Are Golf Shoes Required to Play Golf?

Rocco Mediate scrapes the grass off of cleats during the Senior Players Championship
Golf shoes are designed to grip the ground and prevent slipping and sliding during the swing. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

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? No, you do not have to wear golf shoes to play golf. 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).

Golf shoes are almost never a requirement by the golf course, and golf courses that do require golf shoes are so rare that you really needn't worry about them.

Not Required, But Definitely Recommended

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!

Bad Impression of Golf Shoes? They've Improved Dramatically

Golf shoes have 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 new to the game of golf, investing in golf shoes is a good idea. We track the latest golf shoe arrivals in pro shops here:

To get an idea of the different prices and styles available, take a stroll through the vast array of offerings online:

Again, though, golf shoes are not a requirement to play golf. And 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, etc., are the next-best thing to owning real golf shoes.