When it comes to what I wear on the golf course, I tend to be a creature of habit. I find things I like, and I stick with them. Just ask my wife, who asks me why I have multiple versions of the same pieces -- be they shirts, pullovers, shorts or socks. I like what I like.
However, I'm always willing to give new brands and new products a try. While I like what I like, I also know that I don't know what I don't know. I wouldn't have become a fan I am of the brands I like without going a little out of my comfort zone.
So, this summer I've tried some new brands. I've been wearing some Callaway Apparel, trying out some new socks from Feetures, and I've worn some sun sleeves for the first time.
The Callaway Golf apparel team caught my attention at the PGA Merchandise Show in January when they showed me what amounts to the golf shorts version of athletic shorts. They looked like golf shorts but were inspired by the flexibility and athletic look of gym shorts. I was taken.
Then they showed off Swing Tech. Swing Tech is a design philosophy that puts more fabric with more stretch in the places where every golfer needs it. In a shirt or a pullover, that's in the shoulders and upper arms, moving the should seam back toward the shoulder blade. In pant and shorts, that's right around the upper thigh, giving more room to stretch in the pocket area, where a player builds power, by eliminating the outside seam.
The end result is a cut that's true to modern sizing -- nothing too slim, nothing too baggy -- while giving the golfer plenty of room to move on the course. It's a great mix.
I wore a pullover throughout the spring that kept me warm enough in cooler conditions but let me move freely without weighing me down. I've worn a couple of polo shirts throughout the golf season, with different patterns and textures. They've kept me reasonably dry on the most humid of days far too common here in D.C. summers, and they breathe well without looking too techy.
I'm very happy to have some Callaway apparel in the rotation, and I'll certainly add some more over time.
Golf socks are as important to me as golf shoes. Both have to be comfortable, allow me a full range of motion and do nothing to stop me from walking 18 holes. That doesn't mean I'm a total snob about the socks I wear, but I'm not usually just slapping on a pair of socks from a sporting-good store 10-pack and rolling out there.
That's why I was excited to try Feetures socks. The company billed their active socks as perfect for golf because they provide a hugging fit on the feet with high-density cushioning that keeps the sock from feeling balky. There's a mesh construction on the top of the socks to keep airflow going and your feet dry, while there's no toe seam and a heel tab for easy adjustments. Each pair is designed with a sock specifically for each foot.
I tried a pair of their Elite socks with lycra construction and a pair of their Merino 10 socks, which feature a wool-lycra blend for better performance to keep your feet dry and blister-free.
The socks are incredibly comfortable. They don't have any more material than necessary, and the Merino 10 socks in particular have just the right padding for a long walk on the golf course.
However, I did experience some issues in walking in the Feetures socks. When wearing my adidas Forgefiber Boa shoes -- my favorite on the planet -- I had trouble with my feet sliding in the shoe while I walked and sometimes when I swung the club. That problem led to friction between the bottom of my sock and the inner of the shoe, leading to my feet roasting unnecessarily. I tend to wear my shoes a little loose when I play, but they're not so loose that I would have expected this. I couldn't tighten my shoes enough to prevent the friction while walking. Of course, your mileage may vary.
In terms of sizing, Feetures offers three sizes: medium (6-9 men's), large (9-12 men's) and extra large (12-15 men's). If you're at the higher end of those ranges, I'd recommend you size up. While the hugging fit and the compression of the Feetures socks is great, my size 12s were putting a major strain on the threads of the large size. I could see the stress in the fit, and I was worried I would put a hole in the ankle area.
The Feetures socks range in price, but they're around $15-$20 per pair. If you're looking for quality socks that are light and not as thick as some others, give them a try.
I had the good fortune of heading out to French Lick Resort in Indiana in July to compete in the second annual Sweeney Cup in conjunction with the Symetra Tour's Donald Ross Classic. As part of the festivities, I played in a pro-am with rising pro Leona Maguire, who is arguably the best women's college golfer of all-time.
The pro-am day was a scorcher. It was probably 95 degrees on the Ross course. Leona's dad, Declan, was sporting some sun sleeves throughout the day, and I'd never seen a guy wearing them in person. They're immensely popular on the LPGA and Symetra Tour, for players and caddies alike. Not only did Declan have sun protection, he seemed to be keeping it cool in the hot sun.
So, when I came home, I hopped on to Amazon, found a little three-pack for $18 and had them shipped to me. I was skeptical if I would like them or not.
Turns out, the sun sleeves are a great choice, particularly in hot weather. While every manufacturer offers different construction and features, the sun sleeves generally breathe really well. A touring pro caddie gave me the tip of dunking the sleeves in a cold bath of ice water before playing and reaping the benefits. What a great call, adding to the comfort they provide.
The sleeves themselves go past the elbow and to the middle of your upper arm. The ones I bought has plenty of flexibility. Within a few swings, the fabric had stretched enough that I didn't think of the sleeves at all when swinging the club on any kind of shot. Some folks who have used the sleeves say they particularly like the compression they feel from the sleeves, but I was neutral on that.
Of course, the big draw of the sun sleeves is protection from the sun. Wearing them for a few rounds in near 100-degree heat, I can attest that my arms not only felt cooler at the end of the round but that they also weren't touched by the sun at all. Typically I would play golf in that heat with sunscreen on throughout the round and still have my arms feeling hot by the turn. Even though my arms rarely sunburn, there's a discomfort in leaving them exposed to the heat.
I probably won't use sun sleeves in every round I play. Sometimes, sunscreen is enough. However, on particularly hot and nasty days, I will certainly be wearing the sleeves so I can stay cooler and protected on the course.