With all the variables that you already have to worry about in golf, including bunkers and water hazards, you don’t want weather conditions to be another factor impacting your game. Heavy winds will have an impact on the movement of the ball, but by making adjustments to your swing and play style in these conditions, you can finish with a great score.
These are the 10 expert tips for playing golf in the wind:
- Club up or down
- Maintain a normal swing
- Use treetops as a wind indicator
- Identifying the wind pattern and playing accordingly
- Lower ball trajectory off the tee
- Hitting punch shots
- Laying up on par 5’s
- Use the wind to your advantage
- Adjust your body position
- Use mental strategies for a consistent game
We have pulled together the best tips for playing golf in the wind. Every player has a different swing style and game strategy, but these tips work well for every type of player. We will advise you on how to best play in the wind and what adjustments you can make so that wind has little impact on your end results.
What is Considered Windy for Golf?
When we are talking about ‘wind’ and the need to make changes to your game, the wind is typically over 10 mph. This is denoted by a gentle breeze, where leaves will move on trees, and you can see flags extended. While this may not be uncomfortable at the ground level, hitting your ball at heights upwards of 100 feet with wind can carry your ball in different directions.
The need to make additional adjustments while playing will depend on the increased levels of wind. Typically, you will make more changes based on increases of wind in 10 mph increments.
You can measure the wind on your own using an anemometer, or you can estimate the wind conditions based on physical markers and signs in your environment:
- 10 mph winds: As we noted, this is a gentle breeze that will move the leaves on trees slightly. This is the point at which we notice some wind and want to think about club and play adjustments.
- 20 mph winds: The breeze gets stronger where you can see small trees move in the wind and may notice waves start to break on water hazards.
- 30 mph winds: Greater movement on larger trees, may notice some overall swaying. This is when it starts to get difficult to walk against and is quite noticeable.
- 40 mph winds: Anything above 40 mph typically calls for a delay or postponement of the match. You may notice twigs breaking off branches and that it is quite difficult to walk against.
Some golf courses and locations will be known for windier conditions. Do your research about the course beforehand so you can visualize and strategize how you will play, given the conditions. Many golfers will throw up a piece of grass to get a good idea of the speed and direction the wind is headed.
10 Expert Tips for Playing Golf in the Wind
Our 10 tips are designed to help you in windy conditions by making minor adjustments with your body, club choice, and ball location in order to counteract the impacts of wind or use them to your advantage. Wind can be troublesome in many match situations, but it can also help you to gain greater control over your golf game and even be used to improve your score.
1. Club Up or Down
The expression to ‘club up or down’ refers to changing the club you would typically use to a stronger or less powerful one depending on the specifics of your next shot. Using a more powerful club (moving to a lower number) is typically done with greater wind when you’ll need a bit more power than you usually would allow the ball to travel the same distance.
The direction of the wind is also important. If you are hitting into the wind, you’ll want to ‘club up’ as the wind is acting against the force of the ball. When the wind is at your back, consider ‘clubbing down’ or using a less powerful club as the wind will carry your ball further than it usually does.
Golfers typically club up or down for every 10 mph change in wind strength. This video gives a good idea of how you should go about selecting clubs for windy play. We noted the indicators of different levels of wind above, so you know when you should be moving from one club to the next for your shots.
Some players may need to club up or down more than others in different wind conditions. Gaining experience playing in the wind is the best way to determine how many clubs you should go up or down. Using the 10 mph per club is a good baseline but may not be accurate enough for some players. Knowing your typical yardage for each club is key to determine shots.
2. Maintain a Normal Swing
While it is difficult to play into the wind, you may find yourself wanting to swing harder to make up for the shorter distance the ball will travel. We recommend clubbing up instead of changing your swing. For full shots, use the same power and force as you normally would if the wind were not there. This leads to overall greater consistency in your playing.
If you hit the ball harder than normal, you will most likely be making slight adjustments to your body position and ball contact. This can result in the ball curving in ways you hadn’t planned. The power may also not be evenly distributed from backswing to follow through. Because you normally don’t swing this way, the results can be unpredictable and unfortunate.
Let the change in club power create the extra distance and flight for you. By keeping your swing consistent, you will maintain more control and be more likely to place the ball where you want it. This also applies to wind at your back when clubbing down where you don’t want to take power off the ball through your swing.
3. Use Tree Tops as a Wind Indicator
You will see golfers looking at the pin flag in the distance and throwing a piece of grass into the wind to judge the wind’s strength and movement. While these are crucial to understanding wind conditions, they are not the only visual markers you should be looking at. Looking at the impacts of wind on treetops is necessary to gauge the level of wind where the ball travels.
The flag on the green is a great indicator of wind in the distance to where you hope to be in as few shots as possible. Gauging wind in front of you is also helpful to understand where you are now. The problem with relying on these two wind indicators is that they gauge the wind at 8 feet off the ground and less.
