There are few greater challenges in golf than playing in the wind.
Getting your ball to fly straight is hard enough as it is without a huge breeze knocking it offline as soon as it gets airborne.
Not only that, but it’s hard to ever feel comfortable in gusty conditions.
You feel off-balance in your stance, the club blows all of the place in your takeaway, and putting becomes virtually impossible due to your hands and arms being shaken about all over the place.
In a nutshell, it’s hard. Bloody hard.
But there are some simple things you can do to improve your chances of shooting a good score in blustery conditions.
To play good golf in the wind, you should consider hitting more lower-flighted shots; taking more club and swinging easier to reduce backspin on the ball; try to shape in ball into the wind to help it hold its line better; and have good control over the height of your ball.
But how do I do that, you ask?
Don’t worry, in this article I’m going to explain how to play each of these shots (as taught by some of the best golfers in the world) along with answer some other common questions about golfing in the wind.
Table of contents
Can you play golf when it’s windy?
While it may not be your most enjoyable round of golf, you can most certainly play when it’s windy.
The only time wind – deemed a ‘natural force’ – will stop you from teeing off is if it is repeatedly causing your ball to move once it’s at rest (this most commonly occurs on fast greens).
According to 9.3 of the USGA laws, “if natural forces (such as wind or water) cause your ball at rest to move, there is no penalty, and your ball must be played from its new spot”.
If the wind is strong enough to keep your ball in motion, or even worse blow it off the green completely, it is likely the course will be deemed unplayable (as the rules of the game don’t permit you to hit a moving ball) meaning you’ll need to wait for the wind to subside before continuing your round.
How hard should you swing when golfing in the wind?
One of the most common misconceptions of playing golf in the wind is that in order to get your ball to pierce through the conditions, you must swing harder.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been guilty of trying to hit the cover off the ball to ensure I get the maximum distance.
Unfortunately, it’s the completely wrong approach. And I’ll tell you why.
Hitting into the wind exaggerates whatever spin you impart on the golf ball.
If your ball starts moving from left to right, the chances are the wind will push it even farther in that direction (unless it’s blowing hard in the opposite direction).
Swinging harder will put greater spin on the ball, meaning it’s more likely to be affected by wind.
The way to impart less spin on the golf ball is simple: take more club, and swing easier.
Not only will the lesser loft of your longer club produce a lower ball flight and less spin (ideal for piercing through the wind), swinging easier will provide you with far greater control meaning you’re a greater chance of hitting a straight shot as opposed to one that curves.
Suggested reading: What the golf swing should feel like
Drill: Hitting target with two different clubs
The best drill my own golf instructor gave me to try and teach me how to control my swing speed, feel and tempo – especially when hitting into the wind – was by heading to the range and trying to hit the same target with two different clubs.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Pick out a target that is positioned at the distance of your stock 7-iron (around 150 metres/165 yards)
- Hit five shots with your 7-iron, trying to land the ball as close to the target as possible
- Hit another five shots with the same goal in mind, only this time use a 5-iron
- Repeat this for 50-100 balls, swapping your 5-iron with other longer clubs in your bag (such as your 6-iron or even hybrid)
The video below demonstrates why this drill is a great way to control your ball in the wind:
Training your brain to hit the same target using a number of different-lofted clubs will give you far greater control over your swing, and equip you with the skills needed to succeed when playing in the wind.
But the big question when out on the course is deciding which club to hit, which brings me to the next question…
Compensating for wind in golf: How much club to take?
Figuring out which club to hit into a headwind or with a tailwind can be the difference between scoring a birdie or bogey.
If you get your calculations wrong, you could fly the ball well over the back of the green or leave it way shorter – neither of which will give you a look at birdie, and make getting down for par tougher than it needs to be.
Suggested reading: Are golf yardages to the front or middle of the green?
So how do you calculate which club to hit when it’s windy?
I used to think it was largely guesswork, but I found a great article from Golf Monthly that has completely changed my thinking around this.
