Are Golf Shoes Required to Play Golf?

A golfer scrapes the grass off his cleats, which are designed to grip the ground to prevent slips during a swing

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Virtually everyone who is beyond the beginner stage of golf and plays golf at least a few times a year owns a pair (maybe more than one pair) of golf shoes.

But are golf shoes required to play golf? The answer to that question is mostly "no." But some golf courses do require golf shoes, and even at the majority that don't wearing golf shoes will help you play better golf.

Only Some Courses Require Cleats

It is unusual within the wider world of golf courses for the wearing golf-specific shoes to be a requirement by the course. However, it is also not all that uncommon among fancy golf courses—private clubs, luxury resorts and the sort—for there to be either a golf-shoes-required policy, or a ban on at least some other types of footwear.

If you are scheduled to play a golf course you've never been to before, and don't own golf shoes, it's a good idea to check the course's website or call ahead and ask about the shoe policy. Also note that at some golf courses—mostly at the higher-end courses—golf shoe rentals may be available for those who don't own their own pair.

Golf Shoes Improve Your Game

As far as the actually playing of golf, golf shoes are recommended, but not required. You can play your way around the golf course in tennis shoes, running shoes, cross trainers, or any shoes you wish (so long as they do not damage the turf and are permitted by the golf course). You can even (depending on the course's rules) play barefoot.

Golf shoes are a good idea, however, because they are engineered to keep your feet from sliding around during the golf swing. That means a good-fitting pair of golf shoes should prevent your feet from sliding around inside the shoe, and also should prevent your shoes from sliding out from under you during the swing.

A golf swing exerts downward, lateral and rotational pressure on your feet. So having golf shoes, which are designed specifically to handle those forces while keeping your feet in place, is a plus. A swing in which one or both of your feet slip or slide is a swing almost guaranteed to produce a poor-to-terrible golf shot. And beginning golfers have enough of those already.

Advanced in Golf Cleat Design

Do you have a bad impression of golf shoes? They've Improved dramatically and come a long way, stylistically, over the past couple of decades. You can still find "old school" golf shoes—black and white wingtips, leather and tassels (and some people now prefer such designs as a retro look). But golf shoes now come in many styles and colors, some indistinguishable from other athletic shoes, some in "street style," moccasin and even sandal styles, and with many more options specifically for women golfers, too.

The comfort level of golf shoes is also much higher than it used to be. There are many different price points for golf shoes, including relatively cheap models. So if you are a golf novice, investing in new golf shoes is a good idea.

To get an idea of the different prices and styles available, try taking a stroll through the vast array of offerings from online golf retailers and other retailers (such as Amazon). If you are not certain that you will stick with golf, then to put off a purchase of golf shoes (or buy a cheap pair at first) is not a terrible idea.

No Golf Shoes? You Can Still Play

So what if you don't own a pair of golf shoes, and don't want to spend the money for them?

You can still play golf, although you might slip or slide more than you would if you did have golf shoes. Look through your closet and find the pair of shoes with the most "gripping" soles you own. Rubber soles with lots of ridges, bumps, and textures are the next-best thing to owning real golf shoes.

The other option is to check with the golf course you'll be playing to find out if they offer shoe rentals.