By Mark Harman
Normally at The Open in the United Kingdom, wind, temperature and rain play a role on at least one of the days. But this past July at Royal St. Georges in the southeast of England, blue skies and calm winds ruled all four days. How much of an effect does wind and temperature have on the playing of our game?
Using Foresight Sports’ GC Quad and simulation technology, we can provide somewhat of an answer. The example here is a golfer who hits the ball slightly longer than the average male golfer. Into a 10 mph wind, a golfer can expect to lose approximately 12 yards of carry distance with a driver, while downwind the gain is about 9 yards. At the professional level these yardages are both going to be slightly to somewhat longer. Of course, a lot depends upon the launch angle and spin rate of the drive, too, but in general these numbers are going to be pretty much what we see. You can also see that a headwind has a slightly greater effect on distance than does a trailing wind.
Let’s use a 6-iron as an example. Into a 10 mph wind, the loss of carry distance will be about 12 yards, while downwind the gain will be about 8 yards. Into a 15 mph headwind, the distance loss from no wind is 20 yards, and the gain from a 15 mph trailing wind increases only 4 yards to 12 yards total. Again, this is further proof a headwind affects ball flight to a greater degree than does a trailing wind.
What about temperature? According to the technology, the difference in carry distance between a drive hit in 55° F and 90° F is only about 5 yards. So that doesn’t seem very significant. The difference in 6-iron carry varies only 4 yards, although at the higher skill levels a good player will notice this.
Wind and temperature are elements that do affect the playing of the game and offer unique challenges on their own. Tom Watson embraced the challenge while other professionals loathed it. Our mental attitude towards different conditions undoubtedly play a greater role in our playing success or failure than do the actual conditions themselves.