By Greg Wyatt
Fall has once again brought beautiful weather and scenery to the Plateau, giving us a gorgeous backdrop for golf. Fall also usually brings some windy conditions that can play havoc with our golf ball however. I personally experienced these windy conditions, 20-30 mph winds to be exact, at the Vanderbilt Legends Club during the Tennessee Cup Matches a week or so ago. Nothing can turn a ordinary round of golf into a difficult one like high wind. Some students have asked for help and tips on what to do in the wind recently. Hopefully this info will help you control your ball better in the wind, too.
On windy days realize that fighting or overpowering the wind will not work. Winds exaggerate ball flight: they turn fades into huge slices and draws into terrible hooks. The players who do the best in wind focus on hitting the ball solidly because solids shots are affected by the wind much less than miss-hits or weak shots.
Let's focus on shots into the wind because that's where most average golfers struggle the most. We want to hit the ball lower than normal because the wind will affect a low shot less than a high one.
First and most importantly, never swing at full speed into the wind. Take an extra club, maybe two depending on the severity of the wind, and swing softer and shorter.
Feel like you are at 50-75 percent of full speed and make the swing short of full length as well. The lower lofted club combined with swinging softer will launch the ball at a lower angle and impart less spin which will keep it from climbing upward. Remember that the harder you hit a ball, the more it spins, and that spin creates lift. A stiff head wind in effect increases ball speed, therefore increasing spin, which makes the ball "balloon" and fall short of the target. If those shots are hit with a club face that is not square, the ball will curve dramatically more than normal as well.
Most teachers advocate moving the ball back in your stance when hitting into the wind. I agree, but only to a point.
If you move the ball back an inch or two, this will in effect de-loft the club face helping the ball to launch lower. However, putting the ball too far back will cause the angle of attack to steepen so much that you actually put more spin on the ball. Remember that hitting down with solid contact creates spin, which we are trying to limit into the wind.
So, I advocate putting the ball back slightly, as long as you adhere to the smoother and shorter swing as mentioned above.
I learned to play in the wind in my years playing golf collegiately. You experience all weather conditions in college golf. I now am comfortable in the wind most of the time and sometimes look forward to it, as I feel most players despise it and the difficulty it can bring. You can become a good wind player, too, if you learn some basics and practice them. Approach windy conditions as an extra challenge and an opportunity to showcase your ability.
As always, play your best.