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How to play great golf in the wind

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yellow golf flagOne of the attractions to our great game for many golfers is that it is an outdoor sport, so we can get some fresh air and enjoy the great outdoors. This also means that during our round we may need to deal with all the elements including wind. We have previously covered how to play well in the rain and in this article we will give you our recommendations to achieving a good score when the wind is blowing.

Ok, so let’s accept that the wind is blowing and the course is going to be playing more difficult as a result. We must be able to adapt our game to these challenging conditions or else we will never be able to score our best. So how will the wind effect the golf course?

Golf courses will be constructed with the wind in mind. The course architect will play close attention to the wind direction and will try not to design long and difficult holes into the prevailing wind.  Also the wind is often used to protect some holes on the golf course and make them more difficult to play. Depending on where in the world you play the wind can have a very dramatic effect on your game. With some links courses on the coasts of Scotland almost unplayable with a standard golf shot.

The wind will blow from four general directions from behind, against or into, across from left to right or across from right to left with many combinations in between. Here are GT’s recommendations to playing in these challenging conditions.

Let’s start with the wind behind. The ball is pushed forward with less backspin this means that the ball will roll more on landing with a lower trajectory. This is great for those long par four’s and five’s when the extra distance off the tee is welcomed. However, this may also bring hazards into play that would usually not be in reach so noting the distances and taking a lesser club maybe the safer option. Also when playing into the green with the wind behind makes the ball more difficult to land and control on the green so you will need to adapt your shot making to compensate.

Playing the ball slightly higher is the answer to more consistency when the wind is blowing from behind. You will need to calculate how hard the wind is blowing in clubs. For example, a two or three club wind will mean you take two or three clubs less to achieve the same distance. Playing the ball higher will mean a longer flight and a softer landing with less forward roll. If you are able to, playing a fade shot down wind will also give you a higher trajectory and more control on landing. One great aspect of the wind blowing hard from behind is it tends to straighten out any unwanted side spin so a slice becomes a fade and a hook becomes a draw shot. Another option is to play the ball lower trying to keep the ball below the wind so it does not effect the balls flight. You will need to practise this type of shot and be confident with the distances you can achieve. When the wind is really blowing hard this may be the only option you have.

Playing into the wind for many is the most difficult. This is sometimes because feeling the wind on your face can cause you to swing at the ball much harder with a lack of tempo. Also when the wind is blowing hard you can find it difficult to keep your balance resulting in an off centred strike of the ball. When playing into the wind the strike on the ball is critical. Any unnecessary side spin will be exaggerated by the wind so a slight fade will become a big slice and a slight draw will become a hook. The obvious challenge when playing into the wind is the effect the wind will have on the ball distance. This will make long holes even longer and you will be using the longer clubs in your bag more often. When playing into the wind we want you to concentrate on your timing trying not to swing to fast. ‘ Into the breeze swing with ease’ is the swing thought we would like you to carry around the course with you. As previously mentioned measuring the wind in clubs is also useful when the wind is in your face. In this situation a two club wind means you will take two clubs more and swing easy to achieve the same distance.

Cross winds can be equally as difficult partly because golfers are unsure whether to play a shot that works with the wind or one that holds up against it. Our recommendation is to play shots that let the wind shape your golf ball. Try to play the ball with a lower trajectory to minimise the cross winds affect on the ball. Also when on the tee play close attention to where you are teeing up on the tee box. Teeing up on the right hand side of the tee box into a left to right wind may help you aim more confidently and get the shape from the wind that you have visualised.

One final note on good wind play. To play well when the wind is blowing is a lot to do with your attitude. If you have the mental toughness to accept that the round is going to be more challenging, and you are up for the challenge, then you are more likely to succeed out on the course and play reasonably well. After all, the course is playing just as difficult for your fellow competitors.

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The Golf Talk team