Playing Golf In the Wind

Let the Wind be “Your Friend”

What makes golf one of the most challenging and enjoyable games to play is that every day is different. Some days will have ideal golf weather while others, less than ideal. And most likely, there will always be a variance of wind. Here are a few things to consider when playing in the wind.

  • Like we've discussed in previous tips, golf is largely a mental game. Managing a lot of the “internal” talk that goes on is instrumental to playing your best. And playing in the wind, is no exception. When you notice there is going to be lots of wind during your round, try to think positive. “Befriend” the wind.

  • One of the ways that the wind can be “your friend” is when you are playing golf down-wind. The holes will be much shorter with the extra push the wind provides, giving you a chance to get closer to the green and make a birdie.

  • Another way in which the wind will help you is it will act as a “buffer”. Let's say the wind is blowing strongly left-to-right on a par 4 hole. With the wind coming from the left, you can aim towards the left side of the fairway and swing confidently knowing the wind will bring it towards the middle or the right-hand side of the fairway. You can eliminate the fear of the ball going left.

  • Into the wind, realize the ball is going to fly shorter distances and have a tendency of “ballooning” into the air (losing even more distance). To offset this, take one or two more clubs and take a shorter swing. Taking more club does two things. It makes you swing smoother and it will create more of shallower approach into the ball, lessening the chance of a ballooning ball.

Playing Golf in the Wind

Playing Golf in the Wind

No matter where you live, it is always possible that you will arrive at the golf course to find that the wind is blowing strong enough to affect your game. Sure, some locations are more prone to windy conditions than others, but every course will see its fair share of breeze from time to time. With that in mind, it is important that all golfers know how to deal with wind effectively. It is certainly a challenge to post a good score on a windy day, but it is not impossible. With the information provided in this article, we hope to help you play at a high level even under such difficult conditions.

The first thing you need to know about playing golf in the wind is that it is crucial to embrace the challenge. Some golfers, when they find out that it is going to be a windy day, nearly give up on shooting a good score. They assume that the wind is going to make it impossible to play well, so they head out to the course with dramatically lowered expectations. The wind will make it more difficult to play well, but it is far from impossible. If you are willing to take a good attitude onto the course, and if you are willing to practice a few skills ahead of time, it is possible to rise to the occasion and play well in spite of the breeze.

Believe it or not, you may eventually come to enjoy playing in the wind. When the wind blows, you have to be more creative in order to have your ball reach its targets consistently. This additional challenge is part of the fun, as you will probably hit shots in the wind that you would never even try otherwise. In many ways, playing a course on a windy day is a completely different experience from playing that same course on a calm day. Learning how to deal with varying course conditions is one of your main jobs as a golfer, and there is no bigger variable on the course than wind.

In the article below, we are going to offer a variety of tips related to playing golf in the wind. Some of these tips are going to be physical in nature, while others will relate to the mental game. Instead of being like most other golfers, who don't prepare for the wind and simply hope it doesn't blow, you can separate yourself from the pack by learning how to meet this challenge head-on. Playing on a windy day is going to remain difficult even if you are prepared, but at least your preparation will give you a fighting chance to come away with a great round when all is said and done.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Some Basic Guidelines

Some Basic Guidelines

For experienced golfers, playing in the wind is something that comes second nature. With enough practice, you'll just be able to head out onto the course and make the right adjustments, without really even having to think about those adjustments. For a less-experienced golfer, however, it's not quite that easy. With perhaps just a few rounds of windy golf under your belt – if that – you might need a little help to get started in the right direction.

In this section, we have listed three key guidelines to understand when playing golf in the wind. Anytime you head to the first tee on a windy day, it will be a good idea to keep these tips in mind.