According to their research, you should add 1% club distance for every 1mph of headwind, and subtract 0.5% club distance for every 1mph of tailwind when selecting your club on the golf course. So, a 100-yard shot should be treated as a 105-yard shot into a 5mph headwind, but only a 95-yard shot when hitting with a 5mph tailwind.
If you’re a little confused by that, don’t worry, I’ve laid out some common yardages in the tables below to help you out.
DISTANCES HITTING INTO A HEADWIND
|WIND SPEED||TO TARGET||NEW DISTANCE|
|5mph (8kph)||100yds (91m)||105yds (96m)|
|150yds (137m)||158yds (144m)|
|200yds (182m)||210yds (192m)|
|10mph (16kph)||100yds (91m)||110yds (100m)|
|150yds (137m)||165yds (150m)|
|200yds (182m)||220yds (192m)|
|20mph (32kph)||100yds (91m)||120yds (110m)|
|150yds (137m)||180yds (165m)|
|200yds (182m)||240yds (220m)|
|30mph (48kph)||100yds (91m)||130yds (118m)|
|150yds (137m)||195yds (178m)|
|200yds (182m)||260yds (238m)|
DISTANCES HITTING WITH A TAILWIND
|WIND SPEED||TO TARGET||NEW DISTANCE|
|5mph (8kph)||100yds (91m)||98yds (90m)|
|150yds (137m)||146yds (133m)|
|200yds (182m)||195yds (178m)|
|10mph (16kph)||100yds (91m)||95yds (87m)|
|150yds (137m)||143yds (130m)|
|200yds (182m)||190yds (174m)|
|20mph (32kph)||100yds (91m)||90yds (82m)|
|150yds (137m)||135yds (123m)|
|200yds (182m)||180yds (164m)|
|30mph (48kph)||100yds (91m)||85yds (77m)|
|150yds (137m)||128yds (117m)|
|200yds (182m)||170yds (155m)|
How to keep your golf ball low with irons
Mastering the low shot in golf is key to playing well in the wind.
And while we’re all in awe of the Tiger Woods and Gary Woodland stingers, learning how to play a low-flighted shot with irons isn’t actually that difficult.
Clay Ballard from Top Speed Golf lays it out in some really easy steps in the video below:
In summary, to keep your ball low with an iron, here’s what you need to do:
- Take one club up than you normally would, as the lesser loft will automatically flight the ball lower
- Take your grip roughly one inch farther down the handle than you normally would (often called ‘choking down on the club’) as shortening the distance between your hands and the club head will lower your swing speed, giving you more control and imparting less spin on the ball
- Position the golf ball roughly one ball width farther back in your stance, as this will naturally help flight the ball lower (don’t place it too far back, though, as this will actually add more spin due to the steep angle of attack required to make contact)
- Feel like you’re swinging smoothly at around 80 percent of your normal speed
And that’s it! Following these four simple steps will help you lower your ball flight, and in turn lower your scores when playing in the wind.
Suggesting reading: Everything you need to know about ball position
How to keep your golf ball low with driver
Keeping your ball low and out of the wind off the tee with driver can be the difference between finding the fairway, or being blown out of bounds.
When playing in the wind, you want your ball piercing through the breeze and safely finding the short grass, rather than ballooning into the sky and being knocked off target.
Clay Ballard from Top Speed Golf has again created a simple, easy-to-follow video on how to hit lower shots with your driver:
In summary, to keep your ball low with driver, here’s what you need to do:
- Firstly, move the golf ball back towards the middle of your stance, rather than the inside of your lead foot (this will help you stay more on top of the ball and promote a descending blow at impact, keeping the ball lower)
- Narrow your stance, and open your stance slightly. You do this in order to stand taller over the ball and launch it with less flight off the tee. Similarly, because you have placed the ball back in the stance, it means you will connect with it fractionally earlier. To ensure your swing path remains neutral, you have to open your stance slightly to allow for this and promote a straight shot
- When taking your swing, your want to feel as though you maintain more shaft lean at impact (just as you would with an iron) and really try to cover the ball
- Lastly, and most importantly, focus on hitting the ball with the top half of the club face as this will impart the least spin on the ball and stop it floating up into the breeze
Hitting a low shot with driver is a lot harder than with an iron, but practice it a few times a week on the range and you’ll soon be hitting those bullet drives in no time.
