“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – American writer William Arthur Ward (1921 to 1994)
Last Saturday our new assistant at The Kansas City Country Club (KCCC), Ryan Dodd (scratch), played with Buzz Willard (15 handicap), Graham Long (a 16) and me, Mr. 12. It was windy – very windy – all day. By “very windy,” I mean a steady 15 miles per hour and gusts up to 35 mph. In other words, you had to take the wind into account on every shot, including putts. And while we are used to a certain amount of wind in Kansas City, I found last Saturday to be a VERY long round. The round became VERY disappointing after comparing scorecards with two other foursomes and then realizing we had lost money to both of them. The wind and the financial loss left me totally drained.
There is something about a constant wind that grinds on you. Walking into the wind, especially uphill, is taxing. An extra strong gust can send even a well-hit and well-planned shot off course. Even normal give-and-take guy talk becomes laborious.
I intellectually understand that you have to be mentally ready to deal with less-than-ideal conditions such as strong winds, rain or cold or a combination of those three. Now that I think about it, that last sentence is way too tame when it comes to describing how to deal with bad weather. If you really want to excel in golf, you must embrace whatever Mother Nature throws at you. That attitude certainly worked for Tom Watson, who won the Open Championship five times: “I love rotten weather. The founders of the game accepted nature for what it gave or what it took away. Wind and rain are great challenges. They separate real golfers. Let the seas pound against the shore. Let the rains pour.”
With Watson’s quote in mind, I am determined to become a better ugly-day golfer. Wind, rain and cold are now going to become my friends. Since it is March, I am now focusing on how to handle the wind better. Below is a miscellany of thoughts and tips that I hope will help us deal with the wind’s tricks and traps.
First up, Sam Snead, Butch Harmon and Tiger Woods:
There are few players who enjoy a round of golf on a windy day. Wind not only affects the flight of the ball, but plays havoc with the player’s morale. The ball must be more accurately hit when playing in a gale; therefore the first thing to do is shorten the backswing and hit less viciously. A shorter swing is more compact, affords the player better balance and he is less likely to err. Do not fight the wind. It is an invisible, unbeatable opponent. – Sam Snead, from his book How To Play Golf and Professional Tips on Improving Your Score (Garden City Publishing Co., Inc., 1946)
CROSSWIND STRATEGIES – When playing in a crosswind, follow these rules:
1. On tee shots, let the ball ride the wind. For example, if a strong wind is blowing from right to left, aim right and let the wind carry the ball back into the center of the fairway.
2. On approach shots into the green, turn the ball into the wind. In a left-to-right wind, hit a draw. -- Butch Harmon and John Andrisani, from their book, The Four Cornerstones of Winning Golf (Fireside, 1996)
KNOCK IT DOWN, NOT OUT – The knockdown allows you to control ball trajectory. The less air time the ball has, the less it will be affected by the wind. The key to controlling distance against a strong wind is to take more club and swing easy. That reduced backspin. The average player tries to hit the ball too hard against the wind. That just adds backspin and make the ball balloon up in the air. – Tiger Woods, from his book, How I Play Golf (Warner Books, 2001)
Now great tips from three of our KCCC pros:
1) Back in your stance. 2) Club up at least 1 depending on the wind. 3) Swing 80% -- speed gets the ball up in the air. 4) Play for a draw as the face should be slightly closed at impact. 5) Make a lot of putts! – Evan Scobie
As far as handling the wind mentally, I go into the round knowing it's going to be a battle. If you go into the round ready to bear down on every shot, I feel like you will be better prepared to deal with the adversity, which will undoubtedly present itself. – Ryan Dodd
One of the biggest mistakes I see when playing into the wind is teeing the ball too low. The truth is that you actually want to tee the ball HIGHER when hitting into the wind. Counter-intuitive for sure, but this will take backspin off of your drives. Less backspin produces a high, piercing ball flight that the wind will not touch. The higher tee will also have you hitting up on the golf ball versus hitting down on the ball. A shallower angle of approach into the golf ball will also produce less backspin. – Jake Frodyma
Play Away – And May The Wind Always Be At Your Back!
Allan (10.3 index; trend 10.7 after two 2018 scores of 90 and 87)