Earliest Printed Reference
In 1857, The Golfer's Manual advised newcomers to "Invest in a pair of stout shoes, roughed with small nails or sprigs, and he will march comfortably and safely over the most slippery ground."
King Henry VIII purchased special soccer shoes, called cleats in some sources, in 1526. As golf was around before that time, it is likely that cleats also existed for golfers.
Most golfers wore rubber-soled shoes until the 1910s, but they presented problems. Walter Hagen said he "slid all over the course" during the rain-soaked 1913 U.S. Open, so he purchased hobnail spiked shoes and won the 1914 Open. Other pros soon followed suit, and by 1919 metal cleats were considered standard gear.
Maintenance personnel disliked metal spikes because they damaged the greens. Golfers hated putting over spike marks, which the rules of golf stipulated you could not repair.
Softspikes Inc. first manufactured plastic cleats in 1993. By the following year, courses started banning metal spikes. Now, traditional metal cleats are all but extinct.