How Many Yards Do You Lose in Winter Golf?
By Bradley Turner, Keiser University College of Golf Director of Online Golf Instruction – MBA, PGA
Golf in the winter is a unique challenge that many golfers around the world will soon face. Old Man Winter will close many northern golf courses for months, but winter golf is possible for other facilities. Avid golfers will take every opportunity to bring out their golf clubs whenever the weather allows them to get outside and play. While the course conditions are less than desirable, golfers will brave the cold, wind, and rain to swing the clubs and putt on bumpy greens. One of the most significant adjustments in winter golf is the loss of yardage on shots due to various playing conditions. This article will explore the impact of cold weather on ball flight and provide strategies for golfers to mitigate these conditions.
Winter Golf Course Conditions
When the golf course is open for play during the winter, the course is typically softer due to the rain or even snow. This reduces the roll of the golf ball on tee shots and approach shots to the green. The green conditions are not conducive to great putting, creating additional barriers to good scoring. Winter golf is often accompanied by cold and windy conditions, further reducing the distance the ball will travel. Accepting the difficult course and weather conditions is an important step in your enjoyment of winter golf.
The Science Behind the Ball Flight
Cold temperatures in the winter can significantly impact the distance a golf ball travels in the air. When the mercury drops, the ball becomes denser, which makes it harder to compress the golf ball, leading to a decrease in distance. Air density is another variable that leads to decreased distance. Cold air is denser than warm air, creating more resistance and drag on the golf ball as it travels in the air. A dense, cold air can lead to a loss of two yards for each 10-degree Fahrenheit increment of change. On hot summer days, most golfers experience their longest drives because hot air is less dense, ideal for golf ball performance. As temperatures rise, golfers can experience a two-yard increase in distance for every 10-degree increase in temperature.
Additional Factors that Reduce Yardage
Your body also contributes to a loss of club head speed as it works to keep you warm. Once you begin to shiver, the flexibility in the golf swing is compromised. If you are dressed in layers, you will likely lose additional arm swing, reducing clubhead speed. Finally, your golf fitness is going to be different than mid-summer form, where you may be playing multiple times a week and spending some time on the practice range. Your golf muscles need exercise to function at their peak. One study suggests that you can lose five mph of clubhead speed in cold weather conditions. This means that with a driver, you will lose about 10-13 yards in distance simply because you can’t swing the club as fast as you can when you are in peak summer conditions.
Quantifying the Yardage Loss
What does this all tell us about yardage loss in winter golf? For example, if an average golfer with neutral launch angle conditions swings a driver at 100 mph in ideal 72-degree weather conditions, the ball will travel about 240 yards in the air and, with average roll, add another 18 yards for a total distance of 258 yards. In winter golf conditions of 42 degrees, the golfer will likely experience a loss of club head speed of five mph (-10 yards), cold and dense air will further reduce the distance (-6 yards), and the ball will likely roll very little if any (-18 yards). This 34-yard loss in the distance with a driver results in a well-struck tee shot that only travels 224 yards versus the summertime distance of 258 yards.
Strategies to Mitigate the Effect of Cold Weather Golf
Managing expectations in winter golf is a must, as every golfer will experience a loss of distance under less-than-ideal course conditions. Here are some mitigation strategies to optimize your performance in winter golf:
Dressing in layers is a must if your body is going to perform at its peak. A warm hat and gloves should be standard equipment for winter golf enthusiasts. There is plenty of high-tech outerwear that provides improved flexibility yet keeps you protected from the elements. In addition, a quality rain suit is a must for northern golfers.
Prepare Your Equipment
This one is easy. Keep your golf clubs inside the house the night before you plan on playing. Do not keep your clubs in the garage or the trunk of your car. Freezing temperatures will affect the performance of your steel-shafted golf clubs. The golf balls will perform better at higher temperatures, too.
If you typically use a 7-iron from 150 yards, you will need, at minimum, a 6-iron to get the ball to the flagstick. Under very cold conditions, you might need two more clubs than normal. Golfers need to respond to the weather conditions, not their ego on how far they can hit a golf ball. Also, play up a tee box, which will make the day more enjoyable.
This is a great idea if you want to perform your best. It is surprising what a good walk on a cold day can do to get the blood flowing and keep you warm. If you have ever skied cross country, it is amazing how easy it is to build up a sweat on a 20-degree day. Riding in a golf cart will only contribute to your body experiencing the negative effects of the cold weather conditions.
Go to your local Home Depot or Lowes and pick up a box of hand warmers, which will keep your hands warm for up to 10 hours. This technology is a no-brainer for winter golfers.
Winter golf presents unique challenges to golfers who choose to brave the cold weather conditions. Factors such as temperature, wind, course conditions, and reduced roll all contribute to a different golf experience than mid-summer golf. Understanding the science behind these factors allows a golfer to adapt to the weather and mitigate the effect of winter golf. With the right pre-round preparation, adequate outerwear, and strategic adjustments to their game, golfers can still enjoy golf and make the most of their rounds, even in less-than-ideal weather conditions. A warm libation after a winter round of golf is almost as good as a cold one in July. It’s not quite as good, but it’s a perfect reward after a round of winter golf.
Want more tips? If you want to take your game to the next level, contact our team at Keiser University’s College of Golf & Sport Management today. With our dedication and experience, together, we can elevate your game to new heights. Give us a call today at 888-355-4465.