Springtime, and Dasain, often brings windy conditions to golf courses. Facing headwinds, tailwinds and side-winds, amateurs get puzzled and flustered when trying to make adjustments to compensate and unnecessarily add at least five strokes a round to their scores.
When Mother Nature huffs and puffs, your expectations must be readjusted upwards. Tour pros know that a 20mph wind will raise their scoring average 2-3 strokes. For bogey golfers I reckon an increase of 5 to 8 strokes a round. However, you can play your handicap on gusty days if you correctly judge the wind's effect, know how to hit a low, controlled shot and take advantage of wind at your back. Constant adjustments are demanded but you mustn't let frustrations take over. If they do, your judgment will get clouded.
Most golfers underestimate the wind's impact. For example, a shot that carries and rolls 270 yards on a calm day will only travel about 235 yards if hit into a 20mph wind, while the same shot might carry 295 yards on a downwind, a 60 yard difference. Increase the wind speed to 30mph and the distance difference between a shot hit into a headwind and a tailwind would be even greater.
The flight of a ball hit into the wind will balloon (fly much higher than normal and sit down quickly) and any curve (fade or draw) will be exaggerated. With a tailwind though, the ball will carry farther and curve less but it won't stop quickly after landing. A shot that curves with a crosswind will carry and roll even farther; conversely, if the ball is curving into a crosswind, it will go a shorter distance and stop faster.
The best way to penetrate any wind is to "keep it low". This is the key to playing well in windy conditions. To produce a "wind cheater" golf shot, follow these tips: To get solid contact and a lower trajectory, maximise your body's stability and make a shorter swing. For stability, widen your stance a couple of inches more than normal. Grip down one to two inches for added control.
Set a little more weight on your front foot (left). Position the ball up to six inches farther back in your stance (more towards the right foot for right-handed golfers). Moving a ball right causes it to go right therefore align your body and stance a bit left of the target.
For all wind shots except straight downwind, try more controlled shots, taking one or more extra clubs and gripping them two inches down on the shaft. Only take a three quarter back swing. Your wrists should be a lot less active than on a normal shot. Resist the temptation to rush the swing-maintain your normal tempo, keeping your arms relaxed. At impact, the shaft should be ahead of the clubhead to keep the ball low.
For downwind shots, switch to a more lofted club to control the distance. When driving, tee the ball up high and take full advantage of the helping wind by hitting it high.
Try these tips and you will find yourself maintaining your low scores even in the strongest gusts.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]