I recently looked at data relating to steel spikes and why they are not used anymore. I always thought that these metal spikes helped aerate the green and as such aid in the health of the greens. Wondering why they disappeared, I figured that cost of production was the primary reason as shoe manufacturers needed (wanted) to increase their profit margin. It seems like a logical reason and regardless metal spikes are gone for the average amateur and soft spikes are in; at least until another change is deemed necessary.
In addition to aeration, metal spikes were touted as better grip on the grass, but I can say from personal experience I do not notice the difference and disregard this thought. I find that soft spikes work just as well as old metal spikes and would not change back for this reason. So, what about the aeration issue? Before delving into this, here is what you said about what grip you wear on your golf shoe:
To find an expert answer on the topic of aeration, I decided to reach out to my golf course experts: Jeremy Sizer, Turfbots and former Superintendent of Roundel Glen Golf Course, and Darwin Howard, current Superintendent of Seguin Valley Golf Course. These two have offered expert information in the past and their views on aeration are the same.
Jeremy says: When it comes to old metal spikes – absolutely not would they have any aeration benefits. The main damage a Superintendent is worried about are the areas near the hole. On average the regular golfer takes approx. 25-35 steps per green and an average of 14 within 7 ft of the hole. When you average that out with 200 golfers a day you will now definitely know why the pins are moved at high end clubs daily. It’s strictly to keep that ball rolling smoothly towards the cup. The act as well of twisting and turning for missed putts causes considerable damage by gouging turf- this actually still happens with sod spikes.
Another note is that when greens keepers aerate generally will roll for a few days after- this allows the turf to get back down to a regular Matt to avoid scalping of a lifted area of turf around the aeration hole. Although rolling is now fairly common daily the tufts the metal spikes caused would be scalped at a regular course. PGA players need not worry as though greens are generally very firm and they all walk very respectfully while on a green with no twisting and turning.
Darwin responded: There was no agronomic advantage to metal spikes at all in my opinion The advantage perhaps lies with the golfer in stance grip but I would say that’s debatable to some of the cleat designs that are available.
As you can see, the myth that steel spikes helps the greens is baseless. They do not help with the care and maintenance of the course. And in fact cause more damage to the greens. I am not surprised and it makes sense that these little metal rods would cause more damage if golfers did not lift their feet or decided to twist and turn on the short grass.
The change to soft spikes appears to be a good idea and if it helps with care and maintenance of the greens, I fully support it. The myth of aeration by steel spikes is not debunked!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!