I turned 40 this year and decided to finally pursue my long time wish to play golf. I have played field hockey as a kid and teenager so have some sense for ball sports. During my study and first jobs, I had some golf lessons but never pursued. This year I decided to go for it and started playing a couple of months ago.
Watches and Golf
Besides my concern what I needed to buy concerning golf equipment (it is really easy to loose yourself there I have to say, I found out that getting your stuff in the UK is so much cheaper than here on the mainland), I was also concerned whether I could keep wearing my watch during golf. Since a couple of the big watch brands sponsor golf players, it came across to me as strange that it would be bad for the timepieces.
Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Omega are sponsoring some of the greatest golf players ever.
Rolex has their so-called New Guard to show the breadth of talent Rolex is partnered with, and include Major winners Jordan Spieth, Lydia Ko, Brooks Koepka, Lexi Thompson, Martin Kaymer, Brooke Henderson and Jason Day, as well as other talented golfers such as Carlota Ciganda, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. Of course, you also might remember that golf legends Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were also connected to Rolex, and still are. Testimonees from this generation include Phil Mickelson, Bernhard Langer, Annika Sörenstam and Tiger Woods. 2017 is for Rolex an important golf year, as it marks their 50th anniversary in golf.
Omega has also big names such as Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Michelle Wie, Charley Hull, Kyle Stanley, Shanshan Feng and Stacey Lewis. In the 1990s, Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer used to be the golf ambassadors for the brand. Audemars Piguet has Byeong Hun An, Darren Clarke, Paul Dunne, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, Miguel Angel Jiménez and many many more. Some of you might remember that Nick Faldo was an ambassador for Audemars Piguet as well, with his own limited edition watch (and I believe that this watch actually came with a signed golf bag).
However, during golf tournaments (when watching the golf channel) you hardly see anyone of them wearing a watch. One of the few exception is Rolex Testimonee Phil Mickelson – breaking the trend – he wears his ‘slim and lightweight’ Rolex Cellini on the course.
When I play golf myself, I rarely see people wearing a watch other than those that were especially made for the game, by brands like Garmin and Tomtom (if you are interested in those, you might want to read this article). Only during some official photo sessions, you will see these pros wearing watches (Golf.com did an overview of luxury watches at the PGA Tour). This question pops up every now and then, and it seems that most people just give their own thoughts and opinions.
What Can Go Wrong?
According to an article in NY Times in 2012, a managing director of Audemars Piguet claimed that “When the golf club hits the golf ball, the impact creates a multitude of vibrations which will go up the shaft of the club and finish in the arm,” when being asked about why top golfers do not wear their (sponsored) watches. Just to add “The wrists, and therefore the watch on the wrist, receive all these vibrations — and a mechanical movement will feel them quite strongly,” and “A golf pro hits not only very hard but hits many, many times,” he added. “The movement has a good chance of not working so well after a while.”.
I asked a couple of brands mentioned in this article about watches and golf. Omega and Rolex answered, Audemars Piguet wasn’t available at the moment. If they answer at a later moment, I will make sure to update you.
According to Omega, when playing golf you will only reach a few hundred g (force) while the Omega Globemaster for example, is tested to resist up to 5000 g. The Master Chronometer movements seem to be up for the task you would say.
Rolex indicates that it is well-known that the large majority of the tour pros choose not to wear a watch in competition, mainly for the discomfort it brings and not for any performance issues of the watch. As written above, their Testimonee Phil Mickelson does wear his Rolex in competition.
TAG Heuer, who once sponsored Tiger Woods, actually made a watch specifically for use during golf. However, this was a quartz watch. They called it a golf watch because of the shape and smoothness of the piece, so it wouldn’t stick in the top of hands or wrists. Another brand that made a luxury watch for golf is Jaermann & Stübi. With their watch you are able to keep track of the score during a game of golf.
Damaging Your Watch
Omega’s response would mean that Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy can wear their Seamaster Aqua Terra PGA Master Chronometer watches without the risk of damaging the movement. The very same goes for Rolex, they do not give a single indication that it would damage the movement or influence the performance of the watch. On the contrary.
For Audemars Piguet I can’t say, as they did not respond so far. I do know that I would not wear my Royal Oak with caliber 2121 on the course, but I can only play safe here as I don’t want to risk an expensive repair or service for this watch. Let’s wait and see what they will answer.
In the meanwhile, let’s move on and tell you about some of the other dangers of wearing watches while playing golf. This has mainly to do with damaging the watch. Not the movement, as we learned it ‘only’ has to coop with a couple hundred g, but with the exterior of the watch. I noticed myself that getting out or putting back your club in the bag should be done with care when wearing a watch. You don’t want to hit your precious gold piece (or even steel) with that Iron 7. If your golf partner is a clumsy guy, it can get even more dangerous when you are too close to him (or her) when wearing a watch. You surely don’t want others to physically hit or touch your watch with something iron. The clubs, folding up your golf trolley or putting the bag in the trunk of your car, your watch is being exposed to some heavy objects that can easily scratch or even dent your precious timepiece.
Only if you dress up like Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy did during the 2017 PGA championship your watch stands a chance of being fine.
Why Would You Want To Wear A Watch While Playing Golf?
Perhaps you can answer the question first why you would want to actually wear a watch during a game of golf, or even at the driving range. Assuming you are not an ambassador for any brand, and thus have the complete responsibility for your own watch (and other equipment), you might want to keep your watch safe. Wearing a watch on the course doesn’t bring much, except for keeping an eye on starting times for example. If comfort is an issue, also the use of a Garmin or Tomtom golf watch wouldn’t make much sense. Your iPhone should be enough to keep track of time perhaps, and keep it safe in your trolley or bag.
So, in the end, this article might be kicking in open doors, but at least you know that some watches – like the Omega and Rolex mentioned – are up to the task. The risk of damaging the exterior of your watch remains, and I don’t see that it is worth taking it. If you do want to bring a watch to the club or tournament, tuck it away during the game (or at the driving range) and only get it out when you are enjoying a drink or bite afterwards.
*Images used are copyright by their respective brands. The header image is (c) Rolex.