shots in the wind 3

Few golfers enjoy playing into a headwind, and a tailwind isn't always the blessing it may seem to be. But the crosswind, whether left-to-right or right-to-left, can cause some of golf's biggest headaches.

Advanced shotmakers usually have two options when facing a crosswind: Play the ball to the side of the target from which the wind is blowing (e.g. aim to the right in a right-to-left wind) and let the wind blow it back online, or aim at the target with a shot that curves into the wind (a fade against a right-to-left wind).

Most golfers are better off sticking with their normal, natural shot. For example, let's say you tend to draw the ball. If the wind is blowing right to left, it will push a draw that much father left. You'll need to aim well right of the target to compensate. In a left-to-right wind, play the ball at the target, letting the wind “straighten” its flight.

When facing tough conditions, it's usually best to play the shot you're most comfortable with, rather than attempt to pull off a technique that reduces your chance of making solid contact – the No. 1 key to good results when it's blowing.

Trust Your Natural Shot in a Crosswind

Trust Your Natural Shot in a Crosswind

Playing golf on a windy day is no easy task. As soon as you get out of your car in the parking lot and find that the wind is blowing, you will know you are in for a battle. That isn't to say that it's impossible to play good golf in the wind – it's not – but you will have to play your best to do so. All of your mistakes are going to be amplified when you make an error in the wind, so it's important to be on your game right from the very first shot of the day.

In this article, we are going to talk about the toughest wind condition of all to handle – the crosswind. Many players are led to believe that playing into the wind is the toughest situation, but that really isn't the case. When playing into the wind, you do lose distance, but that loss is counteracted by the ease with which you will be able to stop your shots. Sure, it can be tough to produce a good shot into the breeze, but most experienced players agree that a crosswind is a more daunting proposition.

When playing a shot through a crosswind, you have to make a number of accurate judgements. First, of course, you have to judge how much the wind is going to push the ball from side to side. This can be tricky, as the strength of the wind is going to vary based on how high you hit the shot. Also, you may lose some of your ability to stop the shot when playing in a crosswind, so you'll have to plan for that change as well. Hitting drives in a crosswind is a mild challenge, but you can usually get over this hurdle without too much trouble. It is really the approach shots where this situation begins to be problematic.

The advice we offer up in this article is designed to help you play better golf in a crosswind. Depending on the style of game you play, and the type of courses you frequent, it may be necessary to tailor the advice in this article to meet your needs. Of course, that is always the case in golf. You can't just take advice and apply it directly to your game without first thinking it through. It is always best to carefully consider any instructional advice you are given, think about what it would mean for your game, and then proceed as you see fit.

It needs to be noted that your attitude is going to play a big role in your success or failure while playing in the wind. If you automatically 'give in' to the breeze before the round even starts, you will have no chance to post a good score. You need to look forward to taking on this challenge, rather than trying to run in the other direction. By taking a positive attitude with you to the first tee, you just might be able to turn in one of the best rounds of your life.

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.

Basic Guidelines

Basic Guidelines

To get started, we need to outline some basic guidelines which will help you have success in windy conditions. These tips are specific to shots that you play in a crosswind, however many of them apply to other wind conditions as well. It takes time and experience to become a quality wind player, but these tips should help you get a head start toward that goal.

