Summary: Golf sunglasses can definitely make a difference in a golfer's life, and knowing how to help a customer select the right pair is an advantage. Sunglasses must protect a golfer's eyes from the damage caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays, but they can also help your customer see better on the fairway and find the nuances on the green.
THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO GOLF SUNGLASSES
Rory McIlroy hits the fairways wearing Oakley High Definition (HD) sunglasses, with their sharp progressive lenses. Perennial LPGA Tour winner Paula Creamer has teamed up with Sundog Eyewear and has designed her own line. Twenty-something phenom Jordan Spieth walks up to the green in Adidas Kumacross shades, which are mirrored and polarized. Adam Scott writes in Golf magazine that good sunglasses can make up for a world of bad shots. He likes the Oakley Flak Jacket, but he also admits that he just likes to look cool.
A scratch golfer who needs sunglasses can easily go the pro way. However, if you customer is still among those just trying to break 90, you can help him or her by knowing the ins and outs of what's best for each golfer and why.
IN GOLF SUNGLASSES, UVA PROTECTION IS THE ACE
It doesn't matter how awesome a person looks in new sunglasses if they don't protect the eyes from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two kinds of UV rays: UVA and UVB. Your customer wants sunglasses that specifically state they block 99 to 100 percent of both. Damage from ultraviolet rays "contributes to the development of certain types of cataracts, growths on the eye and possibly macular degeneration," according to the Mayo Clinic.
"The hardest parts of your body to heal are your eyes," writes Golf Digest. "And they're the easiest to injure."
If a pair of sunglasses says it provides UV 400 protection, that means they block out even the smallest ultraviolet rays, and that's what your customer needs. Shadesdaddyblog.com has a color spectrum chart that makes this easy to understand. Also, in 2015 the Vision Council updated its standards from 2010; in the United States, lenses in fashion or non-prescription sunglasses now must meet the ANSI Z80.3 requirements, which address such things as the angle of the prism in the lens, durability of frames and the way light is transmitted through gradient lenses.
SUNGLASSES LENSES FOR GOLF ARE CUT DIFFERENTLY
Typical sunglasses lenses are cut to minimize distortion as the wearer looks straight ahead, meaning the least distortion will be in the center of the lens and there is more distortion closer to the edges. They are fine for running errands, driving the carpool or walking the dog around the neighborhood. But when golfers get ready to hit the ball, they look down, not ahead.
"Standard sunglasses are less effective when you play golf because you peer through the bottom half of the lens to see the ball," wrote Rob Sauerhaft for Golf magazine. "This may cause the ball to look like it's moving during the swing. Golf-specific sunglasses, by contrast, are designed to eliminate distortion in the bottom half" of the lens.
One of the brands the Golf magazine article mentioned was NYX Sunglasses, which offers a set of three interchangeable lenses for a golfer: dark gray for sunny days, medium gray for partly cloudy and optic yellow for cloudy and low-light conditions. On Golflink.com, writer Marc Jenkins spotlights the Callaway X-Hot 2 Sport series of sunglasses, which have an ergonomically wrapped temple and super-light frames. And The Hacker's Paradise reviewed Sunbuster's "PuttReader" series of sunglasses. "PuttReaders reduce the amount of green the eyes see in a putting green," the company says. "This brings out the browns, blacks, yellows and reds, the colors the brain needs to read putts better."
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR SUNGLASSES FIT RIGHT?
We all have fun trying on pair after pair of sunglasses in the store, checking our look in the mirror, and buying the pair that flatters us the most. But there's one more thing you can help your customer check when it comes to golf sunglasses, and that's the fit. If the frames are too big or too small for a golfer's face, it can affect how he or she plays. And in golf, you also need to make sure that the corners of the frames the customer chooses in the store don't block his or her view of the golf ball when out on the course! Wraparound frames often eliminate this problem.
Sunglasses (and glasses in general) need to fit an athlete in three distinct places. They need to sit on the bridge of the nose without pinching it or sliding down; they need to have lenses set the right distance apart for the customer's eyes, and they need to fit in the area of the temple. The Oakley company has patented something it calls a "Three-Point Fit," which means that each frame touches the wearer at only three places: the bridge of the nose and behind the temples. "This retains optics in perfect alignment and eliminates the discomfort of ordinary frames that hook the ears and mount with unbalanced pressure points," the company says. Does a customer have to have Oakleys to get a good fit? No, of course not. But some attention to where sunglasses touch the head and whether the lenses line up properly will pay off.
WHY YOU WANT LENS HEIGHT IN YOUR GOLF BAG
By now, you might be thinking that there are enough guidelines about golf sunglasses to make them just as complicated as golf. You would be wrong; the USGA's Rules of Golf has three sections, 34 rules with sub-rules, four appendixes and an index. It's so complex that Golf Digest recently wrote an article just exploring rule 14-1b, about "anchoring" a long putter next to the golfer's chest.
Let's return to that distortion problem in regular sunglasses, and why it's important for golfers to understand. Ask your customer if he or she has ever needed reading glasses; if so, it's easy to realize how annoying it can be to have to constantly put them on and take them off just to read menus or ingredient labels. Or if your golfer wears regular glasses that are "progressive" – meaning the lenses are ground to allow distance vision at the top and progress down to near vision at the bottom – it will help him or her understand why it might be important to be able to focus at length for a drive and up close to fill out a scorecard.
