Golf and squash are uppity sports played by ‘gentlemen’. I say this despite being a squash aficionado. There’s one difference though. In one of the sports, you are guaranteed to sweat.. even if you had a 15 min game. In the other, you might spend half your day and would be hard-pressed to find an elusive bead of sweat to dab.. just so you could justify a pint of beer.

Now that I’ve delivered my customary insult at a sport that ought not to be called a physical sport, let’s move on to business shall we?

The barefoot squash player who conquered the world

Born in 1914, Khan was raised in a tiny village in what was then the North-West Frontier Province of India. His father was killed in a truck accident when he was 11. He dropped out of school a year later and took an apprenticeship as a ball boy at the British military club in Peshawar where his father had worked. He learned the game of squash there, playing barefoot on open-air, plaster-covered brick courts. At age 28, he got a job as a squash pro at another club in town. The salary meant he could marry, and with his wife Mehria Begum he’d go on to have 16 children, 12 of which survived infancy.

In 1944 Khan took a two-day train ride down to Bombay to compete in a regional Indian tournament. It was the first time he had played on a court with a wooden floor. He won the event and came back two more years to win it again.

It’s The Atlantic so you should read the whole story but I absolutely need to excerpt another gem:

Khan was the original squash barnstormer. It turned out he loved to travel. He flew around the world, running clinics, opening courts, signing autographs (he always scribbled both the English and Arabic versions of his name) and winning tournaments. He loved giving exhibitions. He would play a dozen people in a row, a game each and dismiss them, one after another, no matter how good they were. After Khan’s death, one player remembered playing him in such an exhibition in Baltimore in the early 1970s; Khan was dressed in a three-piece suit and barefoot—and still won.

The sheer gall of this gal thinking she could get away with it

A golf newbie posts this on a forum in 2012:

Ok, i’ll admit I’m an old fashioned country girl who some may call a redneck. I grew up playin golf on the back 9 as they say down south :). I recently got thrown off a golf course–i won’t say where for the time being–because i wouldn’t wear shoes. i have excellent grip with my toes and other parts of my bottom half and shoes always cost me a few strokes. the head pro “head jerk!!” had me escorted off the course because of this but i think i won a few fans in the process. he said it was illegal because of some type of liability but i have read the ENTIRE declaration of independence and i see nothing but a sexist trying to protect the good ol boys club in my opinion. should i take this to court?? thanks in advance.

Several sympathetic responses and this was my favorite:

I’ve played bare foot too. Enjoyed it. Pro’s underwear was in a bundle and pinching the blood supply to his brain. Probably could not deal with something out of realm of normality.

I have golfed in Vibram Five Finger shoes this year. The next thing to barefoot.

If you still had questions on what the rulebook states, sets it straight on their “It’s okay” Rules page. Make sure you read the full list and you’ll realize what they really mean.

Tennis and barefoot you say?

Apparently there’s one Bob Neinast caught bragging about playing too much tennis.. barefoot.

The MensJournal weighed in on barefoot movement going beyond running..

We have more than 200,000 nerve endings on the bottom of each foot, and these drive proprioception, our sense of position in space. Proprioception is what cops measure when they issue a sobriety test – it helps us to stay upright and avoid twisting an ankle when we run. The athletes with the greatest need for proprioception often wear the most minimal footwear, or sometimes none at all. These are martial artists, boxers, fencers, dancers, and gymnasts. While researchers have yet to compare the injury rates among these minimally shod athletes and basketball or tennis players, there is evidence that links decreased feedback with increased impact on the body. Researchers at University of Southern California, for example, found that in gymnastics on very soft floors – the gymnast’s equivalent of a heavily padded shoe – they landed harder.