Never Fore-Get: Tiger Woods' Most Memorable Golf Shoes
Watching The Last Dance has given us all a timely reminder of Michael Jordan’s influence on the sneaker game, but there’s other GOATs out there who have also shaped their own distinct footwear legacies.
While the cultural clout probably can’t be compared, Tiger Woods’ ongoing partnership with Nike has taken performance golf shoe design to stratospheric heights. Tiger has always put performance over panache, and his signature shoe line reflects just that, breaking the mould of traditional cleats to introduce the Swoosh’s cutting-edge tech to the course.
The designs were divisive, disruptive and, in some cases, downright ugly, but Tiger’s never been one to care – it was all about that W.
Goin' Boom in Zoom
Nike may be a major force in world golf today, but that hasn’t always been the case. Prior to signing Tiger in 1996 (fresh off him turning pro), spotting Nike apparel and footwear on the course would’ve been as difficult as finding your lost ball in deep rough.
Less than two years after signing the most prodigious talent in the sport’s history, Nike bestowed a young Tiger with his first signature shoe - the Air Zoom TW - towards the end of 1997. The design shocked the prissy traditionalists, sporting a hybrid leather and mesh construction, as well as a shroud-like lacing aesthetic. There was a traditional spiked cleat design on the outsole, but it was the inclusion of the Swoosh’s game-changing Air Zoom that set the design apart. Now, it wasn’t the prettiest shoe the world had seen, but that didn’t matter.
Fresh off winning his first Masters at just 21 years old, the golfing world was unquestionably sucked up in the Tiger tornado.
Nike Golf has since used the Air Zoom TW as a vehicle for progression, packing in their latest innovations and smashing any notions of what a traditional golf cleat is meant to be. The 2011 rendition is particularly memorable, as it brought to the fore a seemingly never-ending list of tech: ballistic mesh uppers, full-length PORON sockliners, waterproof leather, lateral stabilisers for balance and smooth weight transfer, ‘Power Channel’ outsoles, WaterSheild Plus technology, forefoot flex channel, Q-Lok technology, and Scorpion Stinger spikes. Unfortunately, despite the inclusions, the shoes didn’t help countless weekend hackers shoot under 100.
In 2017, for the shoe’s 20th anniversary, Tinker Hatfield worked with Tiger to design the Air Zoom TW 17. A homage to the memorable OG, the TW 17 featured a quirky dual-strap system for customisable lockdown, and the throwback 'Bred' scheme.
Pleasing the Purists
Looking to cash in on Tiger’s influence with a more traditional design, Nike released the SP-7 TW Tour in 2004. Aesthetically, it was just what most golfers were looking for. Technologically, it pretty much came through with all the trademark tech the Air Zoom TW line had previously championed, albeit in a far more palatable package.
The response was overwhelming, with the shoe one of Nike Golf’s most popular ever. The throwback styling is perfectly balance with subtle modern details, with the visible Air unit echoing the most popular performance sneakers of the era.
Running the Game
Tiger has attributed his training approach off the course as a key factor in his success over the years. With that in mind, it was inevitable that Nike’s running technology would eventually trickle into the golf world.
After sporting a prototype with FREE technology in 2011, Tiger debuted the Nike TW 13 the following year. Looking for a shoe that gave him the same performance fit and feel as the FREE shoes he used for running and training, Tiger’s design ethos was simple.
‘I train with Nike FREE technology all the time,’ said Woods. ‘I love training in it, running in it, lifting in it. So I asked, why can’t I play golf in it?’
It totally made sense. The natural motion engineered outsole was designed to mimic and conform to the natural motion of the foot, allowing Tiger to keep contact with the ground longer – a key factor needed for the golf swing.
More recently, the TW line has adopted the FastFit system, perhaps throwing back to the innovative lacing design of the OG Air Zoom TW. It’s another progression in Tiger’s ever-growing shoe lineage, but we’re still waiting for that elusive Jordan Brand crossover.
GOAT x GOAT? What are you waiting for, Beaverton!