Playing The Wind
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s hard to give much thought to playing in the wind while we in South Texas are "enjoying" the dog days of summer – 100 degrees, barely a breeze. But most of the time, we are playing in breezes of 10-20 mph, sometimes higher. I grew up down here close to the Texas Coast, so I learned to play the wind at an early age. One of my favorite Scottish sayings is that "if they be naye wind Laddie, there be naye golf". The subject came to mind, however, from a question sent it by Jay K., who asked:
I'm struggling when it comes to adjusting my aim to compensate for wind. Sometimes the ball just keeps straight, un-affected by the wind, and sometimes the wind takes the ball far too much, even though the wind strength hasn’t changed between these two shots! Should I be taking wind into account more for certain clubs/ types of approaches than others, or just keep it all the same? Any help here would be great.
So today, we’re going to dive into the basics of wind play. And the first rule on a windy day is that you have to relax your expectations. There is no tougher condition that wind in which to play this game. This past week’s PGA Championship was a perfect example. Whistling Straits didn’t get its name for nuthin’. Like courses in Scotland, the wind is a constant "hazard" there, and when it didn’t blow, the course lost its teeth. On Saturday, scores plummeted when the wind the wind laid for a few hours. But Sunday, they went right back up. Any tour player will tell you that the wind is the toughest challenge in the game.
Besides relaxing your expectations, however, there are some other basics of the wind you should understand in order to score better when it’s breezy. And the first is that the wind doesn’t affect a solidly hit ball nearly as much as one that is hit off center. There is an old adage, "when it’s breezy, swing it easy". If you will throttle back the swing to 75-85% when playing the wind, your results will be much better.
Another tip for the wind is that it exaggerates everything. A gentle breeze to light crosswind will hardly affect a straight shot that is hit well. But if that ball flight has curvature to it, the wind will do crazy things. Curve it into the wind, and it will get "knocked down", probably a club or more short. Curve it with the wind, and the curve will be exaggerated by a factor of 2-3 or more. A gentle draw becomes a sweeping hook, a slight fade a runaway slice.
With it blowing in your face, the goal is to keep the shot "under the wind". Play it back further in your stance, and take at least one, if not two more clubs than normal. Grip down an extra half inch or so, and lead with your body core and arms, so that the clubhead is the last thing through the impact zone. And try to make a more sweeping motion, rather than a severe downward strike. The key is to minimize spin and height on the shot. AND DON’T HIT IT HARD!
Conversely, hitting downwind, Ben Hogan said you always want to over-club as well. A shot hit with less spin is less likely to get up and ride the wind . . . clean over the green, or get "knocked down" by the tailwind and come up short. In my opinion, gauging distance of iron shots downwind is always tougher than into the wind.
So, Jay, I hope that gives you some wind basics. There is a lot more to this subject, and a lot more we can cover, as I’m sure the readers will lead us into in the days ahead. This should be fun and interesting. You’ve got a lot of help here.
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
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