Learning how to deal with windy conditions
Golf was born in the wind and breezes have been part of the game ever since. From the early shepherds in Scotland to the current PGA Tour players, wind has been a challenge and tormenter. Golfers have tried many methods and ideas to gain control of their ball flight and a few ideas have always stood out.
We are really talking about controlling the trajectory (height) and spin or curve of your shots. I'm going to talk about the desired shot in certain conditions and then about how to hit that shot.
General guidelines are to swing easier when the wind blows and to sweep the ball. These two elements will reduce the height and spin on the ball, which will give you more control.
Into the wind you want to lower the trajectory and reduce backspin.
• Take extra club and swing easier.
• Play the ball a little back in your stance from normal ball position.
• Sweep through impact, hitting down will increase backspin.
The last two points are a conflict, it is more difficult to sweep the shot if you move the ball back in your stance; it may take some time on the range, or even professional instruction to figure it out.
Crosswind allows more creativity in your shots. You can turn the ball with the wind for more distance (the ball will run more after landing), hit a straight shot and let the wind move the ball, or turn the ball into the wind (the ball will stop faster after landing). This means learning how to hit draws, fades, and that elusive straight shot.
• Draw: Aim right, play the ball a little back in your stance, close the clubface in your grip, and swing a little to the right.
• Fade: Aim left, play the ball a little forward in your stance, open the clubface in your hands and swing a little to the left.
• Straight: This is in between a draw and fade.
I would always recommend playing your normal shot unless there is a compelling reason to change ball flight. Most of the top players will turn the ball into the wind on approach shots because that will produce a shot that stops faster.
Downwind is easier off the tee and trickier on your approaches. Think of this shot like a downhill putt; it is easier to hit the ball a long ways, but more difficult to control distance. The most important item in achieving maximum distance is to make solid contact; more backspin will allow the ball to really ride the wind.
• Tee shots: Tee the ball higher and move a little forward in your stance. Swing smoothly and work for solid contact, not maximum speed.
• Approach shots: Swing smooth and work for solid contact. Keeping the ball low will give you more control and also have more backspin when the ball hits the green.
Playing in the wind, while more challenging, allows you a chance to be more creative. It does require more types of shots, but learning to hit a variety of shots will help your overall game anyway.
I always liked to play in tournaments when conditions were nasty because half the field would give up before the round started. If I was patient and stayed focused, I had fewer players to beat.
April 11, 2008