The Effect of Golf Ball Temperature on Golf Ball Performance

By David W. Berner
The day's temperature can have an impact on your ball flight, distance and spin.
The day's temperature can have an impact on your ball flight, distance and spin.

The temperature of the golf ball and the air temperature on the day you're playing directly affect how your ball will perform during a round. Generally, temperature affects a ball's resiliency, the spin and the density of the air through which the ball travels. Each contributes to how a ball performs. Knowing this can help your scores.

Ball Temperature

Generally, a warmer golf ball travels farther. The rubber materials used to make golf balls respond better if they are more resilient. Warmth enhances resiliency. A warmer ball will come off the clubface with more velocity and spin than a colder ball, encouraging loft. The ball's temperature also has an effect on bounce. Heat gives the ball more elasticity, creating a ball that bounces more and travels longer.

Air Temperature

Colder days mean the air density is greater. If the air is "thick," the ball requires more velocity to produce a longer shot. Conversely, if the air temperature is warm, there is less density, and the ball has the chance to perform better and travel farther. It's not unlike the human body. Muscles are more flexible and responsive when the temperature is warm than when it's cold. We are able to move more efficiently. The same goes for a golf ball.

Ball Selection

If you are playing in colder weather (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit), the ball's compression can make a big difference in performance. Generally, high compression golf balls will not travel as far as lower compression balls in chilly weather. Also, if it's cold, and you store your golf balls in a cold place, like a garage or your car, the higher compression balls will harden. That makes them less resilient.

Club Selection

If you're playing in weather where the air temperature is 50 degrees or below, you need to use more club than you would in warmer conditions. For every 10 degrees chillier, calculate about 2 yards of lost distance. So, if you hit a ball with an 8-iron about 130-yards when it's 90 degrees, you're going to hit it about 122 yards when it's 50 degrees. That's about a club shorter. In colder weather, you may need a 7-iron to hit the ball as far as you might with an 8-iron in warmer conditions.

Golf Ball Warmers

Devices on the market claim they can warm your golf ball and create one that travels farther. Some are plug-in units that electronically produce heat that transfers to the ball. Others are compartmentalized units that allow you to put golf balls in the microwave oven. There is considerable debate about whether this process makes a difference in ball performance, since the balls generally won't retain their warmth for more than a half-hour.

About the Author

David W. Berner is an award-winning journalist, writer and broadcaster. HIs memoir, "Accidental Lessons," was released in February 2009. His audio documentary, "Pebble Beach Stories," celebrates the ties between golfers and famed California golf links. Berner has covered stories as diverse as the 2008 presidential election to coyote sightings in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

Photo Credits

  • David Cannon/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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