  • Swing softly. This is something of a 'golden rule' when it comes to playing in the wind. Whenever the wind is up, you should focus on making soft, controlled swings. Unfortunately, most golfers do just the opposite of this tip. Instead of swinging softer, they swing harder, trying to force the ball through the breeze and to the target. That is a plan that just isn't going to work. You can't overpower Mother Nature, so don't even try. By swinging soft, you can work with the wind to help your ball find its way to the right spot. It can be hard to teach yourself to adopt this approach, but it is an important step in your development as a player.
  • Play the ball closer to the ground. You probably could have guessed that this tip was going to appear on the list. When playing in the wind, it only makes sense to keep the ball down closer to the turf. If you choose to hit the ball high, you will encounter a couple problems. First, the ball will be in the air for a longer period of time, meaning the wind will have more of an opportunity to affect its flight. Also, a high shot is a shot with a lot of spin, meaning the wind is going to be able to affect the shot more severely. In the end, it is nearly impossible to control high shots when you play them on a windy day. Learn how to keep the ball down in the breeze and your results are going to improve.
  • Play to big targets. Most amateur golfers go wrong on this point. Not only do you need to make some basic adjustments to your technique in the wind, you need to adjust your strategy as well. That means aiming to bigger targets to account for the fact that you aren't going to be as accurate in the breeze. Don't place unrealistic expectations on yourself by trying to hit small targets despite the presence of a crosswind. Be patient and aim away from the hole when necessary in order to keep your ball safe. A big part of playing well in the wind comes down to simplifying your game, and picking out safer targets will go a long way toward making the game simple. You can still be aggressive when the course gives you an opportunity, but play it safe anytime there are risks involved in picking a small target.
  • Be patient. Above all else, simply bringing plenty of patience with you to the golf course is a great way to play well in the wind. This kind of round is going to be a challenge, and you are certain to have some struggles along the way. Playing in the wind isn't about trying to put together a perfect round on golf. Rather, it is about finding a way to keep your ball out of trouble from tee to green. Do your best to stay away from penalty strokes, keep your ball on the short grass as often as possible, and lean on your short game to make up for any long game struggles. It is often the golfer with the greatest reserve of patience who will wind up succeeding when all is said and done.

Playing in the wind is hard work. You aren't just going to cruise through this type of round, hitting standard shots right at the flag time after time. If you hope to post a good score, you are going to have to work hard and have a little bit of good fortune along the way. If you can stick with the basic guidelines listed above, you should have a leg up on the competition.

Sticking with Your Game

Sticking with Your Game

The title of this article alludes to sticking with your regular game in the wind, and that is what we are going to address in this section. Is it a good idea to just hit your normal shots and hope for the best, or should you try to produce a shot that is specific to the situation at hand in all circumstances? Generally speaking, you will be best-served to just stick with your natural shot when playing in a crosswind. It is too difficult to create unique shots based on the wind at hand – particular for the amateur golfer. With that said, there are ways in which you can alter your approach while still using your normal ball flight to come up with a shot that has a great chance to succeed.

For the purposes of this example, let's imagine that your natural shot shape is a slight draw from right to left. That might not actually be the case for you, but it doesn't really matter. If you tend to hit a draw instead of a fade, just reverse the discussion below. Let's look at how you can use a standard draw shot when playing in a crosswind.

  • Ride the breeze. If the wind is coming from the right, you are just going to allow it to increase the size of your draw. You will now be hitting a shot that moves significantly from right to left, so it will be necessary to aim farther to the right than you would normally. Playing this type of shot is going to require plenty of air space, so you might have to look for another option if there are trees in your way. Assuming trees aren't a problem, just aim farther out to the right and then make your usual swing. It is important to remember that you don't need to add any additional draw to the ball just because you have aimed farther right. Instead, make your normal swing and let the wind do the rest.
  • Straighten things out. Of course, if the wind is coming from the left instead of the right, you can actually hit an even easier shot. The strength of the breeze will counteract some of your draw, so you should be able to hit a relatively straight shot in the end. Play for less draw than usual – or no draw at all if the wind is particularly strong – and again make your normal swing. No matter which side of the fairway the wind happens to be coming from, it is important to remember to make your normal swing. You have to trust that the wind is going to have the desired impact on your shots in this situation. That won't always be the case, but you have to trust it anyway.
  • Take one extra club. Regardless of which direction the wind is coming from, you'll want to take one extra club so you can swing easy on these shots. If you stick with your normal club and make a hard swing, the ball is going to sail high in the air and the wind will be able to take it far off line. You don't want to have to aim way off to the side of the target to let the wind push your ball all the way back. Using an extra club and swinging easy will allow you to play a lower shot, minimizing the effects of the wind. Once you get into this habit, your club selection in these situations will become automatic. You will find the distance, determine the right club on a calm day, and add one for the wind.

When the wind blows, golf gets harder. You probably already knew that to be true, and it should be quite evident by this point in the article. So, in the face of an increased challenge, the last thing you want to do is make dramatic changes to your golf game. That would only serve to take the challenge you are facing to an even higher level. Instead, keep your game as normal as possible to raise your comfort level. By playing stock shots and just adjusting your aim and club selection for the wind, you will position yourself for positive outcomes.