I always take the weather into consideration when thinking about my game plan. Cold and raining = stay home. Sunny and warm = break out the shorts. Windy = just play the downwind holes. The problem is the weather variables keep changing.
In April it was sunny and dry but very chilly. The UK had the lowest average minimum temperatures since 1922. Then May was the fourth wettest for the UK and Wales broke the record for the wettest May since records began. June has been a lot drier, notching up 28C in some parts, but thunderstorms are on the horizon. So, have these changing conditions impacted my golf? Absolutely.
I check three forecasts before a round. Why? Because 1. I’m a bit nerdy and 2. they tend to have different forecasting approaches to local weather based on real-time radar tracking and different predictive models. But overall there are a few weather things on my weather tick list I pay attention to.
Windy or calm?
Wind direction and strength are important so I can plan the most appropriate shot for the hole in advance. I’ll allow for longer drive yardage downwind but tee it low to get under a strong wind to take advantage of the ground effect of smoother air. Crosswinds help me turn the ball in that direction. If only all doglegs bent downwind. However, a really strong tailwind gust can knock it down. Just like an aircraft wing, a ball will have a lifting force as it spins backward and moves at speed into air. A strong tailwind may cause the ball to stall and drop fast. The wind vector will affect yardage calculations, as will ground conditions. And I try and remember to check the treetops for movement and any deceptive low-level wind shelter provided by avenues of tall trees around greens or fairways. Turbulent air can do odd things, which is always a good excuse for my poor shots.
Wet or dry?
The ball is going to stop quick when it’s soft, wet, and spongy, but it’s going to bounce hard and roll on a harder dry approach even before it gets to the green, adding considerable yards to the rollout on approach. When putting on wet and soft winter turf, it tends to be slow with less break, so I’ll increase speed and half my break expectations. The grass may also be a bit longer on a soggy green due to mowing delays. It’s those hard, dry, closely cropped summer greens that are more like snooker tables that scare me a bit.
Dry and cold or hot and humid?
Recently, it’s been noticeable how much further our drives are travelling in the warm and humid air compared to April’s cold dry spell. And it’s not just the higher bounce and longer roll on hard, dry, closely mown turf that adds distance. The carry is longer.
Apparently, water molecules are less dense than nitrogen and oxygen. Combine that vapour with 20C-plus heat that’s rising upward and it’s perfect for clocking up a personal best long drive. April’s cold, dry, denser air made distance much harder. I was reminded of these laws of physics when last week I started hitting irons much longer than planned. Last week my usual 90-yard gap wedge went 115 yards into a hedge on a still, hot, humid afternoon. All the weather clues were there, including 3 lost balls.
The temperature will influence my ball choice. I use a soft ball in cold winter conditions and switch to a harder ball in summer. I find the temperature does effect the compression of a ball and how it feels on impact. Perhaps you remember what -196C liquid nitrogen does to a rubber ball when dropped. It shatters. I know a British winter isn’t quite that cold, but you get my drift.
The average of those three forecasts for today’s round is for sun, 23C, 3-9% chance of rain with 8-10 mph winds. Having factored all weather variables, my game plan is shorts and lots of factor 30.
Greenkeepers – we thank you
And finally, I can only imagine the challenges created by the weather for greenkeepers who faced high traffic volumes, frosty mornings and slow growing grass in April, followed by a deluge during May and now hard, dry conditions just asking to be watered by thunderstorm downpours. If it wasn’t for this army of greenkeepers who care for our courses in all weathers, we wouldn’t be able to play. We thank them.
Play well, whatever the weather.
What’s your weather game plan? Let us know in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mention some of the best in our monthly newsletter.
Paul Hart is a founding director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT Ball Marker and enthusiastic improver.
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