What makes a good pair of golf glasses – and what does not

Teeing off. Golf couple playing golf, enjoing a beautiful sunny day on the golf course

An interview with André Durow

The golf season is in full swing and with it sales of golf glasses. But what visual needs do golfers actually have and are the industry’s golf glasses really a good solution? The sports eyewear expert André Durow has a strong opinion on this. MAFO spoke to the enthusiastic golfer and opthalmic optician about what makes a good pair of golf glasses ‒- and what does not.

According to André Durow there is hardly any other athlete who places greater demands on his or her vision than a golfer. But often neither the optician nor the golfer himself is aware of this.

The sports optician, who specializes in golf and poker glasses, has even developed his own golf glasses and regularly holds workshops on better vision in golf. And his concept has been successful: he has already fitted golfers such as Nick Faldo on the European Tour with golf glasses, is well-known nationally among golfers and poker players and his Google ratings speak for themselves.

What is your approach to selling golf glasses? 

The focus, of course, is always on the athlete. But one element is important to me – regardless of the person concerned: the consultation always starts with the refraction, because the eye can change even over a very short period of time. Therefore, it does not matter if the eyeglass prescription is only four weeks old.

Then I explain to the customer what golf glasses should or must be able to do, and I ask about the athlete’s particular requirements. 

We have a practice green and a variety of clubs available in our sports arena. The golfer then hits a few balls there and we then decide which glasses would best suit his or her needs.

Many experts would recommend a standard progressive lens with appropriate tinting to golfers, do you agree with this approach?

Normal progressive addition lenses (PALs) encourage the wrong head and body posture during the golf swing. During the swing, the golfer wants to have his chin relatively far away from his chest. But if you have varifocals, you have to put your chin on your chest to see the ball clearly through the distance vision area. This is fatal because it completely changes the golfer’s swing plane and posture; the longer the club, the more pronounced the incorrect posture becomes.

This means that the ball takes an unwanted curve to the right or left and then the golfer starts to compensate for the problem. He changes his grip or other technical details because he does not understand that the problem is directly due to the optics.

You have developed your own golf lenses. What is so special about them?

I simply combined things that are readily available on the market in a way that nobody else has done. I decide on a certain surface design for the progressive lens, then I correct the lens to the average tee-off distance. This means that the golfer can see the ball clearly with a natural golfing head and body posture irrespective of which club he is using.

The addition is therefore significantly lower and this has a further advantage: there are often uneven bumps in the area around the hole called breaks. If you now try to “read the green” with a progressive lens ‒ i.e. to work out in which direction the green slopes fall of ‒ then you may see breaks that are not actually there, or see the breaks more prominently than they actually are. As soon as I reduce the addition, this problem is considerably lessened.

The golfer only needs to understand that he or she can no longer read optimally with the reduced addition. But that is acceptable, because the average golfer hits the ball about a hundred times during the round, but only needs to fill in the score card 18 times.

What do you think of single-vision glasses as an alternative?

These do not work for most players over the age of 40 or 45, but you still can try. That is why I have a practice green in the store. I also have clubs of different lengths and observe how the golfers will hit the ball. I keep track of the different additions. For customers over 45, I only fit single-vision lenses to around 20% to 25% of golfers.

When we play golf, we have to cope with specific lighting conditions and a lot of ‘green’. How does this affect visual requirements?

There are two problems with normal sunglasses with a typical 75% tint. Firstly, the glasses do not only filter UV light. Whether brown, green or gray tints, light in the visible spectrum is always filtered as well.

We all know this from red wine. In a green bottle, it no longer appears red, but black. The green glass filters out the red component, among other things. This also happens when playing golf. The contrast on the green may be more or less lost depending on the color. Golfers find it much more difficult to read the green and identify breaks.

Secondly, sunglasses change spatial perception, making it more difficult for the golfer to estimate distances. It means that golfers wearing normal sunglasses may perceive objects to be closer than they really are.

This is a particular disadvantage when putting and hitting the ball.

Which color would you recommend?

We always choose a color that increases the contrast on the green. We also make sure that the amount of light behind the lens is optimized.

This is important because you always have an enlarged pupil when looking through conventional sunglasses.

However, a large pupil also means more aberration and less depth of field. For outdoor sports such as golf, however, you want a pupil that is as small as possible and a great depth of field. In addition, wearing sunglasses for long periods of time reduces light-dark adaptation. This means that an eye looking through conventional sunglasses first has to adapt when there is a change from light to dark. For example, when the next shot is hit under the trees, or when a large cloud moves in front of the sun when putting.

The pupil and lens of our spectacle lenses work together. The light-dark adaptation functions almost normally. The golfer has a nearly constant perception with the glasses.

After all, spectacle wearers can not simply push their glasses onto their head, like someone who does not normally wear glasses.

What exactly does this mean in terms of tinting?

I experimented with the color for several years until it was optimal. The development was based on the experience of golfers and many measurements. Thus, I do not disclose the detailed characteristics of the lens to the public. However, I use an orange shade with reflective coating. I was never able to achieve the positive effects described with the green or brown lenses that are commercially available.

You developed your own “golf-lens design” because you found the industry’s standard solutions unsatisfactory. Can you elaborate briefly on this?

My point is that these are often not proper golf glasses. This is because the industry is too inflexible due to mass production to be able to respond to specific customer requests. That is why a “standard product” is offered for a specific group of athletes.

Examples of this are that the color is often unsuitable for golf glasses and the fact that PALs are generally ordered ‒ but the disadvantages that those lenses often have in golf are not taken into consideration.