You can hit the ball into the air upwards of 100 feet and understanding what the wind is like while the ball is in flight is incredibly important. The ball is vulnerable to moving in the wind at greater heights than it will if the ball is kept closer to the ground. To best understand if you should be playing the ball high, you will want to base this off the movement of treetops.
Using all three indicators in conjunction with one another, will give you the best information as to how you should play and hit the ball.
4. Identifying the Wind Pattern and Playing Accordingly
Using the grass, pin flag, and treetops will tell you not only how hard the wind is blowing, but also the direction of the wind. The direction will impact your strategy and actions for playing. Use these indicators to make club decisions as well as how you will choose to play.
These are considerations you will need to make to play after determining the wind:
- Club Selection: As we mentioned, you will need to determine the distance you need to hit the shot, and if the wind will impact the amount you club up or down.
- Keeping the ball low: Many of the tips on our list will talk about how to keep the ball low, which is one of the most beneficial tips to maintain control and not change the direction of the ball flight.
- Shot types: You will want to consider what type of shot to take, including punch shots, fades and draws. We will discuss this in a later section with more detail. Wind can change the ball direction and rotation, requiring careful consideration before playing a shot.
- Cautiousness: Take more time in between shots to reevaluate the strength and direction of the wind. This can change quickly, and not reacting accordingly can prevent you from taking full advantage or avoiding errors in any given situation.
5. Lower Ball Trajectory Off the Tee
As a general rule, especially in heavier winds, you will want to keep the ball lower. This will not only prevent the ball from moving in the wind but also allow you to penetrate the wind more easily if you are hitting into it. Check out this video on how to keep the ball lower! Keeping the ball lower will keep the ball moving in more predictable ways without the wind’s impact.
These are some steps you should take to teeing off in the wind:
- Club face location: When teeing off with your driver, you almost always want to line up the ball on the center of the clubface. When faced with wind, you will want to adjust this slightly. Line up half the ball above the center of the club face. This is half as high as you normally would place the ball. By doing this, you’ll keep the ball lower once it comes off the tee.
- Tee height: The height of the tee will impact the contact point on the club face. The height of the tee is not correlated with the height the ball will travel. You will want to make sure when you line up the tee and the club, that the ball lies in that upper half of the club face. This will help to eliminate spin on the ball, which takes it higher.
- Wind direction: If you are hitting into the wind, the direction of the ball’s curve will be impacted more greatly and have a greater ability to turn. For playing with the wind at your back, keeping it lower will allow for less movement.
- Crosswinds: Winds that are not coming directly against you or behind you can be tricky! You should still follow the same protocol with a normal swing, lower flight trajectory, and consider playing it a bit safer away from hazards.
You will want to make sure that you maintain your normal swing off the tee just as you would on other shots. The most important thing to remember is keeping your ball in the upper half of the driver’s face. The goal is to limit the amount of spin, which will result in a lower trajectory of the golf ball.
6. Hitting Punch Shots for Lower Trajectory
Another way to keep the ball lower while playing is to take advantage of a punch shot. This is a specific shot that keeps the ball lower by changing the location of the ball and changing up your swing. This shot will require some practice to get down as it resembles a chipping motion more than your typical full swing.
This is also a shot that is commonly used if you find yourself in the rough where trees are blocking you. Players will play it safer and put their ball back on the fairway while keeping it low, as opposed to sending it through the trees.
To perform a punch shot, there are three changes you will make:
- Club up: Because you won’t be taking a full swing, you are going to want to club up and use something a bit more powerful. This will give you the ‘punch’ you need considering your swing is changed.
- Move ball further back: There are different locations you will want to position the ball compared to your stance for different clubs. More powerful clubs will be closer to your front foot and away from your body, allowing the ball to take greater flight. If the ball is closer to your body, you will hit down on the ball and keep it lower.
- Take a ¾ swing: If specifically looking at playing this type of shot, you will take a ¾ swing opposed to a normal full one. This will limit the amount of spin on the ball and allow you to maintain more control. You will treat this shot like you would with a pitching wedge. Remember, the follow-through should also only amount to a ¾ swing.
Consider playing this shot, especially in high winds, particularly those over 30 mph when curves and changes will likely occur in flight. This shot is often more difficult for some players because it doesn’t get practiced as often as traditional chipping or at a driving range. If you want to take advantage of a punch shot for windy conditions, practice this technique through repetition.
7. Laying Up on Par 5’s
On par 5 holes, you have more opportunities to get onto the green before going over par. These are the holes where you can consider playing it safer, especially in high winds. ‘Laying up’ is hitting the ball a shorter distance in order to keep control of the ball. While you may be able to play it further, you minimize the risk of errors related to wind.
On these longer holes, there are often bunkers and water hazards, which can be hard to avoid even without wind. By laying up, you are placing the ball in a safer location. If you were to attempt these more difficult shots in wind, the likely (even if small) movement or curve in the ball could put you in a difficult situation to get out of.
