How To Prepare For Wind

By Sandy Retsky

golf carts drive down a path
The difficulty of making shots (full swing, pitching, chipping, putting) increases as the wind increases. The wind has direction, speed and type (steady, gusty, swirling). These characteristics vary with the height above ground and can change quickly. Your golf ball flight will be affected by any wind. Your swing will be affected by a strong wind. On a positive side, the wind can eliminate bugs and cool off a hot day. Your goal is to prepare for the wind.


Difficulty: Moderate
  1. Determine the current wind (direction, speed, type). For ground level, toss some grass into the air and watch it move. For higher levels, look at the tops of trees around the fairway up to your target, and watch the branches move. If you see one direction, speed and type, you know what the current wind is. If you cannot determine the current wind, make a best guess, and play a safer shot (maybe play short of the green, where there are no traps).
  2. Choose your wind club. The higher the ball flight (which increases with backspin), the more the wind affects your shot. Start with the club for your normal shot without the wind, then adjust to the current wind. Be careful the wind doesn't bring a hazard into play.

    For a crosswind: A crosswind accentuates a leeward slice or hook. Hit either a normal straight shot that is aimed to the windward side or a normal shot that starts straight and curves in the windward direction; let the wind move the ball back to straight. For a headwind: Hit more club (creates lower ball flight, which minimizes effects of headwind) for the normal distance. For a tailwind: Hit either your normal club (creates higher ball flight, which uses effects of tailwind and adds roll) for more distance, or less club (creates higher ball flight, which maximizes effects of tailwind) for normal distance.
  3. Check your body setup. Place your feet your normal width apart; for a strong wind, place your feet about 2 to 3 inches wider than normal width apart to be more stable. For lower ball flight: Position your ball slightly back of normal in your stance. Your weight forward on your feet. For higher ball flight (with tailwind): Use your normal setup.
  4. Check your club setup. The back of your front hand and your clubface should be square to the starting shot path. For lower ball flight: Your hands should be slightly ahead of the clubhead at setup and impact. Choke up slightly on your grip. For higher ball flight (with tailwind): Use your normal setup.
  5. Check your mental setup. Visualize "the shot path." Believe "I will make this shot."
  6. Check your swing. Wait for any wind gusts to pass. You must commit to a wind shot; doubt is not good for a swing. For tee shots: If you want a lower shot, tee the ball lower by up to ½ inch. For full shots, pitch shots and chip shots: For lower ball flight: Shorten your back swing and follow through; swing slower than normal (decreases backspin); downswing is steeper than normal with minimal wrist action. For higher ball flight (with tailwind): Swing normally, and use the wind. For putts: Even though putts are not airborne, include the current wind in the read of your putt (especially on short grass and firm greens). If the ball moves after you address it, there is a one-stroke penalty. (This happened to Padraig Harrington in the 2009 Masters.)

Tips & Warnings

  • You determine how much the wind affects your shot through practice. Unfortunately, wind conditions are difficult to simulate.