One lens manufacturer, for example, asks for body size when ordering golf glasses. However, height is only of limited importance because very few golfers have their club length adjusted to their height. If someone who is 1.90 meters tall plays with standard clubs, he or she will change their posture so that they are just as far away from the ball as someone who is 1.70 meters tall. Thus, this question on its own in isolation makes no sense.  It follows that many athletes do not always feel they have received the best advice from opticians. This is also because opticians sometimes buy these products without questioning them. If the customers do not get “proper” golf glasses, they do not have the desired success when playing golf.

This is not to say that these glasses are entirely bad, but they are often unsuitable for the purpose for which they are offered by the industry.

Customers frequently come to you because they are dissatisfied with their current golf glasses. In your experience, what mistakes are made in the sales process?

Many opticians seem to hold the view: “Golfers have money” ‒ so golf glasses can be expensive as you like because the customer can afford them. In my opinion, this is a mistake. A golfer is a “special” person who may or may not have money, because playing golf has now become a popular sport.

I recently had a customer who works at the car wash at the weekend, so that he can still afford to go to the golf club. There is also poverty among golfers, but they do not usually admit it.

Another golfer might have money and flies to a 5-star hotel for a golfing vacation. At the same time, however, he buys used balls at the clubhouse because he finds it too expensive to hit the good balls. Thus in reality he lives in two very different worlds. The golf club for € 1,000 is perhaps a bargain in his perception, but he finds golf glasses for the same price overpriced.

Opticians need to understand that the customer does not have the same perception of value for spectacles as the optician. Though “fair”, “expensive” or “cheap” are relative in the eye of the beholder and every optician has his or her own philosophy.

So how expensive are your glasses?

My golf progressive lenses generally cost no more than € 499 to € 599 a pair. This is because I want golfers to feel that they are paying what I consider to be a fair price and that they are getting a good product in return. Thus, customers will trust me. As a rule, every customer brings me a new golfer ‒ and they often buy their next pair of PALs from me too. This makes their main pair of glasses into an additional sale.

In my opinion, you have to meet customers on their own ground ‒ whether they are golfers, poker players, tennis players or whoever. Because a sportsperson speaks his own language and I have to speak it too. Otherwise, it is difficult to position yourself in any niche. That applies in sport just as much as it does to art, music and anything else.

Who would you recommend to specialize in golf eyewear and who not?

It does not make sense to choose this path if you do not really want to do it, if perseverance is not one of your strengths or if you do not see a need. Of course, it will help if you play golf yourself. However, the most important thing is to take the needs of golfers seriously and try to understand them. Because the reputation for supplying great golf glasses has to be earned bit by bit.

We do this by going into golf clubs. For instance, I give presentations about better vision in golf and mention in passing that I offer this service ‒ but I do not insist on it.

If someone only wants to go into the golf niche because they see golfers’ money, then I strongly advise against it. I think many opticians also sell sports eyewear, but that does not make them sports opticians, because they do not deal with the sports. They fall back on a ready-made portfolio and then sell something ‒ that is the mistake.

What distinguishes a sports optician from an optician who only sells sports glasses?

Let me tell you about a special case: we had an archer in the store. He came in and said: “Hello, I need glasses for archery.” Then I asked him, what do you need? Do you go shooting once a month because you feel like it or are you a sports shooter? In this case, the customer answered: “I want to become German champion this year and join the national team.” 

He had already been to three opticians who had told him that he does not need glasses and that they could not do anything for him. I then checked his eyes and found out that without glasses he has a visual acuity of 1.0, but with -0.25 diopters he has a visual acuity of 1.5. That is 50% more. For someone in his position, that is vitally important.

We then tried out different frames and filmed the archer pulling the string, subsequently watching the images in slow motion. With two of the frames, he barely touched the front surface of the glasses with the string and intuitively left the string a little behind ‒ so he did not  have the speed he would otherwise have had.

That is why we took the glasses where he could pull the string back completely relaxed and he was given a special color. Then he was really on form.

Six months later, I got a WhatsApp at 21:01 in the evening: “I’m the German champion. Thank you. National team next year.”

That is what I expect from someone who calls themselves a sports optician: to simply go beyond the mere sale.

What expectations do you have regarding yourself?

I think I should aspire to be the best I can be. That is why we do not do some things in our store, because I cannot or do not want to be “the best”. You do not have to do everything. I am happy to pass these customers on to colleagues who specialize in them.

However, if customers come in who have other problems, then I deal with them too, because I am well trained to help the customer. But the most important thing is that we do not meet customers as opticians. We meet everyone as a person! For us, optics is only the accessory.

Thank you very much for the interview!

André Durow playing golf. Photo: private

André Durow

Together with his wife Nicole Sepeur, André Durow runs the eyewear studio N in Germany. He gives training courses for golfers on how to see better when playing golf. He also trains ECPs  and he gets often booked as a speaker by the industry. He gives lectures at the Lions Club or Rotary Club, talks for frame manufacturers and more. Furthermore, he also coaches individual professional athletes, for example in the areas of mental attitude and body language.

He initially started his own business in 1998 and by 2000 had several stores. As a passionate sportsman, he quickly focused on the sale of sports glasses and in particular golf glasses. In 2000, he created his first own golf lens design, which he had custom-made by German manufacturers, as he found the existing solutions offered by the industry inadequate. In 2004, the IGA Optic sales group temporarily took over the brand and Durow exclusively trained IGA Optic opticians to sell golf glasses.

In 2011, the couple decided spontaneously to leave the optical business. However, they have been back in business since May 2020 and, in addition to golf glasses, now have an additional focus on poker glasses; Durow has also developed his own lens design for this sport.

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