New product helps courses take the bite out of spikes

August 21, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

For years, slow play has been one of the major banes of a golfer's existence, and now spike marks, long a similar curse, are starting to challenge for equal billing.

Recent unsolicited national television exposure heightened interest in a subject some clubs already had started to attack. During last week's TV coverage of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills CC in Tulsa, Okla., the players weren't the only ones talking about the "spiking" problem.

It was, however, one thing to have the players call two-foot putts "risky," but quite another when a commentator spoke to his field reporter: "A six-footer? What are the spike marks like in his line?"

Or, "The spike marks grow as the day wears on. The player is not the problem; just the spike marks," referring to a short putt missed. Putts seemingly on line would hit a spike mark and kick out of the hole. Thanks to close-ups, which magnified the situation, tees as well as greens looked as though they were Lilliputian war zones.

All of which is nothing Brian Golden hasn't been talking about for the past year.

Golden is the vice president of sales and marketing for Softspikes, spiral-shaped polyurethane "spikes" that can be substituted for removable metal spikes. They are the only products of their kind at the moment, and their selling point is that they are substantially lighter and create far less wear and tear on turf than standard spikes.

Little more than 2 years old, the product achieved a measure of success well ahead of the PGA when such clubs as the Wynstone Club in Barrington, Ill. (the first), and Muirfield Village Golf Club and Scioto Country Club, both in the Columbus, Ohio, area, banned the wearing of metal spikes.

That was two months ago and since then, Robert Trent Jones GC in Manassas, Va., has added its name to the list. Other clubs across the country are talking about it.

Closer to home, Baltimore CC superintendent Doug Peterson divided a practice putting green in half -- one side for metal spikes, one side for Softspikes.

The difference is obvious, although detractors -- old habits are hard to break -- point out there are more players with metal spikes, thus making the test inconclusive.

Still, other area clubs are at least talking about the situation, and some are encouraging members to give the new product a try.

"It's a movement that had been in hibernation waiting for a product to come along," says Golden, former head golf professional at TPC-Avenel in Potomac.

Sales and marketing are handled in Alexandria, Va. (soon to move to Rockville), and through a sub-contract, the spikes are packaged and shipped out of Boise, Idaho, home of the originator of the idea.

"Everybody is skeptical at first, especially about wet conditions," Golden added, "but we have proved through tournament use they grab effectively.

"They are good for 25-35 rounds, depending upon how the golfer walks as to how many [spikes] might have to be changed.

"They do feel differently, however, because there is more surface contact. Still, since they may be worn off the golf course, they are more convenient. And they are definitely more comfortable."


The entry deadline is Aug. 31 for the U.S. Senior Women's championship to be played Sept. 21-23 at Sea Island GC, St. Simons Island, Ga. . . . . Justin Leonard, the 1994 NCAA champion who has collected two top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour since turning professional two months ago, will be the feature attraction, along with area celebrity guests, when the AT&T Classic is held Sept. 12 at Chestnut Ridge CC. Proceeds will benefit Baltimore Reads Inc., with information available from (410) 752-3595.

This week's schedule:

Tomorrow -- Maryland State Mid-Amateur championship, CC Woodmore, 7:30 a.m.; U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying, Elkridge Club, 8 a.m.

Tuesday -- Maryland State Mid-Amateur championship, CC Woodmore, 7:30 a.m.; Women's Golf Association, Hunt Valley GC and Suburban Club, 8:30 a.m.

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