If you haven’t seen a golfer playing golf barefooted and unapologetic about it, watch the short 50-second video below of John Daly playing at Pinehurst 4 (NC) some 7 years ago.

I took a snapshot of him on his bare feet;

Pinehurst is a reputable golf club that started back in 1895 and this may start getting you wondering, was he actually allowed to play barefoot? Do all golf clubs allow barefoot golfing?

Out of the 24 Rules of Golf set out by USGA, there is no specific regulation against playing golf barefoot but individual golf clubs may have their own House Rules which you must adhere to when playing on their course. You’ll typically be asked to wear closed-toe shoes in most courses unless you are a Pro practicing and the course staff has made an exception for you.

Some House Rules explicitly state that “shoes with spikes are to be worn at all times” or “metal spikes are not allowed”. If the club you’re playing at has such a rule, then you definitely cannot play barefoot as that would count as breaking the House Rule.

Can You Golf Barefoot?

While there is no direct regulation from USGA stating that you cannot golf barefoot but USGA Rule #4.3 encourages the use of shoes. It states“shoes that assist the player in obtaining a firm stance may be worn…features such as spikes on the sole are permitted.”

PGA: It’s okay to play barefoot golf — shoes optional.

In a 2014 Publication on PGA’s website listing the rules they titled “It’s Ok Rules”, PGA specified that playing golf barefoot is Okay and that wearing shoes is optional. Below is a snapshot from PGA’s website.

The decision on whether to allow or disallow barefoot golfing lies in the hands of the individual golf clubs. With that being said, you’ll still find some courses that allow players to go shoeless while others have a strict policy against it.

Some clubs may make an exception for players with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing shoes such as psoriasis or diabetes. In such cases, it is best to check with the club in advance to see if they will allow you to play barefoot and if so, what specific documentation they may require from you.

Benefits of Playing Golf Barefoot:

There are some benefits as well as drawbacks to playing golf barefoot which we will explore below.

  • 1) Increased Feel: One of the main advantages of playing barefoot is that it gives you a much better feel for the ground and turf below your feet. This is especially beneficial when making contact with the ball as you can get a better sense of how hard or soft to hit it based on the feel of the ground.
  • 2) More Natural: Walking barefoot is a more natural way to move and many people find it more comfortable than wearing shoes. This can lead to improved balance and a more stable stance when swinging the club.
  • 3) Cooler in Hot Weather: This benefit is more applicable in places with hot weather as playing golf barefoot can help keep your feet cooler than if you were wearing shoes

Drawbacks of Playing Golf Barefoot:

  • 1) Risk of Injury: One of the main risks of playing barefoot is the increased chance of sustaining an injury. Without any shoes to protect your feet, you are more likely to cut or scrape yourself on sharp objects such as rocks or twigs.
  • 2) Hot Weather Hazards: In hot weather, the ground can become extremely hot and cause burns or blisters on your feet. It is important to be aware of this hazard and take extra care to avoid any hot spots when playing barefoot.
  • 3) Lack of Support: Another drawback of not wearing shoes is the lack of support for your feet. This can lead to fatigue more quickly and may cause problems if you have any existing foot conditions.
  • 4)Pesticides and chemicals: If the course you are playing on uses pesticides or other chemicals, there is a risk of these harmful substances coming into contact with your skin.
  • 5).Walking barefoot may increase underlying foot deformities: According to  Dr. Miguel Cunha, a board-certified podiatrist, walking barefoot may actually worsen any underlying foot deformities you have.”If you have bunions, for example, Walking barefoot will likely make them worse,” he says. “The same goes for hammertoes and mallet toes—toe deformities that cause your joints to protrude. And if you have flat feet, the condition may become more pronounced.”

Shoes for Barefoot Golfing:

Just because you are playing golf barefoot does not mean that you cannot wear shoes. In fact, there are many types of shoes that have been designed specifically for barefoot golfing. These shoes typically have very thin soles with no spikes or other protrusions. This allows you to get a good feel for the ground while still providing some protection for your feet.

Notable Pros that have played golf barefoot:

Below are some notable barefoot golfers over the years. Golding barefoot is gaining ground for both male and female Pro golfers.

  • Sam Snead: Snead was known for his unique swing and smooth tempo. He would often take his shoes off to get a better feel for the ground.
  • Arnold Palmer: Palmer was one of the most charismatic players in golf and is credited with helping to popularize the sport. He was also known for playing barefoot on occasion.
  • Gary Player: Player is one of the most successful players in golf history and is often considered one of the best players of all time. He was also known to play barefoot from time to time.
  • John Daly: Daly is known for his unconventional style and for being one of the longest hitters in golf. He has also been known to play barefoot on occasion.

In the video below, LPGA Class A Pro Debbie Doniger shows how you should practice golf barefoot;

Bottom line:

Playing golf barefoot is legal, but there are some risks involved. It is important to be aware of these risks and take precautions to avoid them. There are also many benefits to playing barefoot, such as improved feel and balance. If you decide to play barefoot, there are special shoes that you can wear to protect your feet. There are also many successful golfers who have played barefoot on occasion.

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