Wind + Machismo = High Scores

As a coach I observe a lot of golf. I observe much more than I play. As I study golfers, I notice tendencies in individuals, teams, demographics, whatever. After years of observation coaches develop a sort of sixth sense. I now have the ability to see into the future. I can see the mistakes that golfers are going make before they happen. As a result, watching golf can be a very sad and predictable affair for me. In this lesson I am going to speak of one of the most frustrating miscalculations that I see. It involves playing in windy conditions.

Here’s the scenario:

Lets say Joe Golfer shows up at the course to play, and today it’s gonna’ be windy — a constant 20 mile per hour wind. He gets to the first tee and the hole is playing straight downwind. Joe hits a much longer drive than usual, because the wind is pumping at his back. Because of the wind he then hits 2 clubs less than normal into the green on his approach shot. The next hole comes back in the opposite direction, with the wind straight into his face. He hits his drive solidly but ends up noticeably shorter than normal. He can feel the force of the wind on his face but on the approach shot he only takes 1 extra club into the wind. Of course his approach comes well short of the green and he is standing in the fairway with his hat off scratching his head wondering how in the world, because he is so manly, the shot could have come up so short. I’ve seen it a million times. This is one of the main reasons I see scores balloon on windy days.

Pop Quiz: If 20 mph tailwind = 20 more yards of distance then when does 20 mph of headwind = 10 yards less distance?

a) always

b) after 3 Red Bulls

c) never

I’ll wait while you think about it………..

The correct answer is c) never.

The force of the wind is EQUAL whether it’s in your face or at your back.

I don’t know if it’s ego or disbelief or what, but most golfers can’t find it in themselves to take enough club into the wind, and it costs them a ton of strokes. Here’s why:

Think of the course architecture of your home golf course. Green complexes are usually designed to have most of the trouble (bunkering and ponds) just short of the green or in the first third of the green.

Constantly coming up short puts tremendous pressure on your chipping, pitching and putting. The last thing you want to do on a windy day is put extra pressure on your putting. If you are always putting from 6-10 feet for par or bogie when the wind is blowing you’ll quickly find yourself losing strokes, energy and the ability to stay focused.

So, here’s the lesson: If you are hitting 2 clubs less downwind, you’ll also need to hit 2 clubs more when you are hitting into the wind.

There is no shame in pulling more club. No one has to know. Anyway, who cares? All that matters is score. Also, I’m sure you have heard that hitting less club into a headwind and swinging hard creates more spin and causes the ball to rise, or balloon in the air. Well, it’s true.

One thing I can tell you is this: rarely do I ever see anyone go over a green when hitting into the wind. And like I said, look at your home course’s architecture. Most of the time, missing long provides you a much easier chip or pitch than you’d have if you miss short.

Macho Man Tip: Missing long always appears more macho than constantly coming up short.

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27 thoughts on “Wind + Machismo = High Scores

  1. Matthew says:

    Coach,

    wow! I felt like when I first saw this title of this lesson and then read through it like you were talking specifically to me after my meltdown the other day. I end up shooting the worst score I’ve ever had since I first started playing golf and all because I allowed my mind to get in the way. I allowed the howling wind to distract me, to start over analyzing my swing which in turn made me mishit the ball, leaking it to the right or left, then put added pressure on my putting which is normally my best thing and it too didn’t do so well. I’ll have to use your tip about the 20 mph wind equals 20 extra yards you need to play. I’ve always thought that I would be playing enough club, especially when I would take one or two extra, and then still come up short, even after hitting it solid. So, knowing how hard the wind is blowing will give me a better gauge on how many more yards to play. Thanks for that tip. Where were you on the course to splash some cold water on my face after the first few holes to wake me up from the nightmare I was allowing myself to play into?! haha.

    Good lesson and I’ll be sure to use it next time I play. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of chances since we are getting into the windy months! And, I’ll start getting used to either flying the ball to the center of the green or beyond, regardless of where the flag is. This may help me to never take too little club again and to always be swinging lightly instead of muscling it.

  2. Patrick O'Leary says:

    Great tip. As a 59-year-old hacker who loves golf, I haven’t a clue how to play in the wind simply because where I play most of my golf – on the Highveld in Johannesburg South Africa which is some 1753 metres above sea level – there is little wind to contend with. It is thus when I go down to the coast where the wind pumps, I haven’t a clue about club selection. Adding to my extreme confusion is the fact that the ball gets about 10% less distance than on the Highveld due to the ‘thicker air’ at sea level. So on that point, I’m faced with one club more to compensate for the 10% shorter distance. Combine that with the wind factor and I might as well play with a hockey stick. Mine is not a case of ‘machismo’, more like ‘ignoramuso’. I will remember your lesson when next I play on those beautiful, scenic, lovely, frustrating, horrible windy courses at sea level. Many thanks.

