How I Play Golf in the Wind
One of the beautiful things about the game of golf is to have success you must combine the idiosyncrasies of the course with the weather to make a plan for the best shot to make. Sand, water, rolling hills, they all combine with the wind, rain, and other elements to create this ever-unique pathway from tee to green. If you are looking to play better golf and shoot lower scores, you will need to learn to incorporate all these factors to best judge what club you should hit or the direction you should make the ball go. In this article, I will give you insights from my personal experience and explain my methods of how I play golf in the wind and shoot lower scores.
Growing up in the Midwest, playing in wind is an everyday occurrence. It’s not as powerful as West Texas or playing on the coastline, but it was commonplace to play in 20+ MPH wind. Learning to manage your golf game in windy conditions gives you confidence and an advantage over competitors. When the wind is strong, it has a way to really get itself inside the mind of players and bring out poor shots. You can set yourself apart by learning how to play in the wind.
The wind itself. Yes, this first tip is just that simple, but gauging the wind speed and direction is necessary for planning for the shot you are about to take. It’s all about gathering information. Throwing grass in the air is common for direction which I recommend vs. the old lick your finger and hold it up. If you watch the PGA Tour, you will see players and caddies have full conversations pre-shot just about wind speed and direction, taking every factor into consideration before committing to the shot they want to hit. Along with wind direction, wind speed is a huge factor.
I have a cheat code for wind speed. When I play, I check the hourly weather forecast to get an idea of wind speed in MPH. Sorry for those of you on the metric system, but I can’t speak to KM/H, but I think this concept will transfer. I like to look at the hourly breakdown of wind so I can have an idea of the wind trend for my round. Maybe it’s at 15 when we tee off but climbing to 20+ after 2 hours. I like to know what to expect for wind throughout the round. I look for the wind speed for one big reason, when playing into a wind or against the wind, an easy rule is to add or subtract yardage equal to the number of wind speeds. Get the number for the wind speed for when you tee off, and then when you are out warming up and preparing for your round, try and feel the wind. Make it sort of your base level so throughout the round you can feel the increase or decrease.
If I have a 15mph wind straight in the face, as an easy rule of thumb, I will play the shot with an additional 15 yards. Same for downwind, I would take 15 yards off. This is not exact, but a good ballpark. Of course, when playing with a slight crosswind or cross helping or cross hurting wind, you will need to guess or make a judgment call on yardage to add or subtract.
The next tip is swing-related. The key to hitting a ball that pierces the wind is great ball contact. Great players and teachers direct you to play irons back a little in your stance and swing easy striking the ball with a slightly downward hit and low follow-through. This will create a knock-down shot that is optimal for playing in wind.
The knock-down shot is easy (relative) to learn and has a lot of applications. But the reason it is ideal for playing golf in the wind is when you move the ball back in your stance and the downward strike removes spin from the ball. Spin on the golf ball is the destroyer of distance and control. Those of us who have hit a slice that was going with a left to right wind know the hopeless feeling of seeing our ball soar into the rough or out of play. So limit the spin and limit the out-of-control shots.
This all requires practice, and practice is my third tip. To play better in the wind, you need to be prepared. And the best way to prepare is to practice in the wind. When practicing in the wind, the more wind the better. The more wind the more it will exaggerate your poor shots which will speed up the learning curve. Practice the knockdown shots, practice the draw/fade with or against the wind, learn to feel the wind and see the shot. Because this is the next tip.
Just like you should be doing to every golf shot, you need to have a plan and see the shot you want to hit before hitting it. If it straight into or against, get a number that you feel good about. If it’s a crosswind, plan to ride the wind or go into it. There’s no wrong choice or answer, just some are better than others, but you need to have a plan that you are confident in executing. Make a plan and trust your practice and preparation will help you succeed. I have faith in you, have faith in yourself.