Famous golfers and their sunglasses
If you’re ready to up your golf game, don’t expect do it with any old sunglasses. You want something that not only blocks the glare but clarifies the detail of the course, including that little white ball you just whacked and the tricky textures of the putting green.
You also want sunglasses that fit securely, don’t shift with your swing, block the wind and protect your eyes from the sand you kick up in the pit every now and then. Sounds like a lot to ask.
Luckily, eyewear manufacturers have been perfecting their own game, applying scientific analysis to materials and design aimed specifically at golfers.
If you follow the sport, you’ve seen your favorite players show up on the course in all manner of sporty-looking sunglasses. So, just what are the top-ranked golfers wearing to make those awesome shots?
Down-home Southern look: Bubba Watson and Oakley
Bubba Watson is a familiar face on the pro circuit, known for his playful downhome charm and super long drive. He can hit a ball over 350 yards. As an official brand ambassador, Watson is often spotted in Oakley sunglasses, both on and off the fairway.
Watson is a colorful character and so are his sunglasses. He shows up in all kinds when he’s not on the course. His other interests include wake-surfing, boating and basketball.
But when Watson plays golf, he leans toward the sporty wraparound Oakley Flak 2.0 XL, sometimes with purple/green lenses. He’s been known to favor black frames in the past but more recently has shown up with clear frames.
Oakley’s sunglasses, designed specifically for golfers, have gained favor with some of the most visible golfers on the planet. In the process, the golfers’ Oakley sunglasses have helped put the brand on the map with golfers and their fans.
At 27, up-and-comer Hideki Matsuyama has already won the PGA tour five times. As one of the youngest stars, he is often seen in the brightest colors, including Flak 2.0s with neon green frames (“key lime” as Oakley calls it) and purple lenses.
Oakley was first to claim the turf of golf-specific sunglasses when they introduced their Prizm lenses, designed specifically to increase contrast and depth perception.
Other eyewear makers have followed. Nike, Peak Vision, Under Armour and ROKA all offer golf-specific sunglasses, designed to not only block glare but sharpen vision in a way that works wonders on a golf course.
Survivor style: Tiger Woods and Nike
After a weak opening day of the 2018 PGA Tournament, Tiger Woods strode onto the scene the next morning wearing his familiar red polo shirt with his black cap on backwards, rapper style, orange mirror wrap-around sunglasses over it. They looked a lot like Nike Hyperforce Elites.
Everything about him said: “Bring it.”
Twitter lit up at with photos of Woods in those sunglasses and the look went viral. Sports media were tweeting captions like: “He has arrived! #PGAChamp” and “Tiger by a billion.”
It’s hard to imagine Jack Nicklaus pulling that look off.
In their mid-century prime, Niklaus and Arnold Palmer rarely wore anything at all on their heads when they played and certainly not sunglasses. That generation of golf greats was always squinting into the sun, trying to follow the trajectory of their drives. They didn’t have much choice, given the sunglasses produced at the time that offered more of a hindrance than a help.
A paid sponsor of Nike’s merchandise since 1996, Woods was wearing Nike everything that day. While he has been spotted wearing Oakley sunglasses with blue lenses, Woods is almost always in Nike on the golf course.
Woods played recently in Nike Show X2 sunglasses and wore his Nike Siege2 to the Masters Tournament.
At the Hero World Challenge in 2018, Woods was wearing what looked like Skylon Ace XV JR in “field tint” lenses with black frames.
Nike had golfers in mind when they designed their MAX Optics lenses to provide precise clarity from all angles and their nylon to make their wraparound frames lightweight and durable.
Other golfers have shown up on the PGA Tour recently wearing Nike’s golf-specific sunglasses. When he won the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship last year, Paul Casey was wearing Nike Mavericks with black frames.
The Maverick boasts a ventilated rubber nose bridge to reduce fogging. Its lightweight nylon frames have simple, modest styling with temple arms made flexible for grip and stability and tapered to fit under a hat.
Casey rocked a pair with pale brown lenses, a hue Nike calls “Ridgerock,” with a mirror coating that gives them a subtle edge.
SEE RELATED: Read our Guide to sport sunglass lens tints.
British panache: Ian Poulter and Oakley
English-born Ian Poulter is another Oakley fan, known as much for his colorful fashion sense as his ranking among the world’s top golfers. Moving from overcast England and to sunny Orlando where he maintains a fleet of Ferraris, Poulter relies on his sunglasses for more than just golf.
But on the course, his choice of eyewear can make or break him. He plays on both the PGA and European tours, and has ranked as high as number five worldwide. He has endorsements with Nikon and Oakley but always wears a certain style of Oakley sunglasses when he plays.
Poulter favors a sleek, retro half frame and is not shy about color. He’s been known to wear pink frames coordinated with pink ensembles, but Poulter prefers white -- similar to the Flak 2.0 XL -- that pop against purple Prizm lens, precisely tuned to maximize contrast and enhance visibility. Oakley markets this color as their “Prizm Golf” lens.
“I wear Oakley because it’s the best,” Ian Poulter has said. “You want to look, feel and play your best.” It’s worth noting that Poulter is a paid sponsor, but he actually wears his Oakleys while playing professional tournaments.
No pro golfer would risk that if the product wasn’t helping his game.
“With the way technology has come along and the clarity of the lens, I have 100 percent trust in what I’m seeing,” Poulter says. “Add on all the styles and colors? I love wearing them.”
RELATED READING: Why you should consider Oakley glasses
Page published in September 2019
Page updated in February 2021