Controlling the golf ball in the wind

Published 15/11/2008 10:03:01

A shot struck perfectly into the wind should stay straight. But if you're a high handicapper, wind from any direction is likely to blow your ball off-line unless you adjust your technique. To play well in the wind you must understand the effect it has on the ball so you can reduce the damage.

Wind exaggerates spin. You have to strike cleanly because even a small mis-hit can be heavily penalized. For example, if you slice into a left-to-right wind the ball travels even further off-line than in normal conditions.

In windy weather you must prepare thoroughly for each shot or your game will (literally) be blown apart. You need to assess the wind's strength and direction, select the most suitable club for the stroke and make changes to your set-up and technique.


Assess The Wind


The simplest way of assessing the strength and direction of the wind is to throw a few blades of grass into the air and notice how they are blown. Check how the flag on the green is flying - if you're in a sheltered position, see if the tops of the trees or bushes are moving and how strongly.

Whatever the direction of the wind, it's often a good idea to play the ball low. If the land is flat and the lie is good, try to run the ball along the ground for as long as possible. The higher you hit the ball, the more it's affected by the wind. Wind currents are stronger higher up, and hedges, bushes and trees give shelter at ground level.

If the wind is against you, a low stroke travels further and straighter than a high shot because of the reduced wind resistance nearer the ground.

With a following wind, your ball is certain to fly further than usual. Make sure that hazards such as bunkers you can't normally reach are not now in range - if they are, clud down to play safe and keep control.


Cross Winds


Make adjustments in your alignment to use the wind to your advantage. For example, with a right-to-left wind, aim your shot right of the target and let the ball move back towards the flag on the wind currents. How far or left you have to aim really depends on the strength of the wind. This is a skill you pick up with practice - though even Tiger Woods & co. get it wrong from time to time!

Because the most common error in a player's game is a slice, a left-to-right wind causes extra problems for a right-hander. A left-handed player finds wind blowing from the right more difficult.


Hitting The Shot


Take care over your club selection. Depending on the strength of a wind that's against you, you may have to take up to three clubs more than normal to make up the distance.

Make sure you strike cleanly by reducing the length of your swing to three-quarter or even half - but again be guided by the wind's strength. Don't try to gain extra distance by hitting harder - it severely reduces your chances of playing a good shot.

If you decide to hit the ball low under the wind, you must make changes to your set-up and swing. Grip the club about 2 inches further down the shaft to increase your control and feel of the clubface.

Take up a slightly narrower stance than normal. This automatically reduces the length and power of your swing and helps you to make a clean strike. Stay calm and think positive before you start your swing.

There's no need to change your regular ball position when using a wood. But with an iron place the ball slightly nearere your right foot than usual. This ensure impact is on the downstroke which lessens the loft and keeps the ball low. Keep your head still through impact and concentrate on shifting your weight to your left side as you swing through.


Mental Approach


Try to keep good tempo and rhythm at all times. Because the game is more difficult in the wind and scores get higher, many golfers increase the speed of their swing in a vain attempt to hit the ball harder and further. This only makes matters worse. You must keep a cool head and accept that your total will be higher than average.

Concentrate on making a smooth swing and have a confidence in your game plan. Take your time when selecting your club and don't rush your set-up and stroke.


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