Over the years, golf technology has come a long way. As a result, harsh weather is often not a problem for the most part. A little rain? You have rain gear. Wind resistance? The dimples on the ball will take care of it. Wait? Is that all?
The dimples on the golf balls are designed to cut through the ball more easily by introducing a backspin. But when the wind is too strong, the dimples can’t work as they’re supposed to. Among players, it’s known as an unfair advantage.
So, what do you do if you go to the course with plans to have a blast only to realize that the wind is too strong to play your usual game?
Well, that’s where we come in. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of playing golf in windy conditions. We’re going to break down the steps into segments so you get a complete picture of how playing golf in wind looks like.
The Understanding of Wind Properties
If you want to solve a problem, you need to understand the problem first. If you see stormy clouds heading your way when you’re at the course, it’s time to get prepared.
Wind Speed and Direction
Your first order of business is to evaluate the wind. You need to understand what wind speeds are safe to play. It won’t come to you overnight. It’ll take months, maybe years before you can expertly evaluate whether it’s safe to play or not. But everyone needs to start somewhere, right?
The course you’re playing at matters in this case as well. Open courses are more prone to windy conditions because there’s nothing to protect the flight path from the wind. Heavily forested courses, on the other hand, usually won’t let you feel the wind until it’s a full-blown storm!
Along with the wind speed, you need to evaluate the direction as well. If the wind is coming from the right, you need to aim your shot toward the right to compensate for the extra force on the ball. And do the opposite if the wind is coming from the left.
Sometimes, the wind is not strong enough for you to figure out which side it’s coming from. An easy trick under such circumstances is to look at the flag pole. The direction the flag is waving, that’s the side the wind is coming from.
If you take golf seriously and keep track of your score all the time, it’s probably not a good idea to jump onto a round when it’s too windy. You can never predict how the shots will play out if you’ve never played them before.
The problem, in this case, is that you can’t really create a simulation to practice in the wind. Our recommendation is, the next time you see the wind blowing hard, hit the driving range deliberately. Tackling windy conditions head-on at the driving range will not only improve your skills as a golf player but improve your confidence level as well!
Tips to Play in the Wind
We’re just getting started with the fun part. This happens to be the most important section of our guide as well. So, pay close attention.
If there is an opposing force coming your way, what’s your natural instinct? For most people, it’s to fight back. So, the natural reaction of rookie golf players when it’s windy is to hit every shot extra hard.
That’s the first mistake. Believe it or not, there is a saying that goes around among players. It goes like ‘when it’s breezy, swing easy’. It simply means that you should loosen your grip and swing the club easier than you would normally do.
But why though, right? We must admit, it does feel counterintuitive.
The reason you want to swing easy during windy conditions is the spin. Remember, the more your ball spins during it’s flight, the less distance it covers. The swing also alters the direction of the flight.
When you hit the ball as hard as you can, you’re actually introducing more backspin to the ball. As a result, it’ll change direction unpredictably in midflight.
So, what do you do then? You simply reduce your swing speed down to 70%-80%. And open your grip just a little. The more gently you can hit the ball, the less backspin it’ll produce when in the air.
Club selection is another area where it’s different from regular weather conditions. Just like with winter golf, you should carry as many clubs as you need. If needed, populate all 14 slots in your bag. Also, don’t forget to pack your rangefinder if you’re heading toward the club on a windy day.
The reason club selection and carrying more clubs are so important is that you don’t know whether you’ll be playing against the wind or with the wind.
Before you take a shot, measure the distance from your position to the area you’re targeting using the rangefinder. You can get the wind data from the course curator as well. In this case, we’re going to need the wind speed.
Here are the basic rules of clubbing up or down in the wind. For every 10 miles of wind speed, you need to change your club number by 1.
So, if you’re playing against the wind and the wind speed is roughly 10 mph on that day, you need to club up by 1. Clubbing up simply means reducing the loft on the club face. For example, if you normally play with a 7-iron, you need to use a 6-iron for 10 mph of wind.
Remember, you can only compensate for the harsh wind so far. We recommend going up to three clubs if the wind is that bad. If you feel like you need to club up even more, maybe it’s time to call it a day.
Choke Down Your Grip
Another very important tip we can share with you about playing golf in strong wind is choking down on the grip. Choking simply means holding the club a little lower than usual. For strong winds, 1 inch of choking should suffice.
By choking, you’re shortening the shaft length of the club. Although it’s going to cost you a little distance, the control you’ll get is insane. And when the wind is trying to send your ball in all different directions, you should take advantage of every bit of control.
If you’ve clubbed up as we’ve said in the previous section, it should somewhat compensate for the lack of distance due to the choking. It’s going to be minimal too so don’t get your hopes too high.
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Pull the Ball Back
As you’re thinking about playing golf in hard winds, we can safely assume that you know your game. It means that you know how ball position works in golf and how it can impact the overall outcome of a round.
When strong wind is introduced in the equation, you need to push the ball slightly backward. An inch of movement should be fine to accommodate for the lack of control. Make sure that you don’t push the ball too far near the back or it’ll create a different set of problems for you.
Widen Your Stance
If you’re a seasoned golf player, you’d know why we widen our stance. We do it to get more stability. If the wind is strong enough to make you prepare all this way, it’s strong enough to mess with your stance at address position.
So, widen your stance by just a little bit to plant yourself firmly on the ground.
Hit it Low
The higher up you go, the more wind turbulence you’ll feel. That’s why we feel the jerks on an airplane when it’s airborne and not taxing on the runway.
In comparison to a golf ball, an airplane is humongous! As a result, the wind can impact the flight of a golf ball at a much lower altitude. So, if you think it’s particularly windy when you’re at the course, you should try to hit the ball as low as you can.
The easiest way to take away ball flight is to reduce the loft. It’s somewhat connected to what we’ve covered in the club selection section. Along with changing the loft on your club, you can cut down on your follow-through to reduce the height. Your swing will look like a ¾ swing if you can do it correctly.
Sometimes, all the preparations you make will mean nothing due to crosswinds. There’s nothing much you can do about it if your ball is already in flight. You just need to accept it and adjust your next shot.
We may not realize how powerful wind can be because we’re always surrounded by air. But when mother nature shows her strength, we have nothing to do but to surrender. However, if the wind doesn’t seem bad enough for you to postpone your session at the course, you should go for it by all means!
Just make sure you follow the tips we’ve shared in this post carefully before you hit your first tee shot!
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Thanks for reading today’s article!
Nick Foy – Golf Instructor