More than a Game

Fred Couples
The first time I wear the ECCO hybrids, everybody was asking: what are you wearing, are those tennis shoes?

Fred Couples

Fred Couples

World Number One, Masters champion, World Golf Hall of Fame member - Fred "Boom Boom” Couples has racked up a long list of achievements during a remarkable career that has spanned more than four decades. He was also largely responsible for sparking the hybrid revolution by wearing ECCO GOLF STREET at Augusta in 2010. Let`s talk about that.

What was your first thought when you saw the ECCO GOLF STREET shoe for the first time?
"I said: 'I like those shoes!' When I came to the pro shop at my home club, The Palms, Kirby the pro who works there told me 'you know those aren`t golf shoes.' So I asked him 'what are they?' and he meant 'those are ECCO's new driving shoes.' That was ten years ago and people really had driving shoes back then.

That happened in November, and I started wearing them at my first senior tour event at Hualalai. If there wasn`t a guy named Tom Watson I would have won in those shoes. I think I shot 21-under over three rounds in those shoes and still lost to him (laughs)!
My first recollection was that those shoes are incredibly comfortable, it`s like walking on air. I've never looked back and I'm wearing the same lightweight shoes all the time. Without socks of course, unless it`s really cold and wet. The GOLF STREET fit like a glove and that's what I like best about what we are calling golf shoes now.”

Did you have any hesitation about putting a hybrid shoe into tournament play in terms of traction or stability?
"No qualms, no nothing. I do remember like it was yesterday, that when I packed my stuff to travel to Hawaii, I thought 'should I take one more pair just in case mentally I freak out a little bit?' but I opted against it. When I arrived everybody was asking me 'what are you wearing? Are those tennis shoes?' That`s what everybody thought. I wore ECCO for quite a while back then so everybody knew the shoes I normally wore. But when they saw these a lot of the older golf pros had interest in them as golfers.
As you get older, for me my feet are extremely important because it goes to my back. Those shoes were unreal so I had no worries at all wearing them in tournament play.”

When I started playing, the shoes weighed five pounds and you couldn`t even move in them.

Would you say those shoes have helped you during your Champions Tour career because of the comfort and the cushioning they provide?
"I have no problem saying that, yeah. When I was in my late forties they helped, not curing my back but making my back feel a little better at the end of the day. I never wore the soft spikes, but the spikeless hybrid shoes you guys were designing, and everybody thought were tennis shoes, were my go-to from the beginning. So my body was able to stay in a natural position all day long. I would say that it prolonged my career, it helped my golf game and the comfort level is a straight ten for me.”
Do you wear your ECCO hybrid shoes off the golf course?
"I do. I get ready to go play in a golf tournament and I put my golf shoes on which are ECCO hybrids. I go to the golf course and right from my car to the driving range. After I'm done playing I might putt for a couple of minutes or hit balls and then I go back home in the same shoes. I would not go to dinner in my golf shoes - but if I think about it, I might have (laughs).”
When you look back at your more than 40 years as a professional, which moments stick out to you personally?
"My very first one would be winning the Masters. The other ones are pretty simple. It`s making Ryder Cup teams and the Presidents Cup teams. Then obviously being captain of the Presidents Cup team for three years and being assistant captain three times to Jay, Steve, and Tiger. I say that because we are all individuals, but when you get on a team it's a really enjoyable week and I lost more Ryder Cups that I won, which is tough. At the Presidents Cup we have a better record, so obviously those are more fun being a part of.

I remember one funny story involving Jack Nicklaus. I was playing with him on Sunday at Doral. We both hit our tee shots on the first hole and it was pouring down with rain. I maybe outdrove him for like five yards. He was standing next to his ball in the fairway under an umbrella and wasn`t moving. He knew that the rain was way to heavy to hit a good shot. I thought to myself 'that is so cool, I'm playing with Jack Nicklaus and he is going to sit this unfortunate weather situation out. That's just like you always heard how he goes about his business and now you are right next to it.' That was 1981, a long time ago. He probably waited three to five minutes, and as it turned out they blew the horn and we went back to the clubhouse: we came back out when the sun was shining and I had 18 great holes with him.
What are the three most important technology advancements you have seen over the span of your career?
"Wow, that`s a big question. I came on tour in 1980 and back then most of the really good players were ball strikers and normal sized people. The "freaks” - in a polite way - were the ones that drove it 300 yards off the tee. So distance would be the first big advancement. Second would be probably the correctness of the clubs, even for me if I don't hit a very good drive it does not go as far to the left or the right as it used to. The third one would be in clothing and footwear. People that are my age or maybe in their mid-40s remember the shoes we used to play it. I might still have one pair somewhere at home. When you pick them up it's like exercising with dumbbells. When I started playing, the shoes weighed five pounds and you couldn`t even move in them. You guys at ECCO started the ball rolling and golf shoe design has really changed a lot in the last 12-15 years. The shoes are a huge deal because if you look at professional tournaments, out of the 150 guys that tee off, maybe 80% of them play in lightweight hybrid shoes that look like an ECCO.”

