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Spikeless-shoe policies

Should golf courses require spikeless shoes?

Larry Gilhuly, Western director, USGA Green Section If grass could talk, the answer would be an overwhelming yes! From an agronomic standpoint, numerous studies performed over the past 40 years show that the injury caused by metal spikes is substantial. Metal spikes do not aerify--They compact! While spikeless alternatives also cause damage, the degree of injury is reduced.

Having established that the elimination of metal spikes is better for greens, traffic zones, mowers, carpeting, cart paths, golf carts and wood surfaces, the evidence is compelling to remove these metallic mashers of monocots from every golf course. While this has occurred at several thousand golf courses, the persistent concern of safety still lingers. But consider this for a moment: When the roads are slippery, what vehicles are people generally driving too fast? That's right--4-wheel-drive vehicles! Metal spikes provide the same false sense of security for golfers. Players believe they are safer with metal spikes, thus they walk on their heels instead of their toes, resulting in just as many slip-and-fall injuries as those playing spikeless!

If you are considering the move to spikeless, you should: * Place rubber on all wood surfaces. * Place warning signs on potentially dangerous hills. * Be aware that all spikeless alternatives are not equal. (For more information on slip resistance, call Dr. John Cockrell, owner, SKL Laboratories--a firm specializing in slip-resistance technologies--in Greensboro, N.C., at 336-370-9774.) * Avoid telling players what they must wear. Simply state that metal spikes are not allowed.

Should golf courses require spikeless shoes? Listen closely to the grass!

Gary Crist, attorney, National Golf Foundation No, golf courses should not require spikeless shoes without taking appropriate steps to limit potential liability. Policies that can be linked to personal injuries bring the policy-makers (that is, the club) into the lawyers' "line of fire" if the injury situation turns into a lawsuit. As unfair as this may sound, it is a fact of life. "Slip-and-fall" cases alleging spikeless shoes to be "unsafe" are popping up around the country. Often, the golf course has been joined as a co-defendant on the basis that its spikeless-shoe requirement or procedures (such as replacing metal spikes with non-metal spikes) was somehow negligent.

Three courses of action are available to golf-course operators in dealing with the "spikeless" issue: 1) take no action and let marketplace forces govern what types of shoes golfers wear or 2) require spikeless shoes and "take a chance" respecting future liability or 3) require spikeless shoes while simultaneously implementing practices that will increase safety awareness and, hopefully, minimize potential liability. Given the benefits spikeless shoes provide (smoother greens, reduced maintenance costs, increased player comfort), the third option is probably best for many facilities.

Accordingly, in implementing a spikeless-shoe policy, a golf course would be wise to consider 1) liberal use of signage and warnings that spikeless shoes may offer lesser traction under certain conditions and 2) offering to replace metal spikes removed from guests' shoes. Such prudence won't guarantee that the club won't get sued, but it will improve the club's defense if it does.

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