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How to Play Golf in the Wind

By Craig Berman

Windy weather shouldn’t keep a golfer from hitting the links, but it does make playing 18 holes more challenging. Golfers have to adjust their swing and strategy depending on the severity of the wind, and whether it’s at their backs or blowing into their face. It’s possible to take advantage of the weather, but for most golfers the goal is simply to limit the negative effect on scores.

Playing Into the Wind

When the wind is blowing into your face, it’s natural to want to swing even harder to force the ball through the air faster. That’s the wrong approach, as it leads to increased backspin and skied balls that drift in the wind and fall short of the target. Instead, take an extra club or two from what you’d normally use – like a five-iron instead of a six-iron – and swing at 75 percent or 80 percent of your usual speed. Place the ball an inch farther back in your stance and stay on top of the ball to keep it from popping up, and choke up an inch or two on the club to stiffen the shaft and increase your control..

When The Wind's At Your Back

Having a significant wind at your back may make even a high-handicap golfer feel like a pro based the increased distance, but it brings its own challenges. Higher shots will be impacted more than lower ones, which means that pitch onto the green becomes a greater challenge than a fairway wood. Adjust your short irons to allow for that extra length. Your shots won’t come to a halt on the fairway or green as they would normally, so allow for that extra distance when making your approach.

Crosswind Challenges

A right-to-left or left-to-right crosswind forces golfers to make adjustments as well. One approach is to hit the ball into the direction the wind is blowing and allow that force to push the ball back to your target. For example, if a strong wind is blowing across the fairway right to left, you’d hit the ball to the right of where you hope it will land, trusting the gusts to push it back to the fairway. Those confident in their abilities to hit a draw or a fade can hit those shots that will curve into the wind. A draw, for example, can turn into a straight shot when played in a right-to-left wind.

Play Strategically

Heavy winds test your mind as well as your shot-making ability. A par 3 hole can become a challenging par 4 when there’s a two-club wind in your face, while a par 5 may seem a tempting target to reach the green in two when the wind’s at your back. Take the conditions into account when planning how you'll attack a hole. For example, not all holes on a golf course allow you to survive keeping the ball low, so playing into the wind requires some adjustments if you have to hit over a grove of trees to reach the green. You may have to force your shot to draw or fade, or try to find a different path to the hole.

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