You’ve checked the weather forecast, booked a sunny slot, and got your sunscreen and shorts out ready. Then out of nowhere, the heavens open, and you’ve got no choice but to whip out an umbrella and slug your way through 18 holes of rainy golf.
But, does rain affect golf ball distance? You’ve probably noticed that the game seems a hell of a lot harder (as if golf wasn’t hard enough!) in the rain, and you may be wondering exactly why this is the case.
Rain does, in fact, affect golf ball distance, and it does so in a number of different ways. In this article, we’ll explore how rain can affect your game, and how best to deal with it.
How Does Rain Affect Golf Ball Distance?
The first thing to consider is the effect of the raindrops themselves. As they fall on your ball during its flight, they can decrease its speed and alter its trajectory. One little drop of water would hardly make a difference – but thousands of drops can quite severely change the way your ball flies.
The next thing to think about is temperature. Oftentimes, rain is an indicator of lower temperatures, and cold air can negatively impact the distance of your golf shots. When air cools, the molecules move closer together, creating a thick invisible ‘muck’ for your ball to traverse. This results in a slight lowering of distance.
However, it’s worth noting that this effect is pretty negligible. As a general rule, you can expect a change of about a yard for every 10 degrees.
Another thing to consider is the counter-effect of humidity. When rain evaporates, it heats up the air, causing the molecules to drift further apart, resulting in less air resistance. Thus, in warmer climates, a quick rain shower could actually increase golf ball distances.
How Else Does Rain Affect Performance?
One of the biggest challenges of playing golf in wet weather is maintaining a decent grip – both with your footing and holding the club.
Wet hands, wet gloves, and wet golf grips make for a very slippery combination. Even the grippiest of grips will struggle to perform well when they are wet through. The slightest slip of the club during your swing can completely sabotage your shot.
Underfoot, the wet ground will make it difficult for you to keep your footing. The stability of your foot placement provides the base for your swing, so if your feet start slipping about, it’s inevitably going to have consequences on your shot.
The wetter the ground, the less amount the ball rolls. This is perhaps most noticeable with drives; a lot of driving yardage is lost when the ball doesn’t roll so far.
If the ground gets really wet, it can cause golf balls to plug and not roll at all. This happens more frequently with high-trajectory shots.
Where rain falls, mud rises. And one way or another, you can bet that this mud will find its way onto your golf ball.
As you’d expect, mud on your golf ball can severely impact its flight. It adds weight and creates more friction, meaning the ball simply won’t travel as far.
Additionally, mud can affect direction; mud on one side of the ball will generally cause it to curve in the opposite direction. Unless you are a master of mud, this can be very irksome and almost impossible to control.
Muddy golf balls aside, there’s also the muddy ground to contend with. Trying to hit out of a mucky patch of ground has to be one of the most frustrating scenarios in golf. Even if you hit the ball just slightly fat, your club will get caught in what feels like a bottomless bog. Your clubhead speed dies a quick death, and your yardage is practically halved.
Golf is a game of the mind as much as it is of the body, and there are a number of influences that can cause your concentration to waver – rain being one of them. One of the key components of a successful round is maintaining a positive mindset, and as we all know, it’s hard to stay positive when you’re cold and muddy and wet.
Playing a full 18 holes in the rain is especially tough, as it can be hard to stay motivated and focus on every shot. As you battle against the wet and windy conditions, your concentration can slip as easily as your foot.
Golf is hard even at the best of times, so when your score starts to suffer due to something beyond your control – such as rain – it can be disheartening. However, if you can learn to overcome the mental and physical difficulties of rainy conditions, it can give you a distinct advantage over your opponents…
How to Play Better Golf in the Rain
When it comes to playing golf in the rain, preparation is key. If you use the right equipment, employ the appropriate playstyle, and adopt a good mentality, you’ll soon be an expert at swinging in the rain.
- Waterproof clothing – Jackets, trousers, and even shoes that are designed to keep the water out will make a world of difference to your rainy game of golf. Most of them are designed to easily slip over your other clothing, which is great if you need to put them on in a hurry.
