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Opinion & Analysis

How to shoot better scores in windy conditions

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As we start to move into the tropical storm season in my home state of Florida, I want to go through the research I’ve done on the data on the PGA Tour with regards to performance in windy conditions. I feel that all golfers can use this information to perform better when the wind starts to blow harder.

First, I had to determine how I wanted to measure the data. What I discovered early on is that, speaking generally, the better player will tend to perform better in different conditions. So Rory McIlroy will tend to shoot better scores than say, renowned wind player Stuart Appleby. McIlroy is simply a better player than Appleby. However, that does not mean that we should follow McIlroy’s example of how to play in the wind.

Instead, I wanted to see what players on Tour improve and what golfers improve in performance when the wind starts to pick up. I used the Adjusted Scoring Average method (defined below) in order to measure this level of improvement.

[quote_box_center]Adjusted Scoring Average: A formula that subtracts the average score for the round from par. Then that difference is added to the golfer’s score. For example, if a golfer shoots 66 on a par-72 course and the average score was a 74.5 for the day, the golfer’s score would be adjusted to 63.5.[/quote_box_center]

For this study, I needed to look at the wind speeds for the morning versus afternoon rounds and adjust the scores accordingly. As we know, most of the time there is much less wind in the morning than in the afternoon. So I had to figure out the scoring average of the morning group versus the afternoon groups.

From there, I wanted to see what players had the largest change in their Adjusted Scoring Average rankings in “windy” versus “non-windy” conditions.

Windy vs. Non-Windy Conditions

With measuring wind speed, there is the average wind speed and there are maximum wind gusts. Sometimes the average wind speed does not give an accurate depiction of how windy it was that day. When combining the average wind speed with the wind gusts, I started to see a more accurate picture. Wind gusts are defined as a peak speed of wind that usually lasts less than 20 seconds. If the average wind speed was the same on two different rounds, the day with the larger wind gusts would produce higher scores.

I used a simple formula that took the average of the average wind speed and wind gust speed and I called it Wind Velocity. Here’s an example:

(5 mph average wind speed + 10 mph wind gust)/2 = 7.5 wind velocity

The wind velocity on Tour ranges from 5 to 25 mph. But the range of Wind Velocity that is most frequent is 9 to 12 mph. Perhaps the most interesting finding was that the Tour started to see a noticeable increase in scores as a whole when the Wind Velocity was greater than 12 mph.

My interpretation? Once the Wind Velocity is at 12 mph, it can make at least a one-club difference on an into-the-wind approach shot. And as we know, the tailwind in golf does not benefit the golfer at the same equivalent of how much a headwind hurts a golfer.

In the end, I measured the rounds as:

  1. Windy conditions having a Wind Velocity of greater than 12 mph
  2. Non-windy conditions having a Wind Velocity at 12 mph or less.

Common Traits of the Best Wind Players

Here’s a list of players with the largest improvement and the players with the largest regression in “windy” conditions compared to “non-windy” conditions over the past five seasons on the PGA Tour:

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 12.06.18 PM

When looking at the entire list of players and their level of improvement/regression when the Wind Velocity was more than 12 mph, I started to see the following commonalities in their metrics:

  • The most improved players tend to be more conservative off the tee, in general, laying up off the tee and not using driver.
  • The most improved players tend to be less aggressive on par-5s, by laying up instead of going for the green in two shots.
  • The players with the largest regression tend to be poor from the Green Zone (approach shots from 75-125 yards).
  • The players with the largest regression tend to be poor on short game shots from inside 20 yards around the green.
  • The most improved players appear to hit the driver with a downward attack angle.

A trend that appears to exist, but on a smaller level, is that the most improved players tend to be less effective drivers of the ball in general.

The trends are certainly open to interpretation. My feeling is that there is a psychology to being comfortable with laying up off the tee and on par-5s. When playing in windy conditions, players are more apt to have to lay up because the wind will throw the ball offline. The players that lay up often in non-windy conditions are now more comfortable with having to lay-up when the wind picks up.

The downward attack angle with the driver makes perfect sense. You’re trying to flight the ball lower so the wind does not throw it offline. Players that have a pronounced upward attack angle like Bubba, Keegan and Kyle Stanley are going to have more difficulty keeping the ball out of the wind.

