Monday, October 2, 2017

The Shot-Shank Redemption

"How often do you look at a man's shoes?" - the line famously delivered by Ellis "Red" Boyd during Andy Dufresne's last moments as a guest at Shawshank Prison.  I'm sure that most of you retifists lose it over a new pair of Jordans, or need to have a nice pair of going out shoes but that's beside the point.  How much do you really think about your shoes in golf? We may look at the style, name, or comfort of them - even the spike pattern since that's what matters most, right?  What if I told you the reason you shot 85 on tuesday and 99 on wednesday is laced up and matches that Ricky Fowler flat brim perfectly?

So I decided to do a little bit of scientific method throughout my season. After a few WTF rounds of golf and having my wonderful low single digit handicap turn mid, I needed to find out what the hell was going on. Not paying attention for the most part, just marking down everything about my round in the notes. What pair of sunglasses I wore, pants or shorts, how early I got there for the tee time and even the shoes I had worn after each round.  At the beginning, I thought I was honestly wasting my time. I was grasping for straws and I remember thinking to myself there's no way that any of this would be costing me strokes. I can tell you, they most certainly did. Turns out - my shoes were killing my score. No knock on the brand, because I do really like the spikes, but I use 3 pairs of footjoys. 2 pairs of FJ Energize - 1 white/ 1 black and 1 pair of FJ Contour - Brown.  I bought them like anyone would - to match my golf attire when needed. A shoe is a shoe, right? Honestly, I bought the contours because generally I wanted something that I didn't have to change at the course and could just go right out after - Thinking golf shoes were golf shoes. I looked at my notes and noticed something peculiar....

On days that I practiced with a shoe, then golfed the next time with that same shoe I tended to shoot relatively well. One of my best rounds came on the third day of wearing a particular type of shoe in a row. In each instance, I noticed that when I changed from Energize to Contour and vice versa, my score ballooned significantly. Sometimes up to 10 strokes and my ball striking went to hell. Granted, this was not at the forefront of my mind when playing the rounds. I was just playing my game and trying to score.

Slowly a pattern began to emerge.... When I switched shoes, my swing just felt out of sorts for a while. I couldn't figure it out. Nothing was different and I JUST played. I wasn't rusty, but there was no fixing it until the 10th hole or later.  There were even outliers in the rounds where I had changed shoes but my game didn't change. Was it all in my head? Am I just a crazy, neurotic golfer who blames things like shaft label placement and ball marking technique rather than his own swing? I needed a drink.

I glanced over things again and eventually I caught on. Turns out, the Energize are almost 1/2" higher than the Contours. This put my weight a little more neutral at address, since I tend to lean backwards naturally with my weight shift (Thanks, Dr. Scholl's contraption at walmart!). This means that the Energize were actually a better fit for me in terms of posture and weight transfer. It wasn't something I could necessarily feel, but it's something I could compensate for EVENTUALLY when it wasn't there - which was the case. When I changed back to the flatter, more casual Contour style, I needed to consciously change my weight displacement or at least allow for it. This is why it took a good bit of time during the round, or a practice session, to get my bearings.  But what about the days when I changed and I was ok??? I took another sip and thought harder and realized. INSOLES. 

Remember that Dr. Scholl's thing I was talking about? Well it's there to help you choose what insoles are right for you. I have back troubles and can't really walk on hard surfaces for a long time without stopping, stretching, and at the very least saying "ow".   This was because of that rearward CG of mine, and I was putting all the shock and weight on my heels, sending the feedback right up to my spine. Insoles cured that, and I had put them into the Contours when I walked the course making them about 1/2" higher (probably more like 3/8). Closer to the Energize - which felt good enough NOT to put the insoles in. I didn't put them in when I took a cart, or if it was particularly soft out. EUREKA!!! How could I be so dumb?!

Is this a complete study of the subject... no, not by a long shot - BUT you may want to do a little experiment of your own. See which shoes you play best in and what kind of specs they have. Every person will be different, just like using a particular golf club, but you might find that you can actually shave a few strokes wearing a certain type of shoe. There's a lot of talk about stability in the golf swing and the golf shoe, but how much do we really think about the height and balance of our golf shoes?

A couple years back - in a campaign that I believe continues to this day - Shoe companies like Adidas were saying you needed to be as close to the ground as possible. They touted thin soles and "more interaction with the turf".  Sounds good on paper, but we all know that there's only one thing that can keep you stable in the golf swing - balance. Proper weight displacement is 100% the key to a good setup and starting point for the swing. Perhaps it's time for the Carrie Bradshaws of the golf world to take a look in their closets and ask "Does my collection of golf shoes love me as much as I love them?"

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