Wind has been described as the great equalizer in golf and this is the perfect definition of the impact that it has out on the course. Wind can be intimidating, unpredictable, and relentless at times, but if you master it, it can also become your ally.
Wind impacts the golf ball in a variety of different ways, below we will take a closer look at different wind types, how the wind affects the golf ball, and at how to play shots that are optimal in windy conditions.
The 3 Different Types of Golf Winds Explained
The wind is a very unpredictable force of nature, but most of the time you will be dealing with one of the following different winds out on the golf course.
If you are faced with a downwind shot the direction of the wind will be from where your golf ball is lying towards the fairway or the green that you are aiming at. If you are faced with a downwind shot the wind will push the ball to go further than what it normally would.
The additional distance that the ball will travel as a result of the wind will depend on the strength of the wind. In addition to the ball traveling further through the air, the ball will also tend to roll more once it hits the ground or putting surface. If you are faced with a downwind shot it is important to calculate for both additional distances through the air and roll-out.
Into the wind
If you are faced with a shot that is into the wind the direction of the wind will be from the direction of your target straight back to where your golf ball is lying. If you are faced with an into the wind shot the wind will push the ball back towards you and it will go shorter than what it normally would.
The decrease in distance that the ball will travel as a result of the wind will depend on the strength of the wind. In addition to the ball traveling shorter through the air, the ball will also tend to roll less once it hits the ground or putting surface. If you are faced with an into the wind shot it is important to calculate for both a decrease in the distance through the air as well as less roll-out.
If you are faced with a crosswind shot the direction of the wind will be from either left to right or right to left. If you are faced with a crosswind shot the wind will push the ball away from your target in the direction of the wind, thus with a right to left wind the wind will push your golf ball to the left of your target and vice versa.
Crosswinds are some of the trickiest winds to negotiate. Depending on your natural shot shape a crosswind can either assist the shape which will cause the golf ball to fly further or it can knock the ball out of the sky which will cause it to fly shorter.
For instance, if a right-handed player is facing a right to left wind it will mean that the wind will be pushing the ball through the air from the right to the left. If you were to hit a fade into a right to left wind the wind will knock the ball down and it will fly shorter. The opposite will be true if you were to hit a draw, with a draw the right to left wind will carry the golf ball to fly further than normal.
How does wind affect the golf ball?
I touched on it above but wind can affect the golf ball in a variety of different ways depending on wind strength and the direction of the wind. In addition to wind direction and wind strength, shot shape, spin rates and the quality of the strike also have an impact on how the wind will affect your golf ball.
Crisp shots with optimal spin rates tend to be less affected by the wind than a spinny off-center strike. This might sound very technical but the long and short of it is that the better you hit the golf ball the less impact the wind will have on it as it flies through the air.
If the wind wasn’t hard enough to judge how the same strong wind impacts the golf ball on a downwind versus and into the wind shot also differs. To learn more about this anomaly watch this video by Trackman.
How to calculate the effect of wind on your golf ball
Calculating how much the wind is going to affect your golf ball is a continuous puzzle. With so many factors to consider it is nearly impossible, but with experience and playing in wind often golfers tend to get better at it over time.
Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb that says for everyone 10 mph of wind the ball will travel 10 yards shorter or longer depending on the wind direction. On a windy day, it is very important to take note of how far your golf ball travels on both the practice tee and on your first couple of holes on the golf course. This will give you a good indication of the strength of the wind which will hopefully help you as the round goes on.
In order to determine the direction of the wind the old trick of throwing grass into the air and seeing which direction it blows works just fine. Additionally, it is also important to observe which way the flag is blowing. On some golf courses, the wind can play tricks on you, pay specific attention to wind direction when you are sheltered by trees or mounds, it might feel like the wind is blowing one way when it is in fact blowing another direction.
The best golf shots to hit in windy conditions
Some players are better at playing in the wind than others, a lot of this has to do with how they hit the golf ball naturally. Players that have the ability to flight the golf ball tend to fare better in the wind. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the term “flight”, it refers to a low shot with minimal spin and shape.
A great way to learn how to hit flighted shots is to practice hitting half shots on the driving range by gripping down the shaft and by moving the ball towards the back of your stance. A flighted shot will come out like an arrow and it will cut through the wind.
A common mistake amateur golfers make is to try and hit the golf ball harder, especially on into the wind shots. By trying to hit the ball harder you will only add spin which will actually be worse off in the wind than a normal shot.
To learn more about how to flight your shots watch this video.
Playing in the wind is definitely not for the faint of heart, but with time the wind can be mastered. The wind will impact your golf ball in very bizarre ways, the key is to not get frustrated, because as soon as you try to fight the wind you are in big trouble.
Take some time to learn how the wind affects your golf ball, be patient when you are playing on a windy day, and remember the wind will be your friend if you allow it to be.