"The golfer's focus moves from the ball to its destination; every stroke, whether a drive or a putt, requires concentration," says the digital magazine 20/20. "From teeing off on a 500-yard Par 5 hole to the sinking of a 5-footer on the green, very few sports require such critical visual evaluations across distances that can vary by a factor of up to 300 times. He or she calculates distances and terrain. The accuracy of visual input is crucial to the hand-eye coordination needed for winning results." The magazine's article on "Personal Sunglass Science" explains how sunglasses need to help the golfer in three primary areas: depth perception, contrast enhancement and blue light filtering.
Golfers need sunglasses with "taller" lenses than they might buy for other purposes. "The taller the lens, the better," says the SportRX blog. "A lens without enough height oftentimes forces you to look over the top of the frame when your head is tilted downward while in your golf stance. On the other hand, a taller lens allows you to look through the glasses when your head is in this downward position, giving you good visibility without having to adjust your position or compromise the form you've worked so hard to perfect."
You may have a customer who is uncertain about this from time to time. You can keep a golf ball or two in the store and let golfers put one on the ground at his or her feet and look down on it while they try on different pairs of sunglasses.
DOES TINT COLOR IN SUNGLASSES MATTER IN GOLF?
Only if your buyer wants to see the ball better. Think about all the situations in which a golfer is looking for that tiny little white ball: Up in the middle of a blue sky after a drive, hidden in the rough around the dogleg; off in the distance on a par 5 close to dusk. And overcast days mean there will be even less contrast (the difference between light spots and shadow) on the golf course.
Brown- and amber-tinted lenses improve contrast, which helps when a golfer is in the midst of all those shades of green. "Rose copper" lenses help him or her better see breaks and contours, according to SportRx, but greens and grays are not ideal on any but the brightest of days. And Nike's Max Transition lenses come in different tints for different sport conditions; the company says its "Golf Tint" enhances details and adjusts to the light on the course. The website says the science behind their golf tint comes from "Nike's spectral analysis of the grass, sky and ball," and that the lens "transmits the appropriate visual spectrum for accurate depth perception and natural appearance."
But while tints may help your customer's golf game, remind him or her that the most important job those sunglasses have to do is protect the eyes from the sun. So don't forget to point out those UVA and UVB ratings.
I WEAR PRESCRIPTION GLASSES, CAN I GET GOLF SUNGLASSES?
Sure. You just need to help your customers think ahead of time about things like frames, tints, fit and whether they want polarized or non-polarized sunglasses (there are golfers on each side of that discussion; it seems to be more of a personal preference than anything.) Salt City Optics has a guide to prescription sunglasses and lens tints for golfers, including recommendations for specific brands and models. And SportRX helps a buyer work through all the decisions about frames, lens shapes and sizes, lens colors and tints, progressive and polarized or non-polarized lenses for prescription sunglasses.
DON'T FORGET THOSE JUNIOR GOLFERS!
The golfers whose eyes need the most protection of all are juniors, all those PGA Jr. and AJGA kids in the clubhouse and on the course who hope to grow up to be champions. It might be easy for parents to overlook proper eye protection for their young golfers, especially if their son or daughter constantly loses their sunglasses, breaks them or just prefers not to wear them. But the American Junior Golf Association will sponsor 116 tournaments for players age 12-19 in 2016, and the PGA Jr. will host 10 more. Add the time a child spends at the course in driving, putting and chipping practice and a parent will see why it's worth it to spend a little more on the sunglasses they'll wear on the course.
In general, all the same rules apply – a parent needs to get complete UVA and UVB protection, make sure the frames fit correctly, and buy tinted lenses according to the typical weather in which the child will be playing golf.
"Ever since I started helping design my Sundog Eyewear Collection, I have been more aware of the importance of eye protection for golfers," said Paula Creamer, who won 11 AJGA tournaments during her junior golf career. "I think it's terrific that two great organizations – the AJGA and Sundog Eyewear – are working together to make junior golfers more aware of the damage the sun can cause, and protecting them with the very best sunglass lenses."
And while we agree that it's probably not smart to encourage parents to buy children the most expensive sunglasses – let's be realistic, they're kids – it is worthwhile to make sure their frames and lenses are impact-resistant. That mom or dad will be glad you did after their junior golfer 9-putts the fourth hole and takes their mood out on their equipment.
If your customer is a golfer, it means he or she is out on the course for hours at a time, and that makes it worth doing a little research and spending a little more money on their sunglasses. Careful selection of frames, lenses, tints and fit will help a golfer see better while protecting the eyes from sun damage. And who knows, all that could shave a stroke or two off that score!
All About Vision
American Junior Golf Association
Articles of Style
Golf for Dummies
The Hacker's Paradise
Nike Max Transitions
Paula Creamer and AJGA
Paula Creamer Collection
PGA Jr. Series
The Rules of Golf in Plain English
Salt City Optics
USGA Rules of Golf
The Vision Council