  3. Andrew says:

    Great post coach! So true! I was a victim of this for many years. I hit the ball high, so of course I would send it miles down wind. As soon as I was into the wind however if would only take one extra, meaning if I hit my career best I would most likely only get it to the front third of the greens. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve done this, then stood there scratching my head wondering how in the world I could have come up short.

    Like the old saying goes… When it’s breezy swing easy. Don’t try and force only one extra club into a two club wind, take two extra and swing smooth.

  4. Neale says:

    Everything you say here is true. As a scottish golfer and playing in the wind constantly, I picked up on this. Taking more club, with a nice, comfortable swing, creates a much higher percentage of success, than trying to “muscle” your normal club, or thinking that your playing the wind by only taking 1 club more. Once you realise how strong that wind can actually be, then you realise that taking 1 club more, sometimes isn’t enough to counter that opposing force. Then you have enough confidence to pull 2 clubs more, or even 3 clubs more, and the machoism isn’t even an issue on your mind, because you know that your playing the correct way, and the idiots who are calling you a “girl” are going to end up in trouble. You can always have a little laugh in your mind when you see them with a shorter club in hand.

  5. Greg says:

    Another great post. A good lesson for golfers of all ages

  6. Billy Nisbet says:

    I have to admit that I have been guilty of this. Its hard as a golfer who is used to hitting say a 9-iron from 150 yards, to then pull my 7 iron for the same distance. Trusting that my 7 won’t end up sailing over the green can be difficult, but as Coach Fruisen points out in this lesson, it very rarely happens. I actually think that hitting directly into the wind takes off more distance than you would gain hitting downwind. Hitting the knockdown in this situation seems to help a lot with distance control, as well as direction. Hitting into the wind exacerbates any draw or fade that is on the ball. Therefore hitting more club, lower, is the best shot for consistency.
    -Billy Nisbet

  7. Andrew says:

    Great lesson, Coach! For the longest time I struggled with this problem, never taking enough club into the wind. I hit the ball high, so when I was down wind I would send the ball miles. But into the wind I would struggle. I would always take only one extra club into a strong wind. This means that I would always have to hit my craeer best to ust get the ball onto the first third of the green. Also, like you mentioned, most of the trouble on golf courses is in the front of the green. Trying to take less club into the wind only makes you swing harder, which puts more spin onto the golf ball. Into the wind this spin is magnified. This means when you come up short in the bunker there will be a higher chance that the ball plugs.

    Like the old saying says; “when it’s breezy, swing easy.” This means when into the wind take one more than you think you need and make a smooth swing at the ball.

    Thanks for the lesson Coach!

  8. Justin McMillen says:

    It really is true and a fact that most architects set up the golf course to have trouble in front of the green because most people almost always choose the wrong club because they think the can muscle it through the wind. Most golfers enjoy wind when its behind there back but most people just absolutely cant stand the wind in there face. They think they have to swing harder. If its solid contact, lower ball flight, and yes 2 clubs extra if thats what it was with the wind behind them then they just have to swing normally but with your weight forward to hit a lower ball flight. Stay long and most of the time you shall walk away with par or better.

  9. Tom Mather says:

    This certainly is true, peer pressure can percolate onto the golf course and in windy conditions it can ruin a round of golf, through my junior years I have found myself hesitating hitting a higher club where I would usually hit a wedge, after all everyone thinks they can hit longer than they actually can, and in windy conditions its a reminder we have to take our own medicine and club up.
    From learning to play golf on links courses such as royal Liverpool and Birkdale, I have learned the hard way when every other day it will be blustery conditions. I have found clubbing up and swinging easy not only helps my consistency for the round, it also helps my accuracy and I have found I play better in the wind because I slow everything down within my swing. After all, if you hit long over the green you have given the ball a chance to be on the putting service, whereas being short only gives you negatives to look upon.

  10. What a great website, very informative and fun. Hope all is well with you and your team this year. Looks like y’all had a great finish at the Eagle Invitational!

  11. Brett says:

    Coach,

    I found this post very interesting. At home on long island I rarely find myself playing in windy conditions but up here at school especially at Saratoga National the wind must be taken into account on almost every shot. I think its important to be able to have no ego on the golf course and play the club that you know will get you to the green even if that means hitting two of even three clubs more than you are used to for that distance. This is something that I will definitely continue to work on this upcoming season.

  12. Spinder says:

    In the wind less is always more. Swinging harder with less club will have more of a negative impact. This year at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii the Pros saw some serious wind. Players were taking extra clubs to make sure they get to the green. If the Pros do it why can we?

  13. Garrett Colgan says:

    Good point Scotty. The old saying goes, “when its breezy, swing easy.” This is definitely a good motto to live by in serious conditions. Swinging easy in the wind, by taking more club helps you keep the ball down, with a more penetrating ball flight. It is fun to try different shots on the range at National some days when its windy, trying different trajectories, finding one that is effective in the wind.