As for the Short Game shots around the green, when the conditions become windy the greens in regulation percentage drops and therefore the golfer has to be able to convert scrambling opportunities. But what surprised me a bit is that the most improved players had a trend of being better from the Green Zone (75-125 yards).

My guess why is twofold:

  1. In windy conditions, the players are not likely able to go for par-5s in two shots, therefore they have to lay up to that Green Zone range.
  2. In windy conditions, the players are more likely to hit their drives offline and then have to hit a rescue shot instead of being able to go for the green, so they have to save par from the Green Zone.

For those using this at home, I would recommend using your smart phone weather app to see what the wind speed is and where the wind is coming from. Since it is now legal to use a compass during a round of golf, more diligent golfers can use it to determine where the wind is coming from when the wind starts to swirl a bit. And if the wind speeds are faster than 12 mph, golfers may want to focus on being a bit more conservative in strategy off the tee and on par-5s while working on their wedges before they go out to play.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Scott

    May 28, 2015 at 9:18 am

    This is a very interesting article. I have improved my wind play by mentally accepting the conditions instead of worrying or complaining. A week at Bandon Dunes changed my idea of what wind really is. I look at it as another hazard that has to be negotiated.

  2. Roonster

    May 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Theres on dobt 12 mph is a significant number this means that a stratergy is needed soft hands ball back in stance and finishing loe ,find the middle of the club and accept what you get if you get it right then fine if not accept this it may not be your fault
    when chipping keep it low if you can try to keep it on the floor make it work for you as
    a stratergy its fun and you can learn the skills come to the uk and you will need those skills

  3. Steve

    May 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    If you live/play in a area where windy conditions are normal, south florida. Texas etc . You learn to play in it through trial and error. If you live in a area where wind isnt a factor normally it will be harder for you. I grew up in the northeast where wind was a non factor so hitting high bombs was the play. Now i am in south florida and high bombs are death sentence here. So you change your game to fit. Which is mid piercing draws or low tee driver bullets. But it does take time to get use too

    • Regis

      May 27, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Totally agree. I’ve played most of my golf on Long Island . First 25 on an inland course. Last 2 on a course where the back nine abuts the water. Wind can be fierce. Learned by trial and error (mostly error). My favorite shot is hitting a tee shot into the wind coming off the bay and riding the wind into the center of the fairway . When it works

  4. Martin

    May 22, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I have spent the last 7 years first on the Prairie where it was always windy and now near the Atlantic ocean where the same thing exists.

    Into the wind, or even worse an in my face coming a bit from the right I almost always hit a 3w. I still hit it hard but can hit it almost dead straight. Over the years I found extra club and hit the ball very straight with no fade or draw is the best way to play in windy conditions.

    My regular swing now except with a driver which is a fade is almost always dead straight, I gues I taught myself to keep the club sq

  5. Jonny B

    May 22, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Sergio hits down on the ball almost more than anyone else on tour. He takes mammoth divots with his 3 wood. Yet he’s on the bad wind player list… what gives? Kind of refutes your theory.

    • Richie Hunt

      May 23, 2015 at 10:16 am

      First, it’s trends, so it doesn’t mean that there will never be an exception to the rule. Secondly, Sergio over the years has not been that good from 75-125 yards and his Short Game play has been suspect at times.

  6. Desmond

    May 22, 2015 at 10:16 am

    So you’ re hitting down on the driver, placing more spin on the ball… okay, I assume the downward AOA must be slight for tour players.

    • Thomas Beckett

      May 22, 2015 at 11:12 am

      If a player decreases the angle of attack from say 2 degrees upward to 2 degrees downward with a driver or any club for that matter, and also decreases the loft by the same amount which in this case is 4, the spin loft remains the same so there would be ZERO increase or decrease in backspin. Hitting up more or down more is only one part to changing the spin rates.

      • Desmond

        May 22, 2015 at 11:17 am

        Thx. Yes, I thought you’d have to decrease left to minimize spin. Of course, I’ve also heard the old saw that in the wind, tee it high and let it fly … that seems defeating against the wind.

