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Golf: Weather and Your Game

Updated on November 17, 2009

Golf - Dealing with the Weather

Golf is tough enough in nice weather, but what do you do when the wind picks up or it starts drizzling? The last thing you want to do is panic. The fact is if you know how to adjust your game to fit the elements, you can go for the green while your playing buddy frantically scrambles for an up-and-down par or bogey.

Windy Golf Weather

Most golfers believe a strong wind at their back is a good thing as this allows for a few added yards. They also believe that if they are facing a wind, they only need to take an extra club or two to compensate for the wind's force. Both of these tips are correct and work, in most cases. But there are other ways to use the wind to your advantage.

There are times when a headwind can be very useful, particularly when hitting into a hard green with a long iron or while putting down a treacherous slope. In both of these cases, the wind can help slow the ball which can be important since with these shots you will have practically no backspin on the ball.

You will want to watch the grass carefully not only for direction but also for speed. While a 10 mph wind may feel a lot like an 17 mph wind on your face, the difference on your ball flight will be noticeable. Do not let this spook you, and do not fall for the old belief that you should just hit harder. Instead, change your club selection and take your usual swing.

Using more club into a headwind not only delivers more distance, but the lower trajectory also cuts into the wind and allows for more roll when it lands. Additionally, a harder swing produces more backspin on the ball, creating lift and bringing the wind even more into play. Widen your stance to stabilize yourself and your swing. You will also gain control by choking down on your club.

Stick with your normal straight shot and compensate for the wind with your aim. Wind multiplies the effect of sidespin on balls; a squarely-hit straight shot that gets pushed 10 feet by the wind might get thrown 30 feet if it has even a little unexpected sidespin in the wrong direction.

Rainy Golf Weather and Your Game

What about rain? Well, playing in the rain (never a thunderstorm), while just another part of the game for the professionals, can be a frustrating experience for the high handicapper.

Not only is your vision often compromised and your grip slippery, everything just feels heavier. Balls plug instead of roll, fairway shots feel "fat" even when struck fairly well, and wet sand requires a different approach than the typical bunker shot.

Overcoming rain starts with good equipment. If rain is in the forecast, take a big umbrella, several towels, a wide-brimmed hat, some rain pants, a light rain jacket, and a pair of gloves (right and left hand) especially designed for wet conditions, such as Spider gloves.

On the course, take an extra club or two on most shots. Again, try to avoid the temptation to simply swing harder. Swinging harder will only increase the chances of losing your footing during the swing. In wet conditions it also increases the chances of your club flying out of your hands and sailing down the fairway.

Humid air almost always tends to slow balls down and reduce carry, so you want to get the most out of the airtime that you do achieve, especially since you may get little or no roll in the fairway. It is usually a good idea to consider laying up if you catch heavy rough on your tee shot. The wet conditions only make the rough that much harder to escape from cleanly, and you are more apt to over-swing (and possibly slip) if you think you can reach the green.

For bunker shots, the best advice is to try to hit the ball out cleanly instead of splashing the ball out through the sand. You should also consider using a lofted iron instead of your flanged sand wedge, which will tend to bounce harder off the wet sand and only intensify the effects of a slight bad hit.

Wet greens can murder your score for the day so hit putts harder on wet greens. The added drag from the water will cause the ball to stop sooner, even with downhill putts.

Finally, know the rules as they relate to casual water, as you will almost certainly be faced with this issue at least once during your round.

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