One of the most unique, but challenging, things about the game of golf is that it can be played in almost all conditions: heat, wind and, especially, rain.
Unlike tennis or cricket, the sport of golf doesn’t normally come to a grinding halt when the heavens decide to open – that is, of course, unless the downpour is torrential.
So, how much rain is too much when it comes to golf? And do golf courses close when it rains?
Typically, most golf courses won’t close when it’s raining unless the deluge is heavy enough to render the fairways and greens unplayable, or if the conditions pose any physical risk to competitors. If water begins pooling on the course or lightning is present, play will almost always be halted.
Of course, the PGA Tour will be far stricter when it comes to closing a course due to rain – being the elite level – than your average weekend competition held at your local club.
But, if rain begins to impact playing conditions enough, or poses a threat to players, even local courses may act by shutting down until the weather subsides.
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Is it OK to play golf in the rain?
Yes. You can play golf in the rain provided it poses no threat to player safety, and if the course remains playable and not waterlogged. If water begins pooling on the fairways and greens, or if lightning is present, it is recommended to halt play until conditions improve.
So long as these thresholds aren’t reached, it is perfectly OK to play golf in the rain – that’s what wet weather gear was created for!
While it may not be the most enjoyable experience – anyone who has been trapped halfway through an 18-hole round while it’s bucketing down can relate to this – moderate to even heavy rain may not be enough to warrant closing the courses, especially if its fairways are designed to drain well.
The Open Championship is a great example of this, where players regularly have to battle the wind and rain in trademark links conditions.
If you decide to play golf in the rain, you’ll need a few key items including:
You’ll also need to adjust your strategy such as taking an extra club when measuring yardages, playing more bump and runs due to the wet ground, and maintaining higher club speeds when hitting out of bunkers.
I’ve explained all these tips in a 16-step guide to playing golf in the rain, which I recommend you read.
What happens if it rains while golfing?
If rain does not pose any threat to competitors during a round of golf, play will continue as normal. However, if rain is heavy enough to place golfers in imminent danger or renders the course unplayable, then the round will be suspended until conditions have cleared sufficiently to allow play to recommence.
On the PGA Tour, rules officials will blow one prolonged note on an air horn if play is to be halted immediately (e.g. for imminent danger, lightning, heavy rain).
However, they will blow three shortened notes for normal suspension of play (e.g. bad light, unplayable course conditions).
When it comes to amateur competitions, some local courses may also use an air horn, or something similar like a siren or whistle, to indicate if play is to be halted due to rain or other weather conditions.
Do golf courses refund you when it rains?
In most instances, no. Golfers tee it up knowing full well the weather may soon turn ugly and force the cancellation of their round. If a player decides to roll the dice and pay for a round despite being aware of potential rain on the way, the golf course should not be obligated to refund their green fees.
Of course, some golf courses may be more lenient and generous than others, but in my opinion, they should not be offering refunds due to weather.
I’ll always keep an eye on the weather forecast and radar before I commit to playing a round of golf – there have been times I’ve woken up in the morning and decided the rain is far too heavy to get through 18 holes.
Other times, myself and my playing partner have decided we’ll take a chance with rain about and hope that it doesn’t get too heavy mid-round (this has worked on occasions, while other times we have been left absolutely drenched).
If you make a conscious decision to play during wet weather, you can’t cry foul and ask for a refund should you get wet out on the fairways.
Should I play golf after it rains?
Yes, you can absolutely play golf after it rains provided the course has drained sufficiently. Resuming golf after rain can be easier than in dry, hot conditions because the greens will be softer and far more receptive – meaning you can attack more pins and get more backspin with your wedges, leading to lower scores.
They say the US Open is one of the hardest tests in golf – the reason for this is because the greens are almost always rock-hard and very difficult to hold.
It’s a common sight to see players land their ball at the front of the putting surface, only for it to take a huge bounce and shoot through the back of the green.
It’s also very common to see players leaving chip shots just slightly short of their intended landing area, only for their ball to roll back down to their feet.
This is far less likely to happen when the course has plenty of moisture in it after a solid deluge, which is why playing golf following rain can be an enjoyable experience.
How long does it take for golf courses to dry out?
Golf courses can dry sufficiently enough to permit play within hours if they are designed to drain well naturally, or if they have proper drainage systems built into them. The biggest problem facing many golf courses is preventing water from pooling, which can slow drainage and delay the resumption of play.
How long it takes a golf course to dry out will also be heavily influenced by how much rain has fallen, and in how little time.
For example, a course will obviously take longer to dry if it has received an inch of rain in only a few hours, compared to if it received an inch of rain over a few days.
But, in general, it’s rare to see golf courses close for prolonged periods of time after heavy rain as most are designed to drain quickly (however, there are always exceptions to this, especially when it comes to public courses).
Is it OK to play golf during thunderstorms?
No, golfers should not play during thunderstorms. If there is any hint of lightning present, play should always be suspended to ensure player safety – regardless of whether it’s on the PGA Tour or your local competition. Playing golf during thunderstorms can be extremely dangerous.
Lightning is very attracted to long, metal objects – it makes sense then that swinging a golf club during a thunderstorm is a recipe for disaster.
Six-time major winner Lee Trevino did once famously say:
“If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”
But while this tongue-in-cheek quip is funny (and is a jab at how difficult it actually is to use a 1-iron), not even Trevino would advocate playing golf when lightning is present.
So, to answer the question: do golf courses close when it rains? It depends on how heavy the rain is and whether it poses threats to players’ safety, or renders the course unplayable.
If either of these factors occur, more often than not, golf courses will close their gates and suspend play to ensure no harm comes to competitors and that the competition is fair for all involved.
But if the rain is only moderate, then grab your umbrella, chuck on your wet weather gear and brave the elements if you’re willing to do so – just remember that you can’t withdraw halfway through your round if you’ve entered into a competition, otherwise you’ll be disqualified.