Is Playing Golf Barefoot Legal? (With Pros And Cons)

I’m sure you’ve seen videos of PGA pros walking around the course barefoot or heard stories about John Daly shooting his best rounds with no shoes on. This begs the question, are you actually allowed to play golf barefoot?

As a general rule, there is no specific rule that states you cannot golf barefoot. However, local courses will generally say that you have to wear closed-toe shoes while you’re on the course and the only time you’ll see pros wearing no shoes is during practice rounds at their own course.

If you live somewhere warm where the grass and sand are soft, you’ll probably be real tempted to whip off the shoes. It’s not really the case where I’m at, but if you are going to do it I’d probably wait until you get to the second or third hole.

Can You Golf Barefoot?

The good news is that legally speaking, the short answer is “Yes”. There is no USGA rule that explicitly bans the act of playing a round of golf barefoot.

More specifically USGA rule 4.3, the use of equipment, states: “shoes that assist the player in obtaining a firm stance may be worn…features such as spikes on the sole are permitted.”

There is no concrete rule out there that says your feet cannot touch the grass without shoes on.

The bad news is that this doesn’t mean that your local 18 will allow it within their dress code and/or their code of conduct. The vast majority of local courses and clubs have a dress code that includes foot coverings of some kind.

As the great Shooter McGavin once said, “This is golf, not a rock concert!”

I’ve seen numerous videos where tour players walked around with no shoes during a practice round at their home course. It’s definitely tempting when you live in a warm area with top-notch grass and sand.

That being said, if you walked into your local clubhouse with no shoes you’d probably end up having a chat with the course marshal or even get removed from the course. If you’re going to do it, start with shoes and then take them off after the first hole.

Just because some courses don’t allow you to golf barefoot, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits from playing with your toes gripping the tee box.

What Are The Benefits Of Golfing Barefoot?

The main benefits of playing golf barefoot are that you’ll get a better feel for the grass and it’ll force your swing to stay within its natural limits. Spiked golf shoes can provide a feeling of overconfidence in your footing and produce a natural tendency to overswing.

Touching the ground with your bare feet may provide golfers with important information that could reduce the number on the scorecard.

You’ll actually hit better golf shots in bare feet than with your shoes and socks on…Hitting golf balls barefooted can help you develop good footwork and better balance.

Barry Goldstein PGA

I’ve heard a number of golfers say that they can feel the break of the green with their bare feet, which leads to fewer putts. Walking into a bunker barefoot can also provide you with information on the density and firmness of the sand.

Of course, marshals aren’t the only thing you need to watch out for if you are going to head out on the course without shoes. There are also some reasons why shoes might be a good idea.

The Drawbacks Of Golfing Barefoot

Playing without shoes might work at the driving range or for you zero handicappers out there who only have to worry about fairways, greens and the occasionally perfectly raked trap.

But for the rest of us average hackers, we spend at least a few minutes out in the thick stuff or searching for our second provisional somewhere near the white stakes, shoes provide some much-needed comfort and safety.

Critters, sharp rocks, discarded tees and many other obstacles are waiting for your bare toes to cause damage.

While the grass on your local course might be some of the nicest you have ever seen, it looks and feels that way because of the many treatments the grounds crew use on a regular basis.

Pesticides and chemicals are clearly a concern without adding the increase in possible bacteria and fungal organisms that can infect the skin and nails from a four-hour round on a Sunday afternoon.

According to Dr. Miguel Cunha, a board-certified podiatrist, walking barefoot for a long period of time (especially on hard surfaces) can have other negative health issues as well.

“Our feet are naturally arched, and even though many generations before us walked barefoot, we should avoid it…[walking barefoot] may increase underlying foot deformities…and lead to painful conditions.”

Is there a happy middle ground? What if we want the positive attributes of playing barefoot but we don’t want the consequences of a possible fungal infection ruining our next round?

The Shoes To Wear If You Like Golfing Barefoot

There are many golf and athletic shoe companies that claim to replicate the feeling of bare feet.

  • Primus Trail Knit from Vivobarefoot (on Amazon) – While this isn’t designed as a golf shoe, the design incorporates protection from rough hiking trails, enough grip to hold the tee box during your drive all while providing the feel and comfort of breathable seamless overlays and small rubber sole. 
  • Vibram Men’s KSO Evo Cross Trainer (on Amazon) – The closest thing to being barefoot and protected in public. Vibram’s litebase sole reduces 30% of the overall sole weight while simultaneously reducing sole thickness by 50% from your average shoe. Placing your feet closer to the grass and providing the feel and feedback as if you were playing without shoes. 
  • WHITIN Men’s Minimalist Trail Runner (on Amazon) – Wide Toe Box – Whitin’s Zero Drop Platform is designed with the heel and the forefoot with equal distance from the ground. Prompts proper form while protecting the natural position of the achilles and leg. Another shoe designed for the trail, but provides the same protection as hiking shoes with the feel of being barefoot. 
  • Leguano Barefoot Denim Graphite (on Leguano) – Leguano provides a more traditional look and feel that provides the grip and traction closer associated with spikes. The sole is still quite thin providing the feel and feedback of bare feet while also providing more grip and structure that you may be used to in a traditional golf shoe. 

Have Any Pros Ever Golfed Barefoot?

Over the years, many pros have taken their shoes off and stepped into a water hazard to play a shot from the water, but the only time you’ll see pros actually golfing barefoot is during a practice round.

Three-times Masters champion Sam Snead was often known to practice in his bare feet. In fact, during the 1942 Masters practice rounds, Snead took on his shoes and played the final nine holes barefoot in an attempt to work on his tempo and swing speed.

Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman were once pictured playing a casual round while on vacation together in the Bahama’s playing a full round without shoes while enjoying a few cold beverages of choice.

And don’t forget about one of the most unique players to step foot on tour, John Daly once said, “Wherever I set course records, or whatever, I would be barefooted, drunk, playing golf and making every 20-footer I looked at.”

But the odds of us ever seeing a Sunday final round on the PGA tour in bare feet are probably pretty limited. PGA rules are pretty strict, the men can’t even wear shorts and show their bare knee caps, let alone their toes.

What To Do Next:

Enter Our Gear Giveaway: Like free golf stuff? A few times per year, we pick a few of our viewers and send them some gifts. Click here to learn more.

Deals & Discounts: We’ve worked with brands to offer discounts to our readers. See our deals and discounts page to see our current promotions.

Write For Us: Calling all hackers, whackers, and golf enthusiasts. Out Of Bounds Golf is looking for writers. If you’d like to get paid to write about golf, click here for more info.

About Jon Webber

Jon Webber is Out Of Bounds Golf's main product tester and editor. He's been in the golf world for 10+ years and has personally tested over 100 products, from balls to clubs to bags. He started this site for the average player, to make the game a little easier to understand.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments