by Brendan Dunne
Have golf shoes ever been cool?
Has a silhouette intended for the fairway ever built buzz the way that a signature basketball sneaker or a teched-out runner could? Nike's spot in a sport usually seen as stuffy on the attire has held them back from ever having any real crossover appeal or wow factor. But, the Nike Flyknit Chukka golf, seen here, just might change that.
The design of the shoe itself is not entirely groundbreaking. The model is essentially the Flyknit Chukka upper (which arrived first on the Lunar Flyknit Chukka and has since transitioned to models like the Free Flyknit Chukka and Flyknit Chukka FSB) paired with a Free-inspired tooling that also appears on the FI Impact. The design is more an echo of an established sneaker than an entirely new one, but it's an important indicator of where Nike Golf is going.
"There was an opportunity to kind of change the conversation in the sport of golf," said Jarod Courtney, a product line manager involved with bringing the shoe to market. "It's a sport that's super traditional and has a long history that extends to the kit the athlete wears in a lot of ways."
There's a recognition at Nike that the sport is too insular, Courtney added. "It's not accepting of people that 'aren't golf' and that's not really working for the sport anymore," he said. "There needs to be some new life injected into the sport and a new point of view."
This new point of view includes shoes like the Lunar Control 4, whose vamp Swoosh at the toe was something of a shock to the old guard of the sport. It includes bold colorways like the "Multicolor" Chukka seen here, which builds on the success of rainbow Flyknits. That the prismatic knit has resulted in the most talked-about and most shared on social media Flyknit releases in the past feels right in line with Nike's goal of giving golf wear a younger spin.
While the golf Flyknit Chukka succeeds on the flashy front, Nike promises real performance benefits too. It's the first golf shoe to use Flyknit, a technology that's been celebrated since its 2012 debut. The Flyknit Chukka upper here is wrapped in NikeSkin, a thin protective layer meant to ward off the moisture of morning dew. The height of the Chukka also offers a built-in advantage in that it prevents debris from getting inside the shoe. Plus, the freeing of golf footwear design from its stodgy confines allows players putting in miles over 18 holes access to more modern, comfortable tech.
Nike golfer Jamie Lovemark, 28, who's got two professional wins on his résumé, is glad to have made the switch.
"I remember wearing the old FootJoys, not to drop names, but my feet would literally be bleeding afterwards," Lovemark said at a Nike Golf event in Los Angeles on Monday, describing his life before Swoosh. "My heels would be bleeding and I would feel terrible."
If the Nike Flyknit Chukka doesn't come off as a purely Nike Golf creation there's good reason—the current wave of shoes like this one and apparel like that of the Nike Golf Club line is created in conversation with Nike Sportswear. Hence pieces like a coaches jacket or a busy animal print shirt from the "Enemies of the Green" collection that wouldn't feel too out of place on the rack at Supreme.
The setting that these pieces debuted in was full of contextual evidence of Nike's disruptive aim. Traditional golf media were in the building, but rap music was blasting through the space. When the millenial golfers dispatched to present the product, they did so clad in joggers and cropped pants, the sort of styles that complement the height of the Chukka more so than a typical golf pant.
It's worth noting that none of the golfers on stage during the event's presentation wore Nike Golf shoes. While the message may feel off, their choices of Air Force 1s and SBs reflect the direction that Nike hopes to pull on-course attire in. The idea is to eliminate the transition from a certain set of clothes for playing golf to another set for everyday activities.
"I would love to wear on the golf course what I wear off the golf course, and that's exactly what I'm dressed up in right now," explained Nike golfer Tony Finau.
In addition to forward-looking designs like the picture Flyknit Chukka here, upcoming Nike models challenging the boundaries of golf footwear will pull from the brand's archive. Golf versions of sneaker icons the Air Max 90 and Air Force 1 will release later this year.
Watch for the golf-ready Nike Flyknit Chukkas pictured below to release in limited quantities via nike.com today, with a wider launch to follow in March. Per Nike, the multicolor pair will arrive in the coming months.