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3 ways weather affects the sport of golf

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
June 11, 2019, 12:23:55 PM EDT

Whether it's the final round of the Masters or just a group of friends playing a round at their local country club, weather can make the already-challenging game of golf even more difficult for players of all skill levels.

Josh Doxtator, PGA professional and general manager of Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan, told AccuWeather that weather plays a significant role in the playability of a course.

Here are three ways weather can impact a round of golf.

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Officials walk the fairway on the first hole while checking course conditions as play is suspended due to inclement weather during the final round of the Regions Tradition Champions Tour golf tournament Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Air temperature affects ball flight

A warm summer afternoon is likely to make a significant difference in how far a ball travels in the air, compared to a cooler fall day when the air is denser.

According to golf equipment manufacturer Titleist, "colder air increases both the lift and drag forces acting on the ball, which results in a slightly higher and shorter trajectory."

Titleist says that a distance loss of 1.5% can occur per a 20-degree Fahrenheit reduction in temperature. According to the company, on a day where it's 50 F versus 70 F, a 200-yard shot could lose about 3 yards of distance.

"There’s no question that the golf ball flies farther in warm, dry conditions," Doxtator said.

Lower temperatures also require more layers of clothing, which can result in a more restricted swing, he added.

"The best way to prepare for this type of weather is to force yourself to play and practice in colder temperatures when most people choose not to," Doxtator said.

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A wet course vs. a dry course can impact where you want to place a shot

How a golfer will choose to attack a certain hole can be dependent on the saturation levels of the course.

A more wet or saturated turf can impact a golfer's shot distance as the ball tends to stick more on the soft ground as opposed to a firm, fast turf which lets the ball run farther.

"Driving a club through wet grass can be tough, not to mention the fact that moisture can impact the spin on the golf ball," Doxtator said.

Wet conditions also open the door to “mud balls,” according to Doxtator, where pieces of debris stick to golf balls when they land. These conditions make the game more challenging and will have a direct impact on the outcome of a player’s shot.

The speed of a course can often be most notable on the greens, when a golfer is attempting a putt.

During the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, the greens played extremely fast, and became a major storyline of the tournament.

At one point, the United States Golf Association, even had to issue an apology because of the playability of the course.

rory rain

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, walks up the 13th hole in the rain during the third round at the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Wind: The invisible hazard

Wind can often be the great X-factor in golf and in this applies for some locations more than others.

The style and location of a golf course can determine just how challenging winds can become. One example is Chambers Bay Golf Course, a links-style course and the site of the 2015 U.S. Open, which sits along the shores of Puget Sound in University Place, Washington.

The course's website says the landscape of the area was naturally sculpted by weather over time before the course was even constructed.

At Chambers Bay, the wind, which is described as the "invisible hazard," can frequently change direction by the day or by the hour, meaning a golfer during the morning may play the hole differently than a golfer during the afternoon. In fact, the third hole of the course was named "Blown Out" as a tribute to the swirling and stiffening winds.

What sets the best golfers apart from the rest is how they remain consistent during windy rounds, Doxtator said.

"This is difficult as balance is key in the golf swing and maintaining balance becomes more difficult in gusty conditions," he said.

When in doubt, Doxtator said golfers should remember the phrase "when it's breezy, swing it easy."

"For some reason, when we’re faced with a challenging wind, we tend to swing harder and muscles tense, causing a loss of balance and ultimately a poor outcome," he said.

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