Well known for its comfortable running shoes and retro styles with street appeal, New Balance is now making a name for itself in the golf footwear market. While the brand has been dabbling in golf shoes for a few years, the new NBG 3001 gives New Balance a legit Tour-level shoe to compete with the likes of Nike and Adidas. The shoe is also gaining some serious course cred as 4-time PGA Tour winner Chris Kirk has been lacing it up and Jon Curran sported it during his runner-up finish at the Memorial Tournament recently.
While New Balance is fairly new to the game of golf, it is not new to cleated shoes. The brand has been a favorite with baseball players for years, and some of the top soccer players (footballers) in the world have been taking the pitch in its new line of soccer shoes (football boots).
Given New Balance’s success on the diamond, it is no surprise that the brand’s designers built the NBG 3001 on a last inspired by a baseball shoe. For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘last,’ New Balance explains it as “a 3-dimensional wooden or plastic mold upon which a shoe is constructed.” A last affects the fit and comfort of a shoe and includes dimensions such as heel width, instep height, forefoot width, and toe box depth.
The PW-1 last that the NBG 3001 is built on is perfect for golf. The wider forefoot allows the toes to spread out for balance, while the lower instep height helps the foot to stay connected to the ground, which improves overall feel and power.
‘Locked in’ has become one of the hottest buzz phrases in golf footwear this year. While many amateurs might not give much thought to the stability of a shoe, this is a must for professionals with 120+ mph swing speeds. It is one area that separates Tour-quality shoes from the also-rans.
New Balance achieves this locked-in feeling with the 3001, through a combination of the last and tongue design. A shallower toe box helps to keep the forefoot locked in, while a narrower heel creates stability during the swing. To top it off, a welded form-fitting tongue with strategically placed notches wraps around the foot to enhance stability from the top.
The golf swing starts from the ground up, which is why traction goes hand in hand with stability. For the 3001, it is no surprise that New Balance selected Champs’ low-profile Slim-Lok® Zarma Tour cleat system. Nearly every Tour-level cleated shoe in 2016 is using this traction system from Champs’, and it is easy to see why. Slim-Lok is incredibly thin and light, which enhances comfort and allows the shoe to sit lower to the ground. Plus, installing and removing spikes in the Slim-Lok system is a breeze, which means the days of cursing at a spike wrench and throwing a shoe across the room in frustration are over. (There’s no proof that I ever did that.)
In addition to the traction system, the TPU outsole also features anatomically placed grooves in the forefoot. All of that stability is great, but it makes for a long round if a shoe is so rigid that you can’t walk or crouch to read a putt. These grooves, however, help to keep the 3001 flexible and allow the shoe to move with the natural motion of your foot for a good walk unspoiled.
When you think about New Balance, comfort is usually the first thing that comes to mind. With the 3001, that comfort starts with the REVlite midsole, which the brand again borrowed from its running and baseball lines. According to New Balance, this EVA midsole provides the same responsiveness and durability of foams 30% heavier. Putting all the technical speak aside, the 3001 is one comfortable shoe that will have your feet feeling happy well beyond the 18th hole.
Adding to the comfort is a lightweight waterproof microfiber upper. Frankly, I prefer a nice leather shoe, but many of the athletic golf shoes on the market are going the microfiber route in an effort to cut weight, and who can argue with a pair of lighter, more comfortable kicks.
The 3001 may fit into the athletic shoe category, but don’t mistake it for a sneaker. Sure, it is sporty, but it also possesses clean and classic lines. The wavy design of the external heel counter offers a modern feel and the overall look of the shoe is elevated by the pebbled texture. Although some additional colorways would be nice, the neutrality of the white with gray will work well with virtually everything in your golf wardrobe.
The 3001 checks in at $170 retail, which puts the pricing on par with Tour-level shoes from other sneaker companies.