There’s a lot of misinformation out there amongst golfers. For example, you don’t need to keep your head down in order to hit a great golf shot, despite what your friend keeps telling you at the range.
Something that I wanted to clear up in this article is how the weather actually affects your golf ball. Over the years I’ve heard statements like, “my ball isn’t flying as far because it’s humid.”
I’d like to set the record straight on a couple of myths about the weather, and how it can change your ball flight. I did a bit of research, and found some great information out there (notably from Trackman).
Spoiler: It’s not as much as you think.
The main issue at hand is air density. When the air is denser, it creates more resistance and the ball will fly a bit higher and not travel as far. The key factors for air density are humidity, air pressure, and temperature.
Let’s take a look at how each of them will affect how far your golf ball is flying.
The conventional wisdom is that if it’s extremely humid the ball will not fly as far because the air feels heavier. Just last week I heard a broadcaster on TV talking about this during a tournament when a player’s ball landed short of the green.
This is actually completely backwards. The more humid it is, the farther your ball will travel.
There’s just one catch…
The difference is almost negligible. According to Trackman’s data, a change from 10% to 90% humidity will account for less than a yard of difference on a 6-iron.
I’ve actually never heard a golfer refer to a low-pressure system as the reason their approach shots landed short of the green, but hey I’m sure it’s occurred somewhere.
All of us golfers are full of excuses.
Air pressure has pretty much no effect on your ball flight either. It will account for less than a yard of difference.
This is the one that is the most important. Personally I think I have noticed considerable differences in the distance my ball is traveling in cold weather.
Let’s find out the truth…
Temperature changes do have the greatest affect on ball flight, but it might not be as much as you think. Going from 40 to 100 degrees will increase a 6-iron carry by 8 yards and a driver by 9 yards.
The rule of thumb is that for about every 10 degrees you can expect a change of about a yard.
Typically you won't be going through radical changes in temperature between rounds that are going to change the distance your ball is traveling so I believe anyone’s perceived changes are a bit overblown (myself included). You’re not likely to see anything more than 2-3 yards at most.
What's Really Going On
OK now that we've established you can’t really blame the weather for your distances, what can you blame?
Wind and altitude have a much larger impact on your ball flight, and for most golfers wind is really the culprit.
The other culprit is honesty.
Most golfers aren’t realistic with their distances. Let’s face it, most of us are overstating how far we hit the ball. That’s why I wrote this article, and it’s not a surprise that GAME GOLF has found that on average 94% of golfers miss greens on the short side because of this.
To me this continues to be one of the most important skills of a smart course manager. Being honest with your distances on the course, and selecting an appropriate club based on how far you will likely hit the ball, not how far you will hit it on your best swing. Check out my free eBook on course strategy to learn more.
In summary, I wouldn't put too much emphasis on changes in weather and how they will affect your ball flight. The quality of your ball striking, and how honest you are about your distances are the main factors you should take into account.