- Spiked golf shoes – Make sure you’re wearing spiked golf shoes, and make sure the spikes are clean and in general good knick, as these will give you the best chance of avoiding foot slippage.
- Hats – Baseball hats are great for keeping the rain off your face as you swing, and wooly hats will help to keep the cold at bay.
- Towels – An absolutely essential piece of kit for wet weather golf. Stock as many as you can afford to carry. If you’re able to regularly dry your hands and golf grips, it will make a huge difference.
- Rain Golf Gloves – Once your golf glove becomes sufficiently soaked, it becomes useless. Fortunately, there are some golf gloves that are specially designed to withstand wet weather, helping you to maintain a decent grip throughout your round.
- Umbrella – If you have an umbrella, and are able to at least keep the rain off you as you’re walking around, you’ll probably feel a lot better about being outside.
- Waterproof golf bag covers – You want to keep your clubs as dry as possible throughout the round, and the easiest and most efficient way of doing that is with a waterproof bag cover.
Since the ball won’t be traveling as far, you may be tempted to try and hit the ball harder with faster swings to compensate. However, you should try to avoid falling into this trap, as it’s a strategy that rarely pays off. Your focus should instead be on maintaining a decent grip while sticking to the fundamentals of your usual swing.
Wet weather golf isn’t really the time to be playing glory shots. Don’t take too many risks; consider playing lay-ups wherever appropriate. Ultimately, you want to stay as far away from the rough as possible, as that’s where wet weather golf gets really
Use More Club
To account for the loss of distance, you could simply use a longer iron. You might also choose to use fairway woods and hybrids instead of 3, 4, or 5 irons, as they can be far easier to hit, especially in wet conditions.
Hit Lower Shots
Many players choose to purposefully hit lower shots in wet conditions as it can create a shallower landing angle, allowing more roll. Lower shots will also be less affected by the wind, which is usually part of the rainy day package.
Be Firmer with your Chips and Putts
During or after any amount of rainfall, you should expect the greens to be slower. To compensate, you’ll want to up the ante of your putting power. Also, keep in mind that the fairway and rough grass will be heavier than usual, so you’ll want to chip with a bit more ‘oomph’.
Adjust your Sand Play
In drier circumstances, you would typically play a bunker shot by striking the sand an inch or two behind the ball. In rainy conditions, however, this doesn’t really work, as the wet sand becomes too much of an obstacle. Thus, the best way to approach a wet bunker shot is just to treat it like a normal chip on the grass.
It’s quite simple, really. You just have to accept that the rain is going to negatively impact your score, no matter how good you are.
The trick is to be patient and not be too hard on yourself. A good sense of humor is also a pretty handy tool in a rainy-day-kit.
Take it one shot at a time, and try not to worry if you have a bad hole (though we know that is easier said than done!)
Rainy Day Rules
There are a few rules that apply specifically to wet weather golf which can make playing in the rain a lot less cumbersome.
The ‘Casual water’ rule
If your ball lands in a body of water that has accumulated temporarily due to rainfall, that does not constitute an official hazard (such as a lake), you can move your ball to a dry area without penalty, as long as you do not move closer to the hole. The same applies if your feet are in the water, even if your ball is not.
The ‘Winter rules’ rule
If your ball lands on the fairway, you are entitled to pick it up, clean it, and place it within six inches of its original position (as long as it is not closer to the hole). The same rule applies in bunkers.
It’s a good idea to check out the club’s website before you head out to see which rules are in play, as they can change on a daily basis.
Rain inevitably makes golf just that little bit harder. It almost always results in slightly reduced distances, and it can be hard to maintain technique, concentration, and motivation as you do battle with the elements.
But a rainy day doesn’t have to be a complete write-off. You can prepare with the proper equipment, and you can adjust your play style to make the most out of the tricky conditions.
Or, if you really hate the rain, just stay in and watch a movie instead – the sun will pop out again soon enough.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.