  • Keep the ball down. Okay – so you probably don't need much golf experience to understand this point. When the wind is blowing, it is in your best interest to keep the ball down as much as possible. If you choose to hit the ball high in the air, the wind is going to have a more profound effect on the flight of your shot – and anything can happen from that point. It is extremely difficult to predict how the wind is going to impact your ball flight, so even trying to use the wind to your benefit by hitting a high shot is a questionable option. When at all possible, take a relatively low path to the target in order to minimize the effect of the wind. This isn't going to take the wind completely out of play, of course, but it will go a long way toward helping you produce consistent results.
  • Swing softly. This is a huge key when playing in the wind, yet it is something that most golfers fail to understand. In order to keep your ball down and out of the wind, you need to limit the amount of spin that is placed on the ball. And, to keep your spin rate down, you need to swing softly. An aggressive swing is only going to lead to increased back spin, and a lot of back spin is sure to send your ball soaring up into the sky. This is a great way to play when the weather is calm, but you'll just be asking for trouble in the breeze. As a general rule of thumb, always try to play your shots with soft swings when the wind is blowing. You'll need to make an occasional exception, of course, but soft swings should be your default option. This is a hard lesson for many golfers to learn, since it feels like you need to 'fight back' against the wind by making a hard swing. That just isn't the case. You aren't going to win a fight against Mother Nature, so don't think that way. Instead, focus your attention on making soft, smooth swings that allow you to reach the target with as little interference from the wind as possible.
  • Play to big targets. Our last point in this section has to do with course management. On a windy day, it is smart to play to bigger targets than you would when the weather is calm. What does it mean to play to a 'big target'? Simple – you are going to choose targets that give you the biggest possible margin for error, just in case the wind decides to blow your ball in an unexpected direction. For example, imagine you are playing a tee shot on a par four where the fairway is guarded by water down the right side. On a calm day, you might still play down that right side, knowing you'll have a better angle to the green (in this imaginary scenario). However, on a windy day, it would probably be a better course of action to play down the left for safety. That way, if the wind pushes your ball a bit right, you still may be able to avoid the water. This same line of thinking can be applied to your approach shots, as well. Play smart by giving yourself big targets and you'll find it suddenly isn't so intimidating to play in the wind.

If you take away nothing else from this article, do your best to remember the three keys listed above. When playing golf on a windy day, try to keep the ball down, make soft swings, and play to big targets. If you can check those three boxes, you'll be well on your way to improved performance.

Adjusting Your Swing Mechanics

Adjusting Your Swing Mechanics

You don't want to make major changes to your swing technique just because the wind has picked up. You do, however, need to make a few basic adjustments to allow your swing to perform properly in these conditions. If you know that the wind is going to be blowing during a particularly round, spend a few minutes on the range before your round begins, working on the necessary adjustments. Then, when you hit the first tee, you'll be ready to start your round off nicely.

So, what kinds of swing adjustments should you be making when the wind begins to blow? Let's take a look.

  • Use a wider stance. This is a great place to start. At address, simply widen your stance by a couple of inches to provide yourself with a stronger base throughout the swing. The wind is going to try to push you off balance while you swing, but a wider stance should help you avoid that fate. Balance is critical in golf, and that is especially true when the wind blows. Move your feet just slightly farther apart when building your stance and you can be confident that your lower body will support you throughout the swinging action.
  • Make sure your knees are flexed. To be clear, you should always be using a comfortable amount of knee flex when taking your stance. So, in reality, this isn't so much of an adjustment as it is a reminder to check on this point before swinging the club. With plenty of knee flex in place, your stance should be stable – especially when you combine that knee flex with wider-than-usual foot placement. As the swing develops, make sure you don't give away the flex in your knees. It is common for golfers to stand up straight at the top of the backswing, for example, and that would be a mistake. Stay down in your stance while your body rotates back and through to hit the shot.
  • Keep it tight. You don't want to allow your backswing to go on and on when playing in the wind. Instead, you should focus on making a controlled, tight swing that will place an emphasis on clean ball striking. In other words, shorten your backswing slightly in these conditions and you should see improved results. You won't want to rush through your swing just because you shortened things up, however, so pay attention to maintaining a nice rhythm from start to finish.
  • Slow down your takeaway. Speaking of a nice rhythm, you can help yourself in this area by intentionally slowing down your takeaway a bit. In the wind, it is easy to get into a rush, as you'll feel like you are trying to beat the next big gust. It should go without saying that rushing your golf swing rarely leads to good results. As your swing gets started, make sure to move slowly through your takeaway, giving yourself an easy rhythm that you can use on through impact and into the finish.

As you can see, we aren't recommending any wholesale changes to your golf swing when playing in windy conditions. All of the adjustments you make should be subtle, yet when combined, they will have a big impact on your ability to strike the ball cleanly. During your next trip to the driving range, even if the wind isn't blowing, try out some of these adjustments just to build your confidence. Then, the next time the wind does come up, you'll be ready for the challenge.