Playing a downwind golf shot can be tricky. Hitting into the wind is often frustrating. But the crosswind may be the toughest breeze of all.
Unlike hitting with the wind at your back or in your face, playing through a strong crosswind isn’t a simple matter of changing clubs and maybe tweaking your technique. A sideways wind turns aiming into a guessing game, may or may not affect your club selection, and can cause huge havoc on a slight miscue.
Of course, a crosswind can be a great advantage in the right situation – but only if you’re prepared for it. We’ve got several tips that will boost your odds:
- Go with your normal shot: A crosswind gives you two options – curve the ball into the wind, or curve it with the wind. Unless you’re an advanced golfer with the skill to shape shots in either direction, your best bet is to go with your natural shot. If you typically hit a fade (left-to-right curve for a right-hander), aim farther left in a left-to-right wind; aim straight at the target in a right-to-left breeze, letting the two forces cancel each other out.
- Play a runner that rides the crosswind: The situation – left-to-right wind, flag on the right, no hazards guarding the green’s front left. Opportunity knocks. Play it correctly and the wind will take your ball straight to the hole. Aim well left and set up for a straight shot or slight fade, with the goal of landing the ball just short and left of the green. Then watch the wind work its magic. Always look for spots where the green is open on the side from which the wind is blowing.
- Take more club if fighting wind, less club going with it: If you decide to hit a shot that curves into the wind, take an extra club as the wind will increase the ball’s backspin, knock it down and minimize roll. Conversely, play less club when your shot matches the wind direction as backspin is diminished and the ball will fly and roll farther.
- Find the safest spot to miss: The first thing to assess is whether the wind is blowing toward or away from trouble. If the answer is “toward,” you’ll want to aim as far as possible from the hazard to make absolutely certain you don’t find it. Wind blowing away from trouble? Take a more aggressive line and trust the wind to steer the ball toward safety.
Want more tips for battling a crosswind? Check out Part II of this feature.