Under Armour OK with being alone at PGA Show Demo Day

Sportswear brand unveils its new Drive Pro golf shoes

WINTER GARDEN, Florida — Under Armour has never been shy to stand out in a crowd. Since the brand's debut in 1996, its iconic logo and sleek eye-catching designs have appealed to the masses.

The Baltimore, Maryland-based sportswear company was on a proverbial island again Tuesday at the PGA Show Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Center. It was the only shoe company to test and display its brand amidst an array of new clubs, balls and golf’s latest technological advances.

"It is the hardest thing maybe in golf, to convince players how much difference a shoe can make in performance," Under Armour rep Jake Haley says. "We're the only shoe out here. I think that answers the question, but we look at it as a piece of equipment."

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To prove its point, Under Armour was testing golfers in their current shoes and then in its new UA Drive Pro series golf shoes with a series of five shots each, measured in a variety of computerized categories.

In one instance, the average club head speed with a 7-iron in hand increased by 1.5 miles per hour with the Drive Pro shoes, and the average distance increased by an average of 4 yards.

"So you can see how the foot can interact with the ground through the shoe," says Under Armour rep Dan Whittaker, who conducted the testing. "You've got a lot more stability in the shoe, but also a lot of mobility as well. So you're able to harness the power from the ground, which is allowing your foot to move naturally inside the shoe, but at the same time getting maximum traction back from the ground. So what I’ve seen on all the testing I've done is you tend to see people's club head speed go up, but then once they've got used to what the shoe feels like they also start to see an increase in sort of overall efficiency."

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Whittaker says the company was "sort of putting our neck on the line" by testing all comers at Demo Day.

"Yeah, but when I did a lot of my testing back at home in England, we put up every single shoe you can imagine against the Under Armour shoe," he said. "So it's not like we're saying, 'Well, we're comparing it to just a pair of tennis shoes, we're actually comparing it to every model of golf shoe. And it has been able to show across the board that it has increased in performance.

"People are spending, you know, how many hundreds of dollars on a driver and new shaft and all these things? And we’re able to say your footwear's has got to be just as important because you could be giving up distance and that's obviously one of the most important metrics at the minute."

Under Armour’s new shoe will be released to the retail market on Feb. 1. The shoe will retail for $160 (without spikes) and $170 (with spikes).

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The brand has quite an influential spokesman, as well, in three-time major champion Jordan Spieth.

"This is a ground-breaking golf shoe that gives me the traction and support I need this season, and is the most innovative golf shoe yet," Spieth said on the company’s promotional video.

Spieth will wear the shoes at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. "We work really closely with Jordan and he knows a lot about shoes and what he needs in his shoes," Haley says.

Under Armour will certainly have more competition when the 71st PGA Show moves inside to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando on Wednesday, but the brand is confident its new shoe is cutting-edge technology that beats all market opposition.  

"Once again, we look at our shoes as pieces of equipment that can really make the golfer better, and there is a lot that goes into the shoe that leads to the results that you've seen," Haley says. "It starts with our dual compound outsole, which is a combination of rubber and plastic. The plastic is going to penetrate the ground more, grabbing the grass where you're throwing all that force into your left side, but then the rubber is softer and has more friction to it."

Haley said the rest of the shoe provides support, yet remains mobile.

"Our shoe gives you support exactly where you need it, but you want your toes to be mobile," he says. "You want the shoe collar and everything to be mobile and your heel locked in. Believe me, a lot of detail goes into these types of shoes."