Playing and Practicing in the Wind

For most of us, there is seldom a day that involves golf, that doesn’t involve some form of wind interference. When I first started trying to better understand how wind effects both the ball and the golfer. I was shocked at how little quality information was readily available. It didn’t take me long to conclude that most golfers (pros included) will underestimate the effect of a headwind and overestimate the effect of a tailwind. I have come to find the following to be quite accurate for most ‘normal’ ball strikers…

The basic formula for hitting into a headwind is as follows:

  • 5mph = 5% of the total distance + 5 yards

  • 10mph = 10% of the total distance + 5 yards

  • 15mph = 15% of the total distance + 5 yards

  • 20mph = 20% of the total distance + 5 yards

This formula appears to hold true for most ball flights. If you tend to be a high launch/high spin golfer or low launch/low spin golfer you might find your results to be different. Keep in mind that the majority of golfers will typically overestimate the MPH factor. If you’re serious about your golf, you may want to look into picking up a wind meter. This is the one that has helped me gauge the wind more accurately. As you learn to do a better job gauging the wind I’ve found things to be easier if I keep my guess-timations to 5/10/15/20mph. It just serves to simplify something that can become overly complex.

Let’s not forget we hit shots downwind too:

  • 5mph = 2% of the total distance

  • 10mph = 3% of the total distance

  • 15mph = 5% of the total distance

  • 20mph = 7% of the total distance

As you can see a tailwind will have far less effect on the carry distance than a headwind might. As a result there can be no such thing as a one-club wind!

What about practicing in the wind? My experience is that wind will not only effect the ball flight, but it also has an effect on the way in which the golfer will swing the club. Here are a few of my findings:

  • Every golfer tested hits more down and delivers less loft into the wind

  • Every golfer tested hits less down and delivers more loft down wind

  • Every golfer moves their typical club path into the wind eg. a left to right wind always caused a golfer to swing more left

Using this information I would advise golfers:

  • Who hit down too much or who hit the ball too low to practice in downwind conditions when possible

  • Who hit the ball too high and tend to get scoopy to practice hitting into the wind when possible

  • Who curve the ball too much to the right to practice with the wind coming from the right when possible

  • Who curve the ball too much to the left to practice with the wind coming from the left when possible

Now of course if you’re headed out to practice and the wind conditions just simply don’t match what you might need that might indicate a good time for a ‘shortgame’ practice session.

Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush

I hope you find this information to be both beneficial and interesting. If you do please consider sharing it with a golfing friend.

How to Deal with a Headwind

Controlling your golf ball in the wind is one of golf's greatest challenges. For quite a while now I have been asking my junior players to hit a 140 yard approach shot directly into whatever wind might be blowing that day and none of them have ever reached the flag! Now, part of this is ego and another part inexperience, but being a curious coach I wanted to do what I could to help them play these headwind shots effectively. At Savannah Harbor we have a double sided range and in the spring we can experience some strong winds. The double sided range means that I can hit shots into and down the same wind. Having TrackMan is a huge help here as it tracks the ball accurately throughout it's flight. Watch...

After quite a bit of testing on and off the golf course I have found that this formula produces positive results. Please keep in mind that hitting any shot in the wind is not exact science and there will always be a subjective side to selecting the appropriate club and shot.

  1. Determine how many MPH of wind are blowing in your face
  2. If its 12 MPH then add 12 yards per 100 yards of distance required
  3. Determine what club you would need to hit the ball that distance
  4. Take one additional club and play a knockdown type shot

Example scenario: For a 140 yard shot into a 20 MPH headwind. I would add 28 yards (20 yards per 100) to 140 to get to 168 which is a full 7 iron for me. I would thus take a 6 iron and hit a knockdown for this scenario.

You might wonder how you'd come to recognize the wind speed...? Experience certainly helps, but there's nothing against checking a weather app on your phone prior to going out to play to help you gauge wind speed. And remember - there is no such thing as a one club wind!

Thanks for reading and I hope this information helps you better control your ball in challenging windy conditions.

Wild and Beautiful Ballybunion

 
  I love links golf and I would rather Ballybunion Golf Club every day for the rest of my life than any other course in the world! There is something wild about the look of the dunes and eminently fair about the course that I find very appealing.

Ballybunion

 I first played there with my father, some old friends and Mr. Seamus Finnerty, Club Captain and everything you could hope for in a host.  What a special experience it was!  On a calm day there are no holes that will overpower you, but even a subtle breeze blowing in the right direction will make holes # 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 17 become unreachable monsters.  Keep in mind that there is no direction the wind can blow that will make all the aforementioned holes play into the wind, as they are all going in different directions. 

There is some debate as to who the course design should be credited to; Murphy in 1893; 0r Hewison in 1906?  Nobody seems to know!   The course has been upgraded by it's biggest fan, Tom Watson, over the last few years and the changes are subtle and positive.  Just as you might expect from Old Tom!  Ballybunion was actually the course where Tom Watson learned to love the links game.

Ballybunion's Famous #11

The course only plays to 6638 yards from the back tees, but is all the challenge any golfer could hope for.  The contours on the fairways and greens are a large part of what make Ballybunion a great golf course.  The foward half of the 9th green is entirely a false front!  The signature hole is the par four 11th.  A longish par four where the tee shot must be soundly struck between dunes and the Atlantic Ocean.  The hope is to place your ball on the appropriate tier in the fairway from which to play the thrilling second shot to the green below.  I would rate the approach to this green alongside the approach to the 8th at Pebble Beach.  It will get your heart racing!

Ballybunion Golf Club

I asked Tom Watson what his favorite hole was and he gave me a sly look and said I would never guess. My reply was, that with that look, it must be the 6th hole.  He was amazed that I selected that hole, as the 6th has no dunes, no bunkers and no ocean or graveyard in play.  The 6th only has a tee, a fairway and a green, oh yes, and the prevailing wind!  Play it a few times and you will understand why we both rate it so highly!

Ballybunion has no weak holes and every hole is a unique and memorable experience.  Conditioning is generally quite good for a links course and the caddies can be hit or miss.  The Cashen or New course is actually built on a "wilder" (better!) piece of property but Mr. Robert Trent Jones Snr. has done a disservice to all of links golf with his design.  I would stay off the Cashen.  No matter how good it looks!

Any golfer who loves links golf and plans on making a pilgrimage to Ireland must count Ballybunion Old as the number one course to play! As Tom Watson said,

"I am now of the opinion this is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links anywhere in the world."

A visit to Ballybunion should not be missed!

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