        With iron approaches, I’ve played with guys who take more club and keep it low, and guys who take more club, make a full swing, and let it fly – they let the wind balloon it and knock it down onto the green. That is interesting to watch and do …

    • Rich Hunt

      May 22, 2015 at 11:32 am

      I was just reporting what the data shows. Some players like Trevor Immelman (plays more effectively in the wind) have a very steep attack angle and high spin rates. But, he also hits the ball very low. However, I didn’t put that in the end of the article as something to do because I think changing your AoA and still hit the ball well is probably difficult to do.

  7. The dude

    May 22, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Most amateurs don’t use enough club….for them it’s too much to swallow a little pride and hit that 8 iron from 125….instead of muscling a wedge

    • Cliff

      May 22, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Agreed! Most amateurs think they can hit any club an extra 5-10 yards by swinging harder. This just isn’t the case. Take the extra club or 2 and swing easy.

    • Rich Hunt

      May 22, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Old Florida saying…’when it’s breezy, swing easy.’ There have been some YouTube videos showing people with Trackman and showing the numbers why hitting more club and swinging less forcefully is beneficial in the wind.

  8. Matt

    May 21, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Growing up in Oklahoma taught me a lot about how to play in the wind. The trick for me is to keep my grip light and swing easy. If you try to control the ball too much you’ll end up making a bad swing.

  9. Duncan Castles

    May 21, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Informative and helpful. As always…
    Thanks Rich.

  10. Tom Stickney

    May 21, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Brilliant

    • Jeez Utz

      May 23, 2015 at 8:32 am

      Like you would know

      • devilsadvocate

        May 23, 2015 at 11:55 am

        Actually yes he would… Tom is a class A PGA pro and director of instruction… Ooops! You may now remove your proverbial foot from your mouth

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Opinion & Analysis

A Letter from the Editor: Big changes are happening at GolfWRX

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For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Andrew Tursky. I recently went from the right-hand-man of former GolfWRX Editor-in-Chief Zak Kozuchowski, to running the show here at GolfWRX as the Editor-in-Chief myself. In my new role, I’m going to help GolfWRX fulfill its fullest potential as the best golf website in existence, and that means making a number of immediate changes, all of which I’ll highlight below.

First, a look back. Over a decade ago, GolfWRX started as a small community golf forum for golfers to discuss golf equipment, courses, instruction, rules, bargains, and everything else golf related. The forums continue to grow everyday, and they’re stronger than ever with over 250,000 members who are the most knowledgable and passionate golfers on the planet. They also helped us determine the Best Driver of 2018. Additionally, sometime around 2011, Kozuchowski took GolfWRX.com from simply a community golf forum to a golf media powerhouse by adding a front page section of the website, equipped with ultra-professional editorial. He built a team of Featured Writers — consisting of some of the biggest names in the golf industry — to help produce content that readers love and need. Since 2013, I’ve been helping Zak run the site by writing/producing original content myself, and working with the Featured Writer team. Currently averaging over 1.8 million unique readers per month, GolfWRX has been doing just fine. But I believe so strongly in the GolfWRX brand that I don’t want to settle for “just fine.” I believe we have more to offer, and I want every golfer in the world to garner entertainment or knowledge from our website.

As such, and building upon the foundation that is GolfWRX.com and the forums, I’ve been empowered by the “powers that be” at GolfWRX — you know, the guys who cut paychecks — to grow and shape the best golf website on the Internet.

So what does that mean going forward? Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss.

Here at GolfWRX, we’ve always been great at telling stories through the written word and images, and we will continue to do so with our Featured Writers team and legion of golf writers who love and know the game of golf. But after taking over the editorial direction of the website, I also wanted to help give GolfWRX a voice and a face. There are so many amazing people in the world of golf, and I wanted to provide platforms for us to help them tell their stories… to provide our readers the chance to see how golf clubs are made, how courses are designed, why professionals play certain equipment, and so much more. I wanted to bring readers where they’ve never been and hear from the people they’ve never heard from. Here at GolfWRX, we have the opportunity to speak with amazing people and play golf at amazing courses, and it’s about time the GolfWRX readers got to enjoy those experiences with us.

Therefore, we’re implementing our own original video and radio initiatives.

