Playing golf in the wind can be extremely difficult for most golfers. Check out our complete guide how to feel more comfortable on a windy day and use the wind to benefit your golf game.
Hitting the Ball Downwind
Most golfers love hitting with the wind at their back, knowing the ball will go farther if they do everything right. Trouble is, they often do things wrong. It may seem counterintuitive, but the trick to hitting a golf shot downwind is to swing harder, not softer. That’s because without the increased spin generated by a well-struck shot, versus an indifferent one, the wind will knock the ball down, not carry it great distances.
Of course, many golfers think that they should save all their energy and strength for a swing into the wind, and therefore muscle the ball. That’s wrong too, and we’ll cover that one in a moment.
For the golf shot downwind, you might consider playing the ball slightly back if it gives you more confidence about making good contact. But the best advise we can give for most golfers is to assume their normal ball position- depending on the club you are playing – and take a full swing.
This advise applies for any shot from a driver through the pitching wedge, although a 3 wood is a better option off the tee for most golfers. The loft on the fairway wood gets the ball higher into the air, and thus the wind can take it farther.
Keep in mind that hitting downwind- when you use the right technique- has other benefits as well. Although the wind will not straighten out a slice or snap hook, it will greatly help a well-struck, normal flying shot go farther and straighter.
Hitting into the Wind
As we said earlier, most golfers think they have to overpower this shot. Or they put the ball back in their stance, thinking that will keep it under the wind, and then try to over-control their shot.
Here’s some news: you want the ball in the same position you use for a normal shot- or just slightly back- while you put your weight slightly forward. Now take one more club and swing with 75 percent of the speed you would for a regular shot. Think, “when it’s breezy, swing easy”.
Did you get that? We want you to swing less hard into the wind. Not harder. Again, this might seem counterintuitive to some golfers, but we are telling you to dial down your speed from your usual pace. Of course, that also naturally shortens your swing, so go with it, and think in terms of making only a three-quarter swing.
Now, for some highly skilled golfers, this is a shot where they can be really aggressive through the ball. However, for most golfers, the better advice is to focus on making the smoothest swing possible, so you don’t apply to much spin.
Think of it this way: if you were looking down at a golfer from a high camera position, you would assume that it is always best to put the ball where the face will catch it square at impact, as with any shot. But if the golfer puts the ball too far back, the club face will be open to the target at impact, and the ball will go right, or at least start to the right. The result might be a big push.
Now focus on the arc of the golfer’s swing. If the ball is too far back in the stance, you can also easily see how inside-to-out the club is traveling when it meets the ball- while the face is too far closed to the club path- and the result is a big hook.
That’s why we think it’s in the interest of most golfers to move the ball back just slightly for the golf shot into the wind, or to keep it where they normally would, and then swing with 75 percent of their usual speed. Remember, one of the things that creates backspin is speed. The harder you hit it, the more backspin you create. That’s why you want to swing hard downwind.
But into the wind, we want you to swing less hard so you put less backspin on the ball, and it will stay under the wind. Anytime you create backspin, the wind will shoot the ball into the air. It’s not uncommon to see golfers try to hit knockdown shots by putting the ball way back in their stance, and then swing really hard, with the result being an “upshooter”. Yes, the ball rise straight up in the air and then go nowhere.
So, remember, the approach for this shot is the opposite of what you should do hitting downwind. The real secret is not putting the ball back, or keeping the weight a bit forward, it’s taking some speed off the shot.
What about hitting into the wind from the tee? We could say that it’s good idea to tee the ball a bit lower and try to swing more smoothly and in balance. But the best advise is probably to just swing a t a normal pace. The truth is, into the wind, even with a driver, the ball isn’t going very far, and it’s tough enough for most golfers to hit the fairway in normal conditions. Plus, it’s difficult for most golfers to stomach the idea of swinging slower, because they think the ball will go shorter.
Perhaps the better way to put it is to use the classic line, and advise most golfers to try and “swing within themselves”
Hitting Ball in the Crosswind
For the average to better player, the best image we can provide for crosswinds is to think in terms of banking a shot up into the wind. For a left-to-right wind, try to take a little speed off the swing and hit a little draw. This time, you can put the ball a bit back in your stance, and move your weight forward. Take one extra club, and make a three-quarter swing up into the wind.
The ball will not hook very much because the wind is blowing against the right-to-left curve of a draw. We like to think of this as a conservatively aggressive shot. Burt make sure you take that three-quarter swing so you have some control.
The shot is aggressive in the sense that you can really give it a go, and you don’t have to worry about overdoing it.
In line with that, we like to tell our students to have control over the ball, not let Mother Nature control it for them.
In a right-to-left wind, the golfer is trying to cut the ball up into the wind, and hold it up there.Put the ball a bit forward in your stance, aim a little left, and again, take one extra club, and make a three-quarter swing. You don’t want to overpower this shot.
Again, this is a conservative play, because you are taking only a three-quarter swing, and you want to control it. But it’s aggressive because the wind will not allow the ball to over-cut. However, if you hit your normal shot, it’s anyone’s guess how far right to left the ball will go.
Now, what about more extreme conditions, when the wind is blowing 40 kph or more? Most golfers rarely face such a strong crosswind. But if they do, our advice is to switch your thinking and try to play your draw or fade with the wind.
In conclusion we want to say, that for better golfer, playing golf in the wind provides an ideal barometer of how good their ball striking is that day. The average golfer, however, might not have be able to solve such a riddle themselves. That’s why we wrote this article. We hope you take the lessons to heart.