Pros: Lightweight, comfortable sunglasses that meet the high standards in precision optics and impact resistance. They’re available in more than a dozen styles with Oakley’s golf-specific G30 iridium lenses and most styles are further customizable.
Cons: They’re $110+ per pair.
Bottom Line: The combination of sporty and casual frames in Oakley’s golf-specific sunglasses line makes its shades hard to beat for golfers looking for a pair they can wear comfortably on and off the course.
Long before Oakley’s golf apparel took root with some of the PGA Tour’s best players, such as Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Ricky Barnes and Derek Ernst, it was the company’s famed sunglasses that put the Southern California company on the map in the golf world, and for good reason.
Oakley continues to make some of the highest-performing sunglasses on the market, and its 2014 line of golf-specific sunglasses are evidence of that. Its catalogue includes 13 different models: the Holbrook, RadarLock Pitch, M2 Frame, Flak Jacket (asian fit), Radar Pitch, Fast Jacket XL, Flak Jacket, Half Jacket 2.0 XL, Fast Jacket, Fast Jacket XLJ, Fuel Cell, Hijinx and Half jacket 2.0 (asian fit).
Oakley fans are probably familiar with those models, but what they might not know is just how much goes into their design. Yes, they’re made to look cool, but every one of Oakley’s performance sunglasses also goes through ANSI (American National Standards Institute) impact testing to protect against the impact of heavy objects at low speeds and lighter objects moving at fast speeds.
Those tests include a 1-pound metal spike dropped on Oakley’s sunglasses from 4 feet and a 0.25-inch steel shot traveling at more than 100 mph. You can see how Oakley’s sunglasses did against some of its competitors in the short video below.
The biggest danger golfers usually face on the course is the sun, however, and Oakley’s shades are designed to protect golfers from the sun’s harmful, long-term effects such as cataracts, photokeratitis and pterygium. Each of the company’s Plutonite lenses, which are made from plastic pellets that are melted down and injected molded to their specific shapes, protect against 100 percent of the sun’s UVA, UVB and UVC ultraviolet radiation.
You might be scratching your head about what makes Oakley’s golf-specific sunglasses different than the company’s normal sunglasses. The answer is not much, other than the company’s rose-colored G30 iridium lenses, which are designed to emphasize the light and dark shades of the colors green and brown.
For this review, I tested Oakley’s M2 frame ($160), which is the modern-day version of the original M Frame sunglasses that were popularized with golfers by David Duval. I wanted to test the M2 Frame specifically, because I’ve been wearing the original M Frames for more than a decade.
Oakley also offered up its new Holbrook sunglasses ($130) for this review, which are much more casual than the M2’s (pictured below). Both had Oakley’s G30 iridium lenses.
As you might expect from a pair of decade-newer sunglasses, the M2 frame was lighter and more comfortable than the M Frames I’ve worn almost my whole golfing life. Their slightly lighter weight probably isn’t enough for most golfers to upgrade to a new $160 pair of sunglasses, but if you’ve never worn a pair of Oakley’s with the company’s G30 lenses, they could persuade you to take the plunge.
My biggest criticism of my M Frames was their dark lenses (black iridium polarized), which were great when it was sunny and not so great in cloudy conditions. On those days, I found myself leaving the sunglasses on my head or hat so that I could find a ball in the rough and better read my putts. I’d put them on in a bunker, however, because hitting a bunker shot in the dark was always a better for me than a cornea full of sand.
The G30 lenses were a huge improvement for the course, and I now understand why they’re the lens of choice for many professional golfers. They’re dark enough to protect against the sun, but not so dark that I had to take them off when clouds rolled in. While neither pair was polarized, I didn’t have any issues with glare. If polarized lenses are your thing, however, you can get polarized models from Oakley in most of its sunglasses.
While I can’t say that they helped me read my putts any better, they did seem to help me find my golf ball a little faster, especially in the shady areas of a tree-lined golf course.
Maybe the simplest test I can offer to golfers who doubt the G30’s ability to help them on the golf course is the “smartphone test.” Say you have an Apple iPhone, for example. Take a look at the iMessage icon, which on most phones is green, with and without the G30 lenses. You’ll notice that the light green parts of the icon get a lot brighter and the dark green parts get a lot darker. The G30’s do the exact same thing with grass.
The Holbrook’s were the surprise of the test for me. I knew that I’d like them for casual wear, because they have a larger size that fits my face better than smaller sunglasses like the Flak Jacket, but my experience with casual sunglasses on the course had been horrible. Most of them would not stay on my face when I started to sweat, and some even came off my face when I swung my longer clubs.
While the Holbrook’s don’t offer the wrap-around protection of the other sunglasses in Oakley’s performance golf line, which keeps light from bouncing off the inside of the lens and into the eye, I had no problems with them staying on my face. They were lightweight, comfortable and gave off a much more laid-back vibe than the M2 frames. They look especially great when I decide not to wear a hat, which is more often now as I try to work on my GolfWRX tan (read no tan at all).
Even when my face started to sweat, the Holbrook’s held their own, which I attributed to the RayBan Wayfarer-like curve in their arms, which settled comfortably around my ears. If you’re one who really sweats a lot or plays in warm climates, you’ll likely want to stick to a pair of Oakleys with the company’s Unobtainium nose piece and temple sleeves (also know as the rubber things that sit on your ears), which actually offer a better grip when they get wet.
Oakley’s sunglasses probably won’t survive a run-in with a train (or a golf cart for that matter), but they’re designed to handle all the normal hazards you’ll face on the course and in real life. They’re lightweight, comfortable, more durable than you’ll likely ever need them to be and the precision of their optics are second-to-none.
If you take your sunglasses and eye protection seriously, there are few companies that provide as many high-performing options as Oakley’s golf performance line.