Suggested reading: How to cover the golf ball
How to putt in windy conditions
Let’s not sugar coat it: putting in the wind is hard. Bloody hard.
Every time you step over the ball your can feel your putter head shaking in the breeze, your ball is most likely oscillating, and whenever you try and take the club back it seems impossible to keep it on its intended line.
While putting in the wind is never easy, there are some things you can do to make it less difficult.
Popular golf pro Michael Breed offers some great tips in the video below that will help you sink more putts when it’s windy:
In summary, here’s what you should remember to do when putting in windy conditions.
Keep your weight on your lead leg
Having a stable base is crucial to putting, and even more so when a strong breeze is trying to blow you off balance.
- At step-up, position yourself so that the ball is one putter head inside your lead foot
- Lean enough into your lead leg so that the buttons on your shirt are directly over the ball
- This will ensure you have your weight distributed mostly onto your lead leg, and will give you the most stable base to putt from when it’s windy
Keep your arms connected to your body
If you’re someone who putts using excessive arm or wrist movement, chances are you’re going to struggle with consistency when it’s windy due to an inability to control the putter face.
Proper putting technique involves maintaining connection with your body and ribcage, and there are some steps you can take to ensure you’re doing this correctly.
- At set-up, feel like your elbows are pointing in towards the pockets of your pants, and that your triceps are making contact with your ribcage
- Maintain that feeling right the way through your putting stroke
- Doing this should train your body to use your shoulders to initiate the start of the stroke, rather than your arms and wrists, which will greatly improve your consistency on the greens
Allow for more or less break
You should always factor it in wind when reading and lining up your putt, as a strong enough breeze will impact how far the ball will break.
- If the wind is blowing in the direction of the break, chances are it will accentuate the curve of the ball as it rolls, meaning you should aim higher above the hole than you would have in calm conditions
- If the wind is blowing strongly in the opposite direction of the break, it may cause the ball to curve less than it would in calm conditions, meaning you should aim lower towards the hole than you would have with no breeze
Make sure you take notice of how much the wind is affecting your ball on the first few holes you play, and allow for it when judging the break of putts for the rest of your round.
Suggested reading: Should you putt with a glove on?
What is the best golf ball for windy conditions?
When playing golf in the wind, you want a ball that has low spin through the air, but still spins and checks when it lands on the green.
I’ve done some research and reading online, and have found three good-quality golf balls that fit these criteria.
Callaway Chrome Soft
This is the ball that I’m playing at the moment, and I absolutely love it.
The Callaway Chrome Soft feels great off the club face but most importantly has low spin in flight, but responds brilliantly when landing on the green (it stops on a dime).
You have the advantage of it not being affected too much by wind through the air, but the benefit of spin upon landing – meaning you can fire at pins all day long with confidence, but also chip knowing the ball will stop quickly.
I’ve seen a lot of people use these balls at my local club, and everything I’ve read about the TaylorMade TP5X suggests it stands up extremely well in windy conditions.
They have a five-layer construction that helps the ball ‘explode’ off the tee, however the urethane cover mixed with the semi-rigid inner construction means the ball will spin less on long shots, but still give you plenty of control around the greens.
They also come at a good price too, which is a bonus!
Bridgestone E6 Soft
If you’re looking for a truly budget option, then the Bridgestone E6 Soft is probably your best bet.
Like other wind-friendly balls, they are low spin through the air meaning less curvature in flight.
While they won’t be as receptive around the greens at the Callaway Chrome Soft or TaylorMade TP5X, for their price they still give you a reasonable amount of control.
To play well in the wind, above all else you need exceptional control of your ball flight both off the tee and from the fairway, accompanied by good club selection.
If you can improve these areas of your game – and use a ball that is suited to gusty conditions – you will soon see yourself shooting lower and lower scores when it’s windy.