My Usual GameMay 3, 2016

Ideal sunglasses for golfers -- including golfers who need glasses

My wife got glasses in second grade. On the first day she wore them to school, she looked out the window of her classroom and shouted, “I can see inside that truck!” and a boy sitting next to her, deeply impressed, asked, “Did they give you X ray vision?”

All she had meant was that the vehicles on the street in front of the school no longer looked like fuzzy moving blobs -- but that was still a big deal. I had a similar experience when I got my own first glasses, in fifth grade, and discovered that trees had individually discernible leaves.

My father used to say that he liked playing golf in his trifocals because on every shot he could choose from among three balls. For most golfers, though, glasses are problematic. I’m so nearsighted that I have trouble finding my glasses if I’m not wearing them, and until recently that meant that I was out of luck when it came to playing golf in the kinds of cool-looking sunglasses that tour players wear upside down on the back of their hat. But not anymore. A couple of years ago, Rob Tavakoli, an optician and vice president at SportRX, sent me a pair of Nike glasses with photochromic lenses designed specifically for golf. Here I am wearing them while getting a lesson from David Leadbetter:

Tavakoli also sent me a pair of Oakley sunglasses with lenses optimized for playing golf in low light. Putting them on makes a darkening golf course look brighter, for reasons I don’t exactly understand:

I immediately moved both pairs into my golf bag. Here's Tavakoli himself:

Two of Tavakoli's specialties are sport-specific glasses and sport-specific glasses for people with strong prescriptions, like me. (SportRX employs a technician who specializes in high corrections -- a rarity for companies that sell sports glasses, because getting everything right can be complicated and time-consuming.) Tavakoli is a useful person to consult in such matters, because he really, really, really loves glasses. When he was 12, he fudged an eye test so that his ophthalmologist would write him a prescription he didn’t need, and when he was 17 he developed an obsession with sunglasses which he retains to this day, two decades later.

Last month, Tavakoli sent me sent me a third pair of golf-optimized sunglasses, and told me that they take advantage of two recent innovations from the optical engineers at Oakley. They're just like the ones in the photos above and below, but with black frames.

The first innovation is a technology called Prizm, which Oakley introduced in ski goggles a couple of years ago and in prescription glasses about a year ago. "When Prizm first came out," Tavakoli told me, "I got emotional every time I tried to talk about it. Oakley has figured out, for each sport, which colors of light need to be highlighted and which need to be muted. So for golf you get this extra contrast, this extra pop, but at the same time the lenses are taking out glare and brightness. To me, it's almost like they put a computer chip in the glasses." The level of specificity is remarkable: for baseball, Oakley makes different lenses for infielders and outfielders. Ditto for people who fish in shallow water and people who fish in deep water. Here's a video explanation:

The second innovation built into my new sunglasses is something Oakley calls True Digital Edge. In the past, making tour-style wraparound sunglasses with more than minimal prescriptions was optically impossible. The reason is that as you increase the correction in a dramatically curved lens you also increase both the amount of distortion and the thickness at the edge. Oakley has solved both those difficulties by, in effect, modifying curved lenses so that they trick your brain into ignoring signals from the periphery. (Your brain is already good at ignoring things, since the images it receives from your eyes arrive upside down and missing a big part of the middle.) My new sunglasses are an Oakley model called Flak 2.0 XL, in the setup that SportRX recommends specifically for golf -- the same glasses you see on players like Adam Scott:

The difference between my glasses and Scott's (other than the color of the frames) is visible only if you look very closely at the lenses:

"Those groove lines," Tavakoli told me, "are basically tricking your eyes and your brain into thinking that the lens is smaller and the frame is bigger -- and the result is that you have unbelievable clarity, considering how much wraparound there is and how strong your prescription is. Combine that with Prizm and you've got, like, the newest, badassest thing you can get for golf."

People inevitably say, Hey, why don't you just get contact lenses or have LASIK? But not everyone likes contacts, and not everyone can wear contacts, and not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK. I first got contacts when I was in high school, in the early 1970s. (That was way back in the hard-lens era. My girlfriend decided to try on one of them one night, and getting it back out of her eye was tough because she was running around the house screaming.) Then I had soft lenses for maybe ten years. But for a dozen reasons -- including how miserable I was during allergy season and while I was operating my table saw -- I decided I like glasses better, even though that makes me less interesting to my granddaughter, who is two and a half years old and enjoys "drinking tiny waters" from her mother's contact case.

Maybe you like glasses better, too. If so, you can get in touch with Tavakoli or one of the other opticians at SportRX, by going here.

MyUsualGame.com