attribute his win at a tournament to his new adjustable spikes? How will the rules look upon a player who takes off his shoes and adjusts his spikes to changing turf conditions? Maybe I'll throw a set of these technological wonders into my Eccos and put them through their paces… (pun intended). See you next week!
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