Foul Weather Advice
Look forward to bad weather. I have been lucky enough to live in the PNW for all my 35 years of playing golf and that has exposed me to many bad weather days on the course. I consider myself a very good player in the wind and rain. When the weather looks bad I know many players will give up after a few setbacks (or before the round starts) and I like to use this to my advantage and play hard. My dad has a saying “It’s only cold, wet and windy when you’re losing!”
Adjust par for the day. On really poor weather days, I like to get a feel for the weather during my warm-up. During this time, I will make a determination of what a good score for the day will be for me. If good golf for my game on a normal day would produce a 70, I may say to myself that 75 is par. It’s amazing to me that when I set a realistic par, I often exceed my expectations. Not making the adjustment forces you to press when you make a couple bogies and brings the really big score into play. Recently, I played Chambers Bay in the worst weather imaginable (35mph wind, rain so heavy it filled my rain pant pockets) and I stepped up thinking 74 would be a good score and preceded to shoot 67!
Get the proper equipment. I’m shocked how much golfers will spend on the best driver and the best ball but they won’t purchase the proper rain gear, shoes and gloves. I’m not an umbrella guy. To me, especially in the wind, the umbrella is more of a hindrance than help. I choose to focus on bringing my best rain gear, my best shoes and my best gloves for the situation. For rain gear, I really like the Sun Mountain Rainflex. It is very waterproof, it stretches with your motion and unlike other rain jackets, I can put it on and leave it on. With most rain jackets I wish to take it on and off because it binds my range of motion. For footwear, I like shoes in the Dry Joy category. Anything cheaper is likely to leak. I will change my soft-spikes before a wet day for extra traction. With golf gloves I like a synthetic rain glove that keeps its traction when wet. Dump the leather gloves and find one that feels good when it is wet. I like to wear one glove only (on my left hand), but most often they come in pairs. That’s fine if you like it but personally it drives me nuts and I leave my right hand naked (one less thing to get wet). Lastly, maybe it comes from growing up in the Seattle area but I’ve always been fond of chord grips. They have amazing traction when wet and possibly that is why I only wear one glove.
Club selection. During warm-up on a winter day I definitely key on how my body feels. If it is cold and I’m feeling a little tight that will effect my club selection. So many amateurs club themselves off the perfect shot on the perfect 75-degree day. The first few holes I may feel a little tight and the air may be damp and heavy. When I sense these conditions I don’t hesitate to go with more club. Usually conditions are soft and long isn’t as big a threat as usual. I would rather go with more club knowing missing it slightly is perfect and going with less club knowing I have to pure it. The problem with going with less club is that we will try to hit it harder and in doing so the chances of hitting it perfectly go down.
Wind: the hardest element. The wind will test you more than anything. If going low is my goal… I’ll take pouring rain over wind. That being said I’ve learned to love the wind. The game becomes more of an art than the usual laser yardage followed by the driving range swing. Without wind, I’m often frustrated by how many yardages I get have me between clubs but when it is windy I never feel that way because you can use the wind to your advantage. The wind often forces me to lose the “try to be too perfect” mentality. The old saying “swing easy when it’s breezy” has helped me more than you know. Distance is all relative in the wind. When you are down wind the ball is going to go a mile without hitting it hard so why try. Into the wind, the ball is going to go short so why try to hit it hard. I probably have a more consistent tempo when it’s windy because of the above fact. Into the wind the hard shot spins more and often goes shorter. I’m not a huge fan of the “punch” shot into a heavy wind. The punch shot spins more than any shot you can play, especially off the tight fairway. I focus on hitting very solid shots with a shallow attack and minimal divot. This shot tends to draw (a good thing in the wind) and it tends to be low spinning. A shot to play into the wind, especially with short iron shots, would be a dead handed shot. Next time on the range try hitting wedges feeling like you are hardly setting your wrist. You will perform the shot mostly by turning your body and arms in unison, back and through. You will start seeing a shot that tumbles through the wind rather than up shooting like a kite!
Advanced wind play. Earlier, I alluded to the lack of in-between clubs I have in the wind. This is because more often than not, the wind will be at least a slight crosswind to some degree. To all you advanced golfers, I can choose to ride the wind or fight the wind. If I have a half club too much, I can choose to fight the wind by cutting it or hooking it a bit into whichever wind you have and it will take some yardage off. This is a good choice when the green is hard or you need it to stop quickly. If you want to chase a ball up to a green you can ride the wind and gain a club or two. There are so many variables to this and eventually it will be intuitive as to what to do. But experiment with this and you will see what I’m talking about. Lastly, clubbing in the winds takes some experience and some guesswork so you will never be perfect all the time…just commit to the club and shot and let it go.
Short game. When the weather is sour, I spend more time chipping and putting during my warm-up session. I realize that even if I hit the ball perfectly, the ball will end up in places I didn’t expect. I prepare myself mentally to hit fewer greens in regulation. That will put more of a premium on my chipping, pitching and 8’ and in putts. If the greens are large (like Chambers Bay) I will hit a lot more 50-60 lags putts during warm-up.