On the video-end of the spectrum, GolfWRX has recently hired Johnny Wunder full-time to the GolfWRX Staff. He’s a Hollywood producer (check out his new film Josie, starring Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, that was recently in select theaters across the country!) and is also the new Director of Original Content at GolfWRX. If you’ve enjoyed the Bob Parsons interview, Paige interview, PXG Gen2 Editor’s Journal, or how PXG irons get built, you have Mr. Wunder to thank. Also coming soon are experiences with Mike Taylor at Artisan Golf, David Edel, Bert Lamar of Iliac Golf, the Criquet Golf team in Austin, a short game series with Gabe Hjertstedt, a new fashion series and much more. We’re extremely excited to bring our own original content to the world, and help highlight the people in golf who we think deserve a platform. See the things you’ve never seen, go places you’ve never gone, and meet people you’ve never met; that’s what we want to do with our new GolfWRX original video content. We truly hope you enjoy it, and learn a lot from the content we produce.

We’ve also started three great podcasts — the “19th Hole with host Michael Williams,” “Two Guys Talkin’ Golf,” and “Gear Dive” — with plans to expand in the very near future. Check all of them out here on SoundCloud, or here on iTunes.

The 19th Hole is hosted by Michael Williams, who was the PGA Mediaperson of the Year in 2014 and is a longtime titan in both golf media and radio in general; he has produced and hosted shows on CBS Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Voice of America. Michael is a true professional, knowledgeable golfer, and knows how to conduct one heck of an interview. So far on the show, his guests have included Greg Norman, Bob Vokey, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Scott Van Pelt, Byron Scott, Michael Breed, Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Nantz, Roger Cleveland, Mike Taylor, and many more.

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf (TG2), is hosted by equipment expert Brian Knudson and myself, a former Division I golfer and GolfWRX Editor. Together, we discuss all things golf, but mostly focus on golf equipment… and the occasional hot take. TG2 welcomes guests on the show as well, ranging from GolfWRX forum members to club builders to Tour professionals to caddies. If you’re hungry for more equipment knowledge and high-level golf conversation, TG2 is your type of podcast.

The third, and all-new podcast, is called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder. What you can expect is a weekly podcast where Wunder interviews anyone who’s anyone “in the know” of golf equipment… and he’s going deep. To give you an idea, his first guest was legendary clubmaker Larry Bobka who made Tiger Woods’ old Titleist irons.

Also, as I discussed before, GolfWRX is great with telling stories via the written word. To make sure we continue to do so, we’ve hired Ben Alberstadt who’s been writing for GolfWRX for over 5 years now. He was previously a freelance journalist who worked with a variety of media and news outlets, and he now wears the GolfWRX hat full time. I cannot be more excited to have him aboard the ship because he’s a true, hard-working journalist and he’s great at telling a story in his own unique style. If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I mean.

And as for me, I promise to continue providing GolfWRX readers with the content they want and need to read/hear/see on a daily basis. It’s my duty to help our readers be the most knowledgable golfers and golf buyers, and be entertained while learning more about the sport we all love. I simply love GolfWRX and our readers/listeners/viewers, and I want you to have the best website of all time to visit every day… a website to be part of and proud of.

What do I ask from you GolfWRX readers? Your feedback! If we write a bad story, tell us why you think it’s bad. If we publish a video you like, tell us why in the comments or on social media. If you love the new podcast, tell us that you loved it and support by subscribing. (If you want all of our podcasts transcribed, we’re working on it!) We want to have the best website in the world, and we want to provide information to golfers in the way they want to consume it. We care deeply about your opinion. GolfWRX began as a forum community, and we will always be a community. Personally, I was a GolfWRX reader myself before ever writing for the site. So was Alberstadt and Williams and Knudson and Wunder. We love golf and we love GolfWRX. We want to see it thrive, and you, the readers, are a huge part of that success.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you continue to be a GolfWRX reader and participant. And if you do, make sure to tell your golfing buddies how much you love the site… in real life or on social media. The more we grow, the better stories and podcasts and videos we can create. I love and appreciate the opportunity to be your GolfWRX Editor, and I won’t let you down!

 

Hit em between the tree line,

Andrew Tursky

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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