I'm walking down fairways and expecting something like 'nice teeshot!' or 'make a birdie here!' and they are worrying about my shoes.

What is the most important feature you are looking for in a golf shoe?
"I like to wear them really tight. Most of the time I don't wear socks so when I lace up my shoes, they feel like a second skin. With the help of you guys from ECCO I was able to find the right size so every time I put them on, they fit like a glove. I don't wear a golf glove, but I've seen buddies on tour like Davis Love trying on gloves and giving them to a fan right away because not every glove fits perfect. Luckily I don`t have that problem with shoes because they always come in the perfect size. I've been wearing them for over ten years now and never had a blister.”
Did you notice any differences in traction when you went from metal cleats to soft spikes and then to hybrid shoes?
"Have I slipped in fifteen years? Sure, a couple of times but a lot of time it might be from my transition of pushing off in my swing or the lie that I had. I never stood over a shot and went 'oh my god, I slipped on the last one and I'm worried about it'. I grew up it Seattle where the course conditions were soft for eight months of the year. But there was no difference - even if it got really dry during the summer - I was wearing spikes. It was not like my feet connected with the ground better or I could swing harder.

You guys are one of the best shoe companies in the world, so I know that you aren't going to miss out one something like traction. It's kind of like the golf ball I use. I'm a big believer in the ball I use and when they come out with a new ball I know it`s going to be good. It`s exactly the same with shoes.”

When you wore hybrid shoes during the Masters in 2010 all hell broke loose. Did that catch you by surprise?
"It was a fun experience to see something take off like the GOLF STREET shoes did in real time and being a part of it. Like I said, I wore them in Hawaii in early January 2010. We get good crowds on the Champions Tour so a lot of people had seen me in those shoes. When we got to Augusta, ECCO made a special pair for the occasion. I was playing in them the first couple of days and even during practice rounds there are tens of thousands of patrons at Augusta. During practice I heard a lot of people in the gallery yelling: 'Hey Freddie, where can I get those shoes? I can`t find them anywhere' (laughs)

I'm walking down fairways and expecting something like 'nice teeshot!' or 'make a birdie here!' and they are worrying about my shoes. As soon as I finished the week in Augusta I called you guys and said: 'We need to fix this, people are freaking out because the can`t get the special edition of those shoes.' The colour scheme was great and everybody I knew wanted them. You went from 20,000 pairs of shoes to 100,000, all because of one week. It happened so fast.”

What`s the best golf advice you`ve ever received in all those years on tour?
I was playing with Raymond Floyd in team events like the Shark Shootout and at the Ryder Cup and I remember him coming to me after one of those events and asking me: 'how many eagles did you make last year?' I said 'I don`t know, not that many.' His reply was 'because of your length, you try to eagle every par 5 you play. You need to put the ball on the green, even if it`s 50 feet away from the pin and then two putt for birdie.' It actually turned out I made 60 eagles in one year but probably screwed up another 40 par 5 holes because I was getting too cute. With my length at the time that was probably the best advice I ever got that sunk in. Swing wise there have been some short game stuff from Tom Watson and Raymond Floyd again, but after changing my mental approach to par 5s I felt like being three-under-par before the round even started.
Fred Couples

Frederick Steven Couples

Born: October 3rd, 1959
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Turned professional: 1980
Professional wins: 62
Career highlights:
  • 1984 & 1996 Players Championship
  • 1991 The Masters Tournament
  • 1998 Memorial Tournament
  • 2012 The Senior Championship
  • 5x Ryder Cup Player
  • 3x Winning Presidents Cup Captain

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