How the Wind Affects Your Golf Ball

The most challenging weather condition when playing golf is one marked by strong winds. They can surely knock off a well-hit shot where the golf ball just goes out of sight.

The good news, however, is that you can employ certain strategies to actually use the wind to your advantage. But nothing of this sort can be accomplished if you don’t know a thing or two about how the wind affects your golf ball.

No denying that when you hit into the wind, this external force tends to have a more pronounced impact than you realize, which is also greater when compared to when you play downwind.


The Relationship Between Wind and Golf Ball

A slight breeze or a strong, gusty wind, either way, the golf ball will get affected. But how much does wind have an impact on a golf ball, that’s the most important question. The answer to which lies in the fact that wind tends to move the ball A LOT – more than you realize. There’s a whole science behind it!

Golf is an outdoor sport after all, which means natural conditions and elements are also a part of the game. Just like how playing golf in the rain affects your game, winds also matter a great deal. The latter, in fact, creates one of the most difficult challenges because of the direction it blows in and its variability.

It all boils down to the physics of how the wind interacts with a golf ball.

  • Shots into the wind have a higher chance of failure than when hit in the direction of the wind.
  • Upwinds make shots veer off target while downwinds reduce shot dispersion.

In short, an upwind will minimize the carry distance to a larger extent in comparison to a downwind. And it’s all due to drag.

The drag effect is expected to remain the same in the case of both upwind and downwind, but that’s not actually true. Logically speaking, and according to science, there are aerodynamic forces that lie proportional to the speed of air. This just means that when the wind speed against the golf ball increases, the drag effect also increases.

Another factor plays a major role here – LIFT. The greater the help of the wind, the lower the trajectory of the golf ball. And due to the loss in lift, the ball ends up falling short. Hence, it cannot make its way to the maximum possible or desired distance.

About greater shot dispersion of the golf ball into the wind than with it, there are two separate components to take into consideration.

The PARALLEL Component

Golf ball lift can be more than just vertical, correct? In that case, when the spin axis of the ball tilts, the lift results in producing either a hook or slice. That is how you hit a hook shot or a slice shot.

Therefore, hitting into the wind, where the elevated wind speed is relative to your golf ball, will increase your hook/slice tendencies, and vice versa. Meaning, with the wind, lower wind speed in relation to the ball and decreased hook/slice tendencies.


Now it’s safe to say that winds curve the natural path of the golf ball, which is completely different from hooks and slices (these are caused due to spin). So when hit into the wind, the ball is pushed away, perpendicularly, from your target line. Stronger winds will exaggerate this force, thus producing a wider shot dispersion.

On the other hand, hit in the direction of that wind, the golf ball is pushed toward your target line. And much the same way, stronger winds magnify this force for creating a narrower dispersion.

So that’s the effect of wind on golf ball flight!

How to Play Golf in the Wind – Adjusting Your Shots Based On Wind

Dealing with winds is a part and parcel of playing golf, especially if you hit the turf more frequently. In that case, you must know how to navigate the golf course when the weather is windy.

How to Hit Tee Shots in the Wind

When you want to hit into blustery wind, just ensure that you’re teeing the golf ball higher for maximizing distance potential. When you tee higher, you strike the ball higher on its clubface, which reduces spin and allows the shot to penetrate through that wind.

When you want to hit into a messy crosswind, you ought to know how to make the most of this type of wind. This implies moving the golf ball in the direction of the wind for a greater distance.

While it’s true that hitting against these winds will result in more accurate, straighter shots, distance will get minimized. Unless you’re able to curve your shot with absolute precision, make sure you’re smashing into the crosswind.

When you want to hit downwind, you need to have fun with the additional distance. Hitting downwind means decreasing backspin, so the golf ball lands flatter not just into the fairway but also into the green. As a result, increased carry distance in the form of higher rollout.

How to Hit Approach Shots in the Wind

Don’t make the rookie mistake of placing your golf ball behind in the stance. Instead, keep it in the center. Practice with 2–3 golf clubs at this point to check which one swings more easily.

Keep in mind that a lower loft angle will give rise to a lower trajectory. Also, a smaller loft combined with a slower swing speed produces less spin. So the golf ball doesn’t gain height too quickly. Simultaneously, this makes the golf swing shorter, hence more balance and a sturdier base into the wind.

  • 10 mph wind moves a golf ball by a distance of 1 golf club (i.e. 12 yards or 8 yards) into the direction of the wind.

How to Hit Short Game Shots in the Wind

When you pitch into stronger winds, your shots will have no rollout. But when you pitch and chip downwind, the rollout is greater. So use the same technique as hitting approach shots into the wind – use a stronger golf club to swing more easily, so controlling spin becomes possible and so does letting the ball roll out more predictably.

How to Putt in the Wind

Putting is all about confidence and comfort, right? Execute a wider stance and bend slightly further, which helps in anchoring your body against those winds. Avoid hovering over your golf ball for too long prior to the stroke (because longer hovering causes more instability).

As I said before, putting is all about focusing on a comfortable and confident setup. So if you’re an experienced golfer, you should not worry about the connection between wind and ball rollout. Otherwise also, it’s no big deal since a moderate breeze will only make a difference of nothing more than just a few inches.

Conclusion – It’s All About the Mental Game in Golf!

“Golf is 90% mental and 10% physical.” – Jack Nicklaus

You cannot control the natural weather conditions, no two ways about that. So you have to learn how to deal with the unchangeable external forces.

Remember that playing into the wind instead of avoiding it will only make you a better player because then you’ll know which clubs work better for which scenarios. And soon enough, you’ll even have a more enjoyable round of golf on a windy day at the course.

Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

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