I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “When it’s breezy, swing easy.” While the saying gets overused anytime it’s windy on the course, it’s one of the best techniques to play golf in the wind.
In the US, most parts of the country don’t get nearly the wind they do in the motherland of golf. Over the pond, windy and cold conditions are part of the norm of an everyday round.
But if you’re in the states, chances are you don’t get much wind unless you play close to the ocean or in the midwest. And if you don’t practice much in the wind, it’s really hard to keep your game together once it gets breezy.
Let’s face it, if you’re like most golfers you don’t like wind…unless it’s behind you on a par 5 that you can now reach in two. Otherwise, wind can make golf even harder and beat your ball down and/or make it go farther offline.
But your struggles are going to be over once you read this post. Here’s everything you need to learn about playing golf in the wind.
The next time you head out and it’s windy or a storm starts heading your way on the course, I want to make sure you are prepared. I want you to love the wind so you can keep your game together while other players crumble.
Here are the best tips and tricks to play golf in the wind.
If you don’t read the wind correctly, none of these tips will matter. Sometimes you can feel the breeze but see the flag not moving at all. It’s important to throw grass in the air when you approach your shot. But don’t just use that as wind barometer, you also should look at treetops near you.
If you’re playing an open course, you’re going to feel the effects of the wind more. If you’re playing a more heavily wooded course, you might not feel it as much. Make sure you know which direction and how strong the wind is before selecting a club.
The biggest mistake people make when hitting into a headwind is swinging too hard.
I understand why you’re trying to do it but it’s not the solution. You’re probably thinking, “The wind is coming at me 10 mph then I need to swing harder and maybe club up to get there.”
This actually makes things worse, much worse.
Because spin is your mortal enemy when hitting into the wind. The harder you hit your ball, the more backspin it will generate. When you have more speed, the ball will fly higher and thus, be more affected by the wind.
The next time the gusts are blowing in your face, try making a smooth, controlled swing at about 70-80% of your normal speed.
Swinging easier will produce less spin and keep the ball flying lower.
This lower flight will allow your shot to pierce through the wind and not be nearly as affected.
This is why so many American players struggle when playing in Europe. Golf in the United States rewards shots that fly high and land soft while European pros focus on keeping shots low.
Club selection is huge when you’re playing in the wind:
- If hitting an approach shot, check your distance with a gps or rangefinder.
- If the wind is blowing into your face around 10 mph (with your best guess) you should club up at least one club.
- More than 10 mph, you should club up two or even three clubs.
Yes, this will feel awkward playing a club you normally hit 10-30 yards farther than the distance to the green. But don’t let your testosterone get in the way and ruin your game. So many amateur golfers try to muscle up, swing hard, hit it high and end up way short.
If the wind is behind you, then you’ll want to club down 1-3 clubs depending on the strength of the wind. The biggest factor when choosing your club with wind is understanding where the trouble is. Remember, golf is a game of misses, play for the miss by knowing where you can and can’t miss on your approach.
The next step for playing in the wind is choking down one inch on the club. Choking down will give you a bit more control of the club and help stiffen your shaft. A stiffer shaft will whip less on the downswing and generate less clubhead speed. This will help keep the ball lower and have less spin.
This is also a good tip if your game is struggling and can’t seem to find the face if your life depending on it. Choking up can give you confidence by bringing more control into your game.
The last tip is to play the ball an inch farther back than normal in your stance. Read this again, one inch, not all the way in the back of your stance. Another huge mistake that so many amateur golfers make is they put the ball way too far back in attempts to keep the ball low. But if the ball is too far back you won’t have the right bottoming out point resulting in some chunky misses.
At address, you also want to squat a little more for stability. When the wind is blowing hard, you want to make sure you have a stable base to turn around and complete your swing.
And you don’t need a full swing. Make a three-quarter swing, and try to stay more on top of the golf ball. A good way to think of it is to feel like your nose is ahead of the ball at impact.
You want your right hip and shoulder to stay high through impact position. This will help you compress the golf ball and keep it piercing through the wind.
The last major thing to do it to finish low. You don’t want some full wrap around finish when hitting into the wind.
Remember this, finish low and hit it low. Finish high, hit it high.
An abbreviated follow through will ensure your ball isn’t affected nearly as much by the wind. Try to feel like you’re not going past your rib cage on the follow through.
Here’s a great video to show you how to flight the ball lower and not let the wind affect your shot nearly as much:
The biggest thing to remember is that it’s about staying in control. A more stable base will allow you to only take a ¾ backswing and ¾ follow through. And by choking up an inch you’ll have more control and hit it straighter.
Technically not a knockdown shot, Tiger’s Stinger Shot is a great option to have in your bag on a windy day.
Now that you know how to play in the wind, you have to pick your wind strategy. There are two ways to play the wind. Depending on your skill level and shot preference you might play a variety of the two. If you’re playing with a crosswind you can choose to ride it out or fight it.
According to Golf Digest, “The late Payne Stewart advocated riding the wind with the driver to get maximum carry and distance, but to curve the ball into the wind on iron shots and other approaches for better control.”
For example, if Payne was teeing off in a strong left-right wind on the tee shot, he would intentionally aim farther left and play a power fade. It helped he knew his game and trusted his ability to shape shots too.
Others play against the wind and try to fight it.
For example, if it’s a left to right wind, some players advocate hitting a power draw to hit relatively straight. Again, this is going to depend on your own personal skills, shot shape, and where the trouble is on the specific shot.
And remember, in the wind, straight shots don’t exist. The wind is going to take the ball a little or a lot off your intended target line, depending on the strength of the wind. However, if you absolutely need a straight shot, trying fighting the wind.
Use these last few tips to start playing better when it’s windy.
Most golfers can’t pull off the patented Tiger stinger. But here’s how you can keep it low off the tee with a driver or fairway wood:
- Tee it low and choke up one inch.
- Have a slightly narrow stance.
- Commit to the target. Don’t try to guide the shot, this will result in big misses!
- Swing smooth without trying to hit it like a long drive contest (unless it’s downwind).
The next time conditions aren’t great, get out there and practice! If you never practice in wind, how do you expect to play good in it?
One important tip, practice only if you’re hitting into the wind and it’s blowing from the right.
Because when you hit into the wind your misses are magnified. By practicing in these conditions, you can quickly learn your miss and make a correction. And a right to left wind won’t blow your slices even farther right which make some bad habits out on the range.
While wind primarily affects the longer, higher shots of your game, it can also affect shots around and on the green. For chipping, opt for more bump and runs than high flop shots. If you do need to pitch it, make sure to swing smooth and keep the finish low.
For putting, make sure that you have a wider base over the ball. You want a stable base standing over the golf ball so you can make the putts when you need them most.
Learning to play golf in the wind is a valuable asset to put in your toolkit. If you can master the wind, learn to play in rainy conditions, and how to survive cold weather golf you will have a huge advantage over your competition.
Lastly, make sure to stay patient out there. It’s easy to get flustered and frustrated when it’s windy and it feels like the ball is going nowhere.
But getting mad and swinging harder isn’t going to help anything, it’s only making it worse.
Remember to evaluate the wind, choke up an inch, swing smooth, and finish low. Hopefully, these little tips will help you gain confidence and play great when the conditions get tough.