Playing golf in Reef flip-flops: yea or nay?

We put the Reef sandals to the test, reviewing what it's like to walk all 18 holes in flip-flops.
Playing golf in flip-flops will likely get you some funny looks, but it's a casual way to enjoy the game.

SAN JOSE - The funny looks started as soon as I stepped on the putting green at my home course, Santa Teresa Golf Club. Wearing flip-flops to the golf course will do that, even on a muni as casual as mine. It's a place where I see t-shirts and jeans all the time.

Surprisingly, the twosome I joined on the first tee played it cool. They didn't say a word about the green Masters-inspired Reef sandals I was wearing. We just said our pleasantries while being introduced and went about playing golf. Little did these two strangers realize they were about to be part of a social experiment and golf fashion review all wrapped into one round.

On the sixth tee, I let my secret out: I was playing in flip-flops for a story. A floodgate of smiles and laughter ensued.

"I was honestly waiting for you to change into shoes," one playing partner said.

"Who am I to judge?" the other golfer admitted about my choice of footwear.

Are Reef Golf Flip-Flops Comfortable?

Jason Scott Deegan putts out on the 18th green at Santa Teresa Golf Club after a full round walking and playing in flip-flops.

The whole golf-in-flip-flops experience was an interesting one. On the plus side, I never once felt overheated on a 90-degree summer day when my playing partners were complaining of "moist" socks and sweaty shirts. The freedom of not having to wear shoes or socks was glorious. On tee boxes, I would kick off the flip-flops and savor the feeling of grass between my toes. It was refreshing and comforting, almost like it was meant to be.

But there were plenty of issues, too. Walking downhill was uncomfortable. Every once in a while, a stray wood chip, rock or dirt would get stuck between my toes, forcing some awkward foot care for all to see. Thankfully, I never hit it in a single bunker or I would have had more sandy cleanups.

My biggest blunder was taking the idea of golf in flip-flops to the extreme. I walked all 18 holes, roughly 6 miles. It probably was one of my dumber ideas, right up there with the time I chased a cobra down a fairway in South Africa trying to take its picture (true story!). My feet were wrecked for a couple of days afterward. But I could see where wearing flip-flops in a less physically demanding setting would be quite enjoyable - nine holes walking, playing a short course, riding 18 holes in a cart. My colleague Tim Gavrich enjoyed his round at SoCal's Goat Hill Park in flip-flops.

Reef's sandals are really cool. They're soft and still durable enough to handle the pressure of a swing. They've got removable soft spikes on the bottom. Best of all, there's also a bottle opener on the sole for cracking open adult beverages. The Reef Mulligan comes in a flip-flop or slide, costing only $45. My Masters-inspired Fanning Spackler sandals were a limited-edition release earlier this year. Hopefully they return in 2023. Zoriz is another brand that touts a quality golf sandal with soft spikes.

How well can you play in flip-flops?

Okay, here's what you all really want to know: can you swing properly and play well in flip-flops? I'd say yes, with a caveat.

I'm a mid-handicap player with a slow swing speed. I never get off-balance. Only once did I sort of stumble on my follow-through after the toe of the flip-flop bent awkwardly, almost tripping me. Just for comparison's sake, I did hit one tee shot barefoot. Again, it was no better or worse. Just another average drive.

I ultimately shot 85, five shots worse than my score the week prior. The one time I tried to amp up a big drive - a shortcut over the trees on the par-5 11th - my swing failed. It's a risky shot I'm normally comfortable attempting, but maybe the flip-flop syndrome was a subconscious hurdle I couldn't overcome. That terrible drive resulted in an 8.

On the other hand, I did pipe my two best 5-woods of my season, including almost reaching the par-5 second in two, something I've yet to accomplish. I think swinging under control with flip-flops on ultimately helped most of the day.

Should you try playing golf in flip-flops?

The final verdict is obvious in my mind. Would I play in flip-flops again? Absolutely. They were comfortable and ultimately didn't affect my game too much. Who cares if some golfers think I'm a weirdo? If the flip-flops keep you cool on a hot day, then it's worth a few wisecracks or judgmental stares.

I think the key to having a positive flip-flop golf experience is to pick the proper time and place. Are you at a muni riding in a cart with a couple friends on a hot day? Go for it. Invited by your boss to play at his country club? Definitely not. A vacation round in the Bahamas? Yes!!! It's time to start living your best golf life. Whether that means flip-flops or FootJoys is your call.

Would you ever consider playing golf in flip-flops? If you've already done so, how did you like it? Let us know in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
3 Comments
Commented on

I've been golfing in flip flops for 3 years now, little spikes on the bottom that keep me from sliding, hasn't changed my game except made it more enjoyable. Keeps my flip flop tan instead of my sock tan.. love the article

Commented on

The club I belong to would not allow it!

Commented on

Absolutely play in the flops! Hands down the UA Fat Tire edition are the best golf flops!

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Playing golf in Reef flip-flops: yea or nay?