read the wind

Professional golfers can get downright obsessive about the wind. Of course, when the slightest gust can make a quarter-million dollar difference in your paycheck, that’s understandable.

Wind tends to affect the better golfer more than a novice or high-handicapper, because skilled players hit higher shots that spend more time in the air. Unless you hit one ground ball after another, though, you should pay at least a little attention to what the wind is doing.

The most common trick is to toss a small handful of grass into the air to confirm the wind’s direction and force. However, this only tells you what’s happening where you’re standing. What’s the wind doing between you and the target?

If you’re playing an approach to the green, look at the flag. If it’s still or barely moving, it may be blocked by surrounding trees – look at their tops for additional clues. Keep an eye out for nearby flagpoles, even give the clouds a brief glance to determine the wind’s general pattern.

Here’s another tip that will help you throughout a round: Note the direction of the wind at the clubhouse or the first hole, then open your scorecard to the graphic course layout depiction (included on most cards). Lightly draw an arrow on the layout to match the wind’s direction, then refer to the card any time you’re uncertain.

A final note: Unless you’re a pro or an amateur with a single-digit handicap, don’t spend more than a few seconds gauging the breeze. You’ll only slow down play, and likely draw a few eye rolls from your playing partners.