How Can Bad Weather Ruin a Golf Game?

By Brian Hill
As an "outdoor only" sport, golfers sometimes have to cope with the challenges of Mother Nature.
As an "outdoor only" sport, golfers sometimes have to cope with the challenges of Mother Nature.

Dealing with the elements--weather extremes--is part of the fun and challenge of golf. Golf wouldn’t be nearly as interesting a game if it were played in perfect, temperature controlled conditions like those found in indoor football stadiums. But weather can change quickly. A merely bothersome wind can strengthen to a tempest that makes playing the round nearly impossible. Golfers have to learn when it is prudent to suspend play, and come back another day.


Many golfers, including PGA Tour pros, view playing in high winds to be the most challenging weather. Wind requires you to adjust yardage calculations on every shot. It can be extremely difficult to estimate how much more club you need when you are hitting against a 20-mile per hour wind. Unpredictable wind gusts add even more difficulty, such as when the wind picks up right as you begin your swing. Brisk crosswinds accentuate mistakes. If you slice a shot and there is a strong left to right crosswind, the ball can be blown way off target. Extreme winds even make it difficult to maintain your balance as you swing.


Golfers in northern climates often get impatient for the warm spring weather to arrive, so they begin their golf season when the air temperatures are still cold. Cold weather makes your muscles stiff. You have trouble loosening up and achieving the muscle extension you need for powerful and accurate shots. Bundling up with layers of clothing--sweaters and coats--makes it harder to swing freely. A restricted backswing results in less power. Being out in cold weather causes golfers to lose feeling in their hands. All the “touch” shots, chips, pitches and putts are much more difficult to execute when you are cold.

Excessive Heat

Golfers love playing on warm days because their muscles quickly loosen up and they feel more flexible, which translates into a wider swing arc. But when the temperature gauge crosses 90 degrees F, particularly if there is also humidity, golfers begin to be negatively affected. Dehydration may occur due to excessive sweating. Golfers may begin feeling fatigued as their bodies cope with being overheated. Serious conditions, such as heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, may occur, requiring medical care.


Rainy conditions affect the playability of a golf course and require golfers to make adjustments in shot selection. When the course is wet, it plays to a longer yardage. The ball does not fly as far when there is water vapor in the air, and tee shots get less roll on the fairways. Greens that are rain-soaked become much slower, and golfers generally have to play less break on their putts. The presence of lightning in the area quickly ruins a golf game--because golfers must get off the course immediately, or risk injury or death.


Fog may seem less difficult to deal with than heavy rain or high winds, but golfers depend on visual cues to measure distances and aim their shots. Fog rolling in can make any shot more than 50 to 100 yards a blind shot. When familiar landmarks, such as trees or buildings, that golfers use to line up their shots are shrouded in fog, golf becomes much more a game of guesswork.

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