With the end of winter and early spring coming to Florida, I’ve had my fill of 30+ mph wind rounds. In the meantime, I’ve learned some things and wanted to share some thoughts about playing in the wind.
1. My belief is that a straight shot in a cross-wind will go straight until it reaches the apex and then curve as it descends towards the ground. So, if you have a wind blowing to your left, a true ‘straight ball’ will start out straight until it reaches the apex and then curve left as it descends due to the wind. Again, just my belief. I’ve been trying to contact one of my friends who is an expert rifle shooter to get his thoughts, but this is from what I’ve observed.
2. Be more careful about using your lob wedge. The problem with using wedges is that they will launch higher and thus the wind has a great impact on distance control. I advise using the lob wedge mostly on full shots WITH the wind. Other than that, use it on some bunker shots where necessary. If you’re using the Lob Wedge on pitch shots, flops and lobs, it’s often very hard to come anywhere close to having the right distances. You will make more putts on the green than you will make putts on the fringe or chips off the green. So sometimes you may be better off leaving yourself a little further away on the green rather than trying to hit the perfect shot with a lob wedge and risking missing the green all together.
3. Part of the reason why playing in wind is so difficult is that typically you are going to find the wind in your face in some fashion more often than it will be with you. One of the reasons why is if you have a hard wind blowing to the right, now you have to aim to the left to play for the wind curving the ball to the right. But by aiming left, now the wind goes more in your face. So when it seems like the wind is blowing in your face every hole, it probably is.
4. You really have to figure out how difficult the hole is going to be before you tee off. On holes where the wind is going to make the hole very difficult, I recommend a more conservative strategy. And when I mean ‘conservative’, I mean a focus on hitting the actual fairway and playing more for the middle of the green on the approach shot. I do NOT mean aiming so far away from a hazard or trees that you increase you expected score.
5. A good way to determine the added difficulty of a hole is by estimating how much yardage you will have into the green on the approach shot and then determine how much club you will need into that shot. Let’s say the wind is in my face and I am playing a 410 yard par-4. I may determine that a pretty good driver will go about 250 yards. I then know I will have approximately 160 yards into the green. But, if it’s a 3-4 club wind, I’m now hitting a 5-iron and maybe a 4-iron (or even a 3-iron). Typically I hit my 5-iron 195 yards and my 4-iron 208 yards. Those are ‘Danger Zone shots.’ Thus, it turns a 410 yard par-4 into effectively a 480 yard par-4. When faced with that and knowing it’s very likely I wind up effectively in the ‘Danger Zone’, I want to keep my drive in the fairway so I can have the easiest Danger Zone shot possible.
6. You can hit up on the ball with the driver into the wind and hit the ball further that if you hit down on the ball. I believe that all things being equal, hitting up higher will allow the ball to carry more and spin less. However, with the ball up in the air more it’s more likely to go off-line than a lower tee shot. Also, if you don’t quite catch it and you put some extra spin on it, the ball will go nowhere.
7. To me, playing well on windy days is about:
A. Your ability to hit half-swing shots and punches.
B. Your ability to consistently make centered contact.
C. Clubface control
D. Short Game
Quite frankly, your bad holes come on errant shots and that’s why clubface contact and clubface control are so important. What happens with many good amateurs is that they can hit it pretty well on full swings, but are a disaster on half swings. When it’s breezy, you will undoubtedly find yourself in position to hit half-swing shots on both tail winds and when the wind is in your face. Many good amateur golfers struggle with face contact and control on half swings. I think it usually stems from them stalling their pivot in the impact area and the clubface turns over and they cannot control their low point as well.
Lastly, you’re not likely to hit a lot of shots close on windy days. So, the short game and putting will need to be on in order to save your around the course.