Why is playing golf in the wind so difficult?
For a few reasons –
- Whenever the ball is spinning (which is most of the time when it’s in the air), wind has a dramatic effect on the golf ball. Side winds and head winds (into you) are the toughest ones to cope with, although a tail wind (from behind) is also tricky since it makes distance judging harder.
- Judging the wind and how much it is going to affect your golf ball can be extremely difficult, especially if the wind direction is changing – which it will as you walk around the course.
- If the wind is really strong it can actually affect your balance when you are swinging the club.
- Wind can also affect your putts! Clearly the ball will not be spinning, but on longer putts points (2) and (3) above can be a factor.
How do we cope with playing golf in the wind? Golf tip – use a low spinning golf ball
Manufacturers are doing their level best to help you with the balls they produce. It really does matter which ball you use. Any distance ball on the market is a low spinning ball. They are easy to spot because they normally say ‘distance’ on the ball or packaging. They are also usually the cheapest balls to buy. The most expensive balls are the highest spinning balls. If you struggle with direction then do not buy a high spinning ball.
By the way – the other thing to watch out for with golf balls is to look for the word ‘titanium’ on the side of the box. This is just marketing because when titanium is placed inside the cover of a ball it means it makes the cover whiter. It makes no difference at all to the performance of the ball – but of course they are more expensive!
How to play golf in the wind
Ok – so now you’ve got a low spinning ball let’s look at what you can do to beat the wind…
When playing with a side wind, if you place side spin on the ball in the same direction as the wind you are in trouble. The reason is, if your ball gets on the wind and spins the same way as the wind your ball will fly an extremely long way off line. The best way to
play in a side wind is to curl the ball back into the wind. This is the answer if you can do it. So for a left to right wind you would curl the ball right to left. If you do this successfully the ball will fly fairly straight. If you do this as well as keeping the ball little lower than normal, you will definitely have the beating of the wind.
If the wind is a right to left wind then you need to do the opposite, which means you need to fade the ball into the wind. These options for side winds are extremely difficult to achieve for the general club golfer and really only for the elite golfer.
Here are some solutions for the general club golfer. First of you must learn to hit the ball low. This is achieved by placing the ball slightly further back in your stance, which means for a right handed golfer the ball is placed slightly to the right of the centre of the stance. Take more club than you normally would. For example I was playing into a head wind the other day and it would have normally been an 8 iron for me, but I hit a 6 iron. I placed the ball a little further back in my stance, but I also hit the shot softer with a slightly shorter swing. If you hit the ball softer it does not impart as much spin on the ball as when you hit the ball harder.
You must practice this before attempting it on the golf course
I find it’s one of the more fun parts of the game to work on and I have to say I love playing in the wind. Two reasons really – one its fun and two, everyone else moans about it which means you have the beating of them before they play. At least I am not too competitive!!
Judging the wind
Most judgement only comes through experience, but there are some clear signs to look out for on the golf course to help you judge the wind – most of them are fairly obvious.
- Look at the flags on the greens to see the wind direction and strength of the wind.
- Throw some grass up into the air and see which way it flies.
- Generally the higher you are the windier it is, but that’s not always the case – certainly in Scotland!
- Watch the clouds to give you an idea of the wind direction. This is especially useful if you are playing a tree lined course – it will be a little sheltered on the ground, but once the ball is up in the air the wind will of course be stronger.
Putts can also be affected by the wind
As I mentioned earlier – do remember that putts can also be affected by the wind and make adjustments as you see necessary. There is nothing to change in your technique – just bear the wind in mind when reading a putt based on your judgement and what your competitors putts are doing. It should be pretty obvious how the wind will affect your putt – a fast down hill putt with the wind behind you is going to be even faster!
One final golf tip for putting in the wind – if it’s really windy make sure your stance (feet) are nice a wide to give you an extra stable platform. Remember your body needs to be as still as possible when you are putting…