Welcome to Devil Ball's Proving Ground, where we put the latest golf gear through its paces. Today, we take FootJoy's Fall collection and XPS-1 golf shoes for a spin around the course.
Tester -- Jonathan Wall -- Handicap: 2.1
Target Golf Audience -- All golfers
It seems like every golf manufacturer is known for one thing in particular. TaylorMade has the white driver; Adam Golf will forever be linked with the "Tight Lies" line; Callaway has the Big Bertha driver; Ping has the Anser putter.
And FootJoy? Golf gloves and shoes, right? That's what I thought until recently when FootJoy contacted Devil Ball and offered us the opportunity to check out its new Fall apparel line. When a company does a couple things incredibly well, you start to get a little skeptical when they expand to a new market -- like apparel, for instance.
Apparel is an interesting beast. With so many heavy-hitters entrenched in the market (Travis Mathew, Ralph Lauren, Peter Millar, Nike and Adidas), trying to get a share can be a daunting task.
But I won't jump to conclusions just yet on FootJoy's future in the apparel market. Based on what the company showed us, there's a good chance they could be a major player in the near future.
Here's my review of FootJoy's Fall line, as well as the XPS-1 golf shoe.
Most golf companies pay golfers to use their products, but if you really want to see who's onto something, take a look at who's playing a certain club or wearing a particular shoe when they don't even have a sponsorship contract in place.
Plenty of golfer on tour wear FootJoy apparel, but only one actually gets paid to do so: Steve Stricker. That's it. Needless to say, FootJoy must be doing something right, and that starts with creating apparel that just looks good.
If you're a traditionalist like yours truly, you're going to like this apparel line. With a mixture of vibrant colors and materials, FootJoy is doing something most golf companies haven't quite figured out how to do, and that's design shirts and pants that not only perform but also look professional.
The Fall apparel line is broken down into four collections -- Captiva, Sedona, Bar Harbour, and Adirondack -- and all of them offer a different look. Whether you're looking for something more traditional (Bar Harbour) or a line that pops with color (Captiva), I was impressed by the fact that FootJoy gives you multiple options depending on your taste in style and color.
Another thing that really impressed me was FootJoy's ability to design a shirt that wicks moisture and has UV protection ... but also doesn't look like an athletic shirt. I don't know how the company pulled it off, but they managed to design shirts that have the look and feel of your typical cotton polo with performance materials.
Most of the shirts are about 88-94 percent polyester and 6-12 spandex, which meant I had no problem swinging freely while also keeping the sweat away from my body in the heat.
The shorts were also built the exact same way with performance materials that mimic your traditional cotton khakis.
As you'd probably expect after reading our initial thoughts, the shirts and shorts performed admirably on the course.
I put every outfit received through a rigorous test (read: I spent a lot of time on the course) and had no major issues with the the apparel line. The only minor issue I did have was a divot repair tool of mine leaving some black marks on the shorts.
I'm not sure if my divot tool was still dirty or if it was something I did during the round, but there were some weird markings on the shorts near the pocket after the round. I was able to wash it, so no worries there. Regardless, it was the first time this has happened with a new pair of shorts.
Another feature I loved about the performance materials? You don't have to worry about shrinking the shirt in the wash or colors fading. Unlike a cotton polo that can go from a large to a medium if you put it in the dryer on high heat, these shirts held up to the test.
They were washed countless times and still looked like I pulled them out of the box after the sixth wash. That's how you want a golf shirt to perform, folks.
FootJoy has a new fan. I've shied away new apparel lines in the past, but this Fall collection is fantastic. The shirts look good, feel good, and you're bound to get some compliments on the course (I did on a number of occasions).
If anything, FootJoy proved once and for all that you can design a performance polo that doesn't look like a golf shirt your teenage son would wear. The apparel line is the real deal. I'm excited to see what FootJoy comes out with in the future.
Tester -- Jonathan Wall -- Handicap: 2.1
Target Golf Audience -- All golfers
Without question, your clubs are the most important golf-related item in your life. (You can't play the game without 'em!) However, if you were to rank your golf gear in terms of importance, there's a good chance shoes would probably be next on the list.
Unless you own a course or belong to a club that allows you to play barefoot, you likely need a solid pair of spikes that gets the job done over 18 holes. It used to be that you could buy any pair off the rack at your local golf superstore, but in the last couple of years companies like FootJoy have started designing shoes that do more than just act as a something you wear when you play golf.
Sure, the XPS-1 looks like your standard model, but after checking out FootJoy's latest, I can confirm it had so many bells and whistles that it almost felt wrong to call it "just another golf shoe."
Here's my review of FootJoy's XPS-1.
With so many solid street-style golf shoes on the market these days, I've found it difficult to justify wearing a pair of traditional spikes. Coming from someone who considers himself a golf purist, that may sound crazy. But considering the number of miles I log walking the course, wearing anything that isn't insanely comfortable makes me feel like I'm doing my feet a disservice.
While the XPS-1 doesn't claim to be a street-style model, it does have some nice features that made me wonder if it could perform as a walking shoe. First off, there's the "Extreme Comfort Leather," a "proprietary waterproofing system" that's supposed to keep your feet dry for 2 years (at least that's what the warranty says on the box).
Pretty much every shoe out there is waterproof, but what I liked about the "ECL" was that the waterproof leather on these shoes was 30 percent softer than previous generation of FootJoys -- thus making them easier to break in. Or so I hoped.
Other features that caught my eye? How about the Dual-density Fit-bed that supposedly provides comfort for your underfoot and heel. There's also the 3D GelCollar that molds to your ankle (yes, molds to your ankle). This may be a first for me, but if you're paying big bucks for a pair of shoes, why not make them personal enough that they not only fit your foot like a glove, but your ankle as well.
And the spikes? We'll let's just say you won't have any trouble keeping your feet grounded on the course. The Cyclone spikes and Xtreme outsole looks it could honestly hold on a shot from the concrete (although I didn't test it out to see if that was the case). Hopefully you never need that shot, but it's nice to know you have enough traction to make it happen.
Based on those few features alone, you can see the XPS-1 isn't your typical golf shoe. Not by a long shot.
Transitioning and Playability
Let's start off with what the semi-negative. The "ECL" leather held up no problem when I went dewsweeping one morning, but despite the claims that the leather was 30 percent softer than previous models, it still took me four rounds to break them in properly.
That's incredibly fast for a pair of traditional, leather golf shoes, but don't think you're going to slip these on, walk 18 and not feel a little sore the first time around. Like most traditional golf shoes, breaking them in takes time. The XPS-1 is no different.
As far as how the shoe performed ... well let's just say it didn't skip a beat. The Dual-density Fit-bed and 3D GelCollar lived up to the hype, keeping my foot and ankle snug and secure from the first tee.
I'm also a big fan of the HeelLoc system that kept my heel from sliding around the shoe on each shot. I never once felt like I was going to come out of my shoes, even on a big rip with the driver. Having that trust in your shoe to perform under any condition is critical -- especially if you're a low-handicapper.
I may have found my next pair of traditional spikes. I'm still not sold on making these my daily pair of walking shoes just yet, but after trying out the XPS-1, there's no question it has some impressive features that should make it a must-try.
If you're looking for a pair of spikes that gets the job done on the course and look great, the XPS-1 could be right in your wheelhouse.