How Nike Made Golf a Game for Sneakerheads

Brooks Koepka Off-White Nike golf shoes

Golf fashion has typically catered to middle-aged white men who are just as at home wearing their country club-approved polos and wingtip spikes out to dinner on Friday night as they are on the actual course. Nike has looked to buck the trend in recent years, however, largely by transforming some of its most sought-after sneakers into golf-specific footwear.

Going back even further, Tiger Woods singlehandedly ushered in a new era for golf upon turning pro in 1996, the same year he signed with Nike. Woods, who is of Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian descent, brought new viewership to a sport that was predominantly reserved for — again — middle-aged white men, as well as a game-changing swagger to go along with it.

More recently, athletes like Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka have become the face of Nike Golf, helping the brand appeal to a younger audience and push its sport-specific apparel and footwear. Koepka expanded the brand’s reach exponentially last year when he wore a version of Virgil Abloh’s Off-White™ x Nike Air Max 90s while playing in the Tour Championship. This wasn’t the first time one of Nike’s most popular sneakers was turned into a golf shoe, but it certainly was the most polarizing instance.

The brand has continued to ramp up the production of its sneakerhead-friendly golf shoes. With the release of the Air Jordan 5 Golf “Black Grape” scheduled for later this week, we’ve decided to take a look back at Nike’s most popular sneakers turned golf shoes.

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It’s only fitting that Michael Jordan’s first Nike sneaker get outfitted for the links, as MJ is an avid golfer. Sporting a fan-favorite “Chicago” colorway, these Air Jordan 1s feature an upper that is completely waterproof — you know, just in case you find yourself golfing in a thunderstorm, or better yet, hit one in the water.

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The Air Jordan 11 “Concord” is one of the most coveted Jordan releases of all time. Fans of the sneaker can take advantage of the look in low-top form for that next golf outing. This particular iteration swaps out the ballistic nylon upper of the basketball version for leather, while the translucent outsole bears more of a greenish tint.

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The golf-ready version of the Air Max 97 dropped earlier this year in one of the silhouette’s most popular colorways. The 97’s signature wavy upper remains largely the same, while the Air unit below is slightly thinner to allow room for a thicker outsole with sport-specific tread.

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A nod to the OG, the golf variation of the “White Cement” Air Jordan 3 features a white leather upper accented with elephant print overlays. Nike has then applied a Jumpman logo on the heel to match the branding on the tongue. The pair was released in 2018 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan 3.

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The Air Jordan 5 Golf is another low-top iteration of a Jordan classic. Drawing from one of two OG “Fire Red” styles, this particular pair has the metallic silver tongue. Below the white leather upper and matching midfoot mesh you will find a black midsole and translucent outsole with seven black spikes added for ample grip while ripping one down the fairway.

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Nike hasn’t exclusively taken basketball silhouettes and turned them into golf shoes. With the Flyknit Racer, the brand transformed a popular runner. Here, the beloved “Cookies & Cream” makeup features the familiar sock-like upper, with Flywire cables implemented for support. The shoe’s multidirectional traction makes it a quality option for the golf course.

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If the “Concords” aren’t your thing, you might be more into the “Cool Grey” colorway of the Air Jordan 11. Another golf-specific option of the silhouette, the “Cool Greys” trade suede for leather on the upper, while the signature patent leather mudguard appears below. A white midsole then makes way for an icy blue translucent outsole that is equipped with golf spikes. The shoe is branded with custom typography on the tongue and small Jumpman embroidery on the heel.

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It’s no surprise Nike outfitted multiple Air Max models for the golf course. The brand has released numerous colorways of the golf-ready Air Max 1, with the “Sport Red” leading the pack. Modeled after the original Air Max 1, the performance shoe has the signature Max Air unit in the heel, while the outsole remains spikeless to allow for wear on various surfaces.

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The Cortez Golf is specifically for the ladies. This pair harkens back to one of the silhouette’s most recognizable colorways, one that even Forrest Gump was a fan of. The shoe has a full-length foam midsole that cushions every step and a grippy outsole that caters to the golf course.

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The golf version of the Air Jordan 5 “Black Grape” mimics that of the OG, minus the shortened height and sport-specific spikes on the outsole. The shoe’s upper is made from nubuck, which means you might have a tougher time keeping it looking out-of-the-box fresh after use on the course. Regardless, you can purchase the “Black Grape” Air Jordan 5 Golf beginning September 4.

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