Sometimes taking the additional stroke as a preventative measure will end up saving you from taking 2-3 strokes attempting to get out of a hazard. Players will also lay up on shorter par 4’s if they can afford to (usually players who can hit the ball further in general).
Imagine this scenario: There is a water hazard between you and the green. You can attempt to hit over it at a longer distance, or you can lay up right in front of it to easily place the ball on the green after. This is all about risk and game management. When you add playing into the wind, you add risk of the ball not clearing the water and landing in the water with lots of backspin.
8. Use the Wind to Your Advantage
While many of our tips so far have catered toward minimizing your risk and trying to be careful in the face of wind, you can also take full advantage of it. Letting the wind dictate where your ball goes can actually put you into more favorable positions that would be difficult to hit without the wind.
There are two types of shots you should hit to use the wind: a draw and a fade. For a right-handed player, a draw is when the ball is curved from their right to left (results in curving the ball to the left). A fade is the opposite, curving the ball from the player’s left to their right. If you are left-handed, the draw and fade are the opposite.
We will use a right-handed player for our wind example (apply opposite principles to lefties). Here are some wind patterns and shots that will actually help you while using draws and fades:
- Hitting a draw: If a green is on the far left of the hole, consider hitting a draw when the crosswind is also headed right to left. This will take the ball further.
- Hitting a fade: The same principles can be applied when wanting to curve hard to the right, use the wind to take your ball further.
- Keeping the ball straight: You can also use a draw or fade going against the wind to make the ball go straight. Consider using a fade (left to right) into a wind pattern that is blowing right to left. This will counteract the impact of the shot and force it to go straight. Keep in mind this will require you to match power with wind speed.
- Back wind: If the wind is at your back, you can take advantage of the ball being carried further than it normally would on holes with long yardage. At the same time, be careful that you do not overhit the ball and end up in a hazard or beyond the green.
These shots prove that the wind is not always a bad thing, and you shouldn’t always shy away by avoiding or counteracting its impact.
9. Adjust Your Body Position
Tying closely to the low trajectory you want to keep while playing in the wind, this will require you to be mindful of your body position and adjust slightly. Making these minor changes will give you more control over the flight of your ball and prevent you from letting the ball develop too much backspin, height, and additional power.
These are some tips to keep in mind about body position while golfing in the wind:
- Stay relaxed: While you should do this on every stroke, staying relaxed will allow you to swing without adding more power or tense up. This will allow you to work through your normal swing mechanics smoothly.
- Shift weight: To keep the ball lower, you will want to shift the weight towards your front foot. Keep upwards of 70% of your weight on the front foot.
- Lower grip: Take a slightly lower grip on the club, which will naturally bring your chest slightly closer to the ground.
While some of these adjustments may seem awkward, they all aim to keep the ball lower and more controlled. With these changes, you will still want to maintain your normal full-bodied swing (unless you are attempting a punch shot).
10.Use Mental Strategies For a Consistent Game
Golf is just as much of a mental game as it is physical. Adding additional frustrations such as wind can take you out of the game, wavering your confidence and calmness. These can largely impact future shots and ultimately lead to a worse score. To prevent this, you can take advantage of some strategies to use wind to your advantage and not let it get to your head.
These strategies will work for any point in your golf game, but are particularly helpful in windy conditions:
- Focus on what you can control: While you cannot control the wind speed, you can control how you react to it. Remaining calm and making necessary adjustments mentioned throughout this article will help to keep your emotions and shots in check.
- Visualization: Take yourself through multiple windy scenarios and what shots you would take. This can help make decisions easier and less stressful when you face them.
- Patience: This is one of the hardest golf skills to master, especially when things aren’t going well. If you hit a bad shot, regroup and move onto the next one. Put it out of your head to not let a past shot impact a future one.
Best Golf Ball for Windy Conditions
As we have discussed, there are plenty of adjustments you can make in many areas of your game to account for changes in the wind. You may also be wondering if you should be using a specific ball in these conditions. There are not specific balls that golfers use for wind versus other playing conditions. Most golfers will use their normal balls in all playing environments.
We recommend sticking with the balls you feel comfortable with for your typical round of golf. You already know how to hit these and the approximate distances and flight of the ball. The changes to your clubs, stance, and ball position will have a much larger impact than a difference on the ball.
The main differences in golf balls are their construction, ranging from one piece to five-piece balls. The differences in technology relate to the increasing levels of material found in each ball. Two-piece and above are the more modern technology, with two pieces emphasizing distance and higher piece balls offering some distance and more control and ‘feel’ on the ball.
Other factors that are considered when picking a golf ball are compression (level of ball compression against a clubface) and spin (the amount of backspin on a ball). These preferences for your desired play style should be established before the wind is even considered.
Playing Golf in the Wind
Adding these tips to your arsenal will help to make you are a more proficient and controlled player in the worst of conditions. While it may not be the most fun to play in the wind, it presents unique challenges. Remember, while you are playing in tough wind conditions, so are all the other players. Implement the adjustments to have it help you rather than hurt you!