Playing The Wind
It’s hard to give much thought to playing in the wind while we in South Texas are "enjoying" the dog days of summer – 100 degrees, barely a breeze. But most of the time, we are playing in breezes of 10-20 mph, sometimes higher. I grew up down here close to the Texas Coast, so I learned to play the wind at an early age. One of my favorite Scottish sayings is that "if they be naye wind Laddie, there be naye golf". The subject came to mind, however, from a question sent it by Jay K., who asked:

I'm struggling when it comes to adjusting my aim to compensate for wind. Sometimes the ball just keeps straight, un-affected by the wind, and sometimes the wind takes the ball far too much, even though the wind strength hasn’t changed between these two shots! Should I be taking wind into account more for certain clubs/ types of approaches than others, or just keep it all the same? Any help here would be great.


So today, we’re going to dive into the basics of wind play. And the first rule on a windy day is that you have to relax your expectations. There is no tougher condition that wind in which to play this game. This past week’s PGA Championship was a perfect example. Whistling Straits didn’t get its name for nuthin’. Like courses in Scotland, the wind is a constant "hazard" there, and when it didn’t blow, the course lost its teeth. On Saturday, scores plummeted when the wind the wind laid for a few hours. But Sunday, they went right back up. Any tour player will tell you that the wind is the toughest challenge in the game.

Besides relaxing your expectations, however, there are some other basics of the wind you should understand in order to score better when it’s breezy. And the first is that the wind doesn’t affect a solidly hit ball nearly as much as one that is hit off center. There is an old adage, "when it’s breezy, swing it easy". If you will throttle back the swing to 75-85% when playing the wind, your results will be much better.

Another tip for the wind is that it exaggerates everything. A gentle breeze to light crosswind will hardly affect a straight shot that is hit well. But if that ball flight has curvature to it, the wind will do crazy things. Curve it into the wind, and it will get "knocked down", probably a club or more short. Curve it with the wind, and the curve will be exaggerated by a factor of 2-3 or more. A gentle draw becomes a sweeping hook, a slight fade a runaway slice.

With it blowing in your face, the goal is to keep the shot "under the wind". Play it back further in your stance, and take at least one, if not two more clubs than normal. Grip down an extra half inch or so, and lead with your body core and arms, so that the clubhead is the last thing through the impact zone. And try to make a more sweeping motion, rather than a severe downward strike. The key is to minimize spin and height on the shot. AND DON’T HIT IT HARD!

Conversely, hitting downwind, Ben Hogan said you always want to over-club as well. A shot hit with less spin is less likely to get up and ride the wind . . . clean over the green, or get "knocked down" by the tailwind and come up short. In my opinion, gauging distance of iron shots downwind is always tougher than into the wind.

So, Jay, I hope that gives you some wind basics. There is a lot more to this subject, and a lot more we can cover, as I’m sure the readers will lead us into in the days ahead. This should be fun and interesting. You’ve got a lot of help here.

photo source
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[ comments ]
sepfeiff says:
Wind is real factor in score, no doubt. If its windier than normal and you have a choice, play forward one teebox from your normal to save yourself long approach shots and a miserable day.
8/17/10
 
birdieXris says:
I sat at the driving range during a thunderstorm style crosswind and hit 5 drives that sailed so far right it was amazing. Even drawing the ball there's nothing you can do it seems, other than take it to the right of the target and hit what would equate to a 30 yard hook and have it corkscrew in there. LOL. I love playing in the wind.
8/17/10
 
Dixon Golf says:
Great read, good instruction and detail. There's no doubt the wind has spoiled many days.
8/17/10
 
Banker85 says:
i hate left to right wind with a passion. I really hate teeing of with driver unless the wind is at my back or right to left. I feel uncomfortable and know something bad is going to happen. With Irons though i usually strike it well enough there is minimal damage done by wind. oh ya, i hate left to right wind.
8/17/10
 
BigDoctorJ says:
Living in the California central valley we get a lot of wind on a daily basis. I would imagine it is very similar to south Texas. At my course in Tracy you can almost expect it to be a 20 mph wind on a daily basis. Any less is considered a bonus lol
8/18/10
 
BigDoctorJ says:
BTW...I hate the wind
8/18/10
 
bducharm says:
I agree with @birdieXris - I LOVE playing in the wind as well. Wind is the great equalizer - better players will always score better in the wind than higher handicap players. I remember a match where I had to give 31 shots. I prayed for it to be windy - next day it was blowing 20-30 mph. I won that match!!!

Wind tip - take 1 extra club for every 10 mph of wind (on average) and swing easy when it's breezy! Hard swings produce more spin - consequently the ball will balloon into the wind. Also, realize that even going downwind, the wind can knock the ball out of the sky!
8/18/10
 
Banker85 says:
bdcharm: way to plagerize straight from the WG's afticle. you come off as a pompus son of a gun. of course IMO.
8/19/10
 
windowsurfer says:
I windsurf a lot (that and the fact I've been in the window and door biz for a long time is where "windowsurfer" comes from, btw) and one thing is true about both golf and windsurfing when it comes to the wind - steady is good. A steady strong wind on an open course is difficult but you can get used to it. Gusts and trees/hills that change the wind and make it more variable are almost impossible to get right, imspo (in my slightly pompus opinion.) I enjoy windy days and try to hit low draws and roll'em on. I like the 1 extra club for 10 mph tip - a good scale.
8/19/10
 
phraynck says:
@banker85: IMO your a dbag. You can't plagerize a common phrase dumbass
8/19/10
 
DoubleDingo says:
In February I tried a new course about an hour and twenty minutes from my house. Going up the Grapevine I hit rain, snow, wind, etc. I almost turned around and went home but I was already past the halfway point. I did rise above the rain and snow but the wind was blowing an easy 20 to 30 mph. The course is built into the mountains. A cool course indeed. But the wind was brutal with the temps at 35 degrees without windchill. Against the wind I hit full 3i from 150yd and came up short, or full 7i from 130yd and came up short. And that was with punching the ball to keep it low. Given the conditions, the cold, the wind, etc. I shot a 111. First time I was pleased with a 111...lol...
8/19/10
 
bducharm says:
@Banker85 - next time, please spell my name correctly at least!!! Sorry to offend you dude - I didn't read that closely. My apologies....
8/19/10
 
onedollarwed says:
I suppose if you're playing in the wind, you ought to embrace it at least. Used to play at the old Tony Lema in San Leandro with most of the holes getting a good 20mph crosswind off the bay/pacific in the afternoons. The wind was exactly perpendicular to almost every hole - and they were all in a line. It was really boring to play 4 - 5 holes in a row with the same wind, including a 200+yd par 3.
Newport's Orchard course (here in RI, exposed to bay/ocean (great views)) has solved that by making sure that the course design embraces the wind in a more interesting way.
Also, you can use a lower/minimal spin ball. But overall (and this may sound pompous), well struck balls are going to be fine. The equipment has gotten that good!
8/19/10
 
Banker85 says:
@bducharm: i know your a very good golfer but seems like you brag about it. imo. my comment was unnecessary and uncalled for.
8/20/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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