  14. Tim says:

    Coach,

    When I play shots directly into the wind, I always seem to come up short. I remember playing at the Liberty League qualifier and coming up short of the green on almost every shot into the wind during the first round. I talked with you about this problem on the putting green before round two and you mentioned pieces of this article. I played much better in round two by selecting better clubs in the windy conditions. I will definitely try to be a smarter player this upcoming season.

  15. Zach Grossman says:

    Coach, it is really simple. At golf courses, all the trouble is in from of the green. I totally agree that the miss should almost always be long. Of course, there are some exceptions. However, if the majority of greens have the trouble in front, then into the wind you should always be thinking of playing at the very least 2 clubs more (from the example in the article). The stress of a round in the wind is mainly associated with into the wind shots. You don’t hear many stories about how all of the down wind holes were difficult for scoring on a certain course. The sooner a golfer realizes how to adjust to into the wind shots, the sooner the scores will drop and that wind will be way less intimidating.

  16. Will Caro says:

    This article hits the nail on the head. It truly is amazing how rarely you hear people complain “I was in 20 mph wind in the face and hit my approach over the green.” The ego can be an evil thing to a golfer, whether on a windy course or a simulator. Taking consideration ball flight and correct and modest club selection is key in order to perciver against the nature. Every golfer can relate to the frustration can bring, even Tiger will admit its the one part of golf he wishes didnt exist. Although difficult, its essential to master to go to the next level.

  17. Chris says:

    Coach, I see this all the time whenever I play in windy conditions. The mentality always seems to be to just swing harder into the wind and now it makes more sense why balls end up short on most shots. I think it’s very important to play your own game and if it means hitting more club than your opponent, it should never be a matter of ego.

  18. Mak says:

    Coach,
    I remember my high school coach always saying “when breezy, swing easy.” People try to over power the wind and find themselves in deeper trouble. Being from New Hampshire, it is constantly windy which bothers my style of play because, as you know, I “kind of” have a high ball flight… Not trying to over power the wind and accepting that it is going to change the out come of my shots I have learned to adjust and lower my scores significantly. Great article, thanks coach

  19. Anthony says:

    I’ve always found that wind affects the ball more when it is against me. But the way to handle that is not to swing harder. Tee it lower or find a club that will be a garanteed 210 club regardless of the wind. The 1 iron in my bag is indispensable, regardless of the conditions I always have at least a 210 shot that I know will get on the ground quickly and be least affected by the wind.

  20. Teddy says:

    Great advice Coach, I always come up short when its windy, and I know that I am not taking enough club but for some reason I let my ego get in the way. I need to start to work on taking more club, I liked the comment from Garrett about “when its Breezy swing easy” I never really thought of that and I will work on it the next time I get the chance.

  21. Mackenzie Nelson says:

    This is a great article coach! For me being a high ball hitter, playing in the wind can be very difficult. I definitely fall victim to my ego and choose to take less club. I will try to work on putting my ego aside and taking one more club and making a nice smooth swing. I can not remember the last tim i have hit the ball over the green while hitting into the wind so this should help my game a great deal!

  22. Andrew Lilley says:

    Great point made here and is most definitely a common pitfall of many golfers, regardless of relative skill level. The challenge of playing on a windy day is one that I greatly enjoy, as the importance of course management in your round is greatly magnified.
    Another mistake I commonly see, and am occasionally guilty of myself is going on auto pilot. What I mean by this is not playing the conditions as much as sticking with the normal course management, for instance, if a pin is tucked in behind a bunker on the left hand side of the green the general idea would be to play down the right hand side of the fairway but, with a 20 mph cross wind directly from the right playing from the right side means playing your second shot more downwind, losing spin and having a greater probability of skipping right off the green, this problem is also amplified even more if you miss in the rough to the right as well. However, if your play your tee shot down the left hand side, as weird as it may feel with a far left pin, your second shot will be played more into the wind allowing you to throw an approach shot up into the wind towards the middle of the green, letting the wind turn it into the pin for you, and helping the ball land much more softly than if you had played from the right side of the fairway or, even worse, the right rough. Playing in the wind sure does present a new realm of challenges and difficulties that must be considered and acted upon, especially in a competitive environment.

  23. Mitchell Campbell says:

    Good advice Coach. Having played a lot of golf in the wind back home I can definitely understand where you are coming from here. Even after growing up in a windy place like Bermuda it still takes a very conscious thought to take enough club when hitting into the green. Although I have gotten much less stubborn when it comes to this there are still times when my ego can get in the way. If this skill could become natural it could potentially be a very large advantage over the rest of the field. Also you make an excellent point about the front of the green. After all… Front pins do not exist!

  24. denis says:

    I agree Coach, I see many golfers as well as myself clubbing way down with helping wind but not as much into the wind. Thanks for the suggestions and good article.

  25. Charlie says:

    This is a great piece of advice. I know many a time where I’ve done this and I will certainly now think about it more on the course. This article tells me more and more that all of these situations in golf come from between the ears and how well you can make yourself think reasonably about the shot at hand.

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