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How the wind affects your golf ball

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The wind had really picked up on the back nine. My friend and I were nearing the end of the round, and were about to hit our third shots into a par-5. I had played with my friend dozens of times, and I knew his distances just as well as my own. He used to play professionally, so it surprised me when he hit a full 8-iron from 125 yards. That club usually went 160 yards, but this time it landed within 2 feet of the hole. I would have never taken that much club from such a distance, and that’s also why my shot finished short of the green.

That round took place a few years before I started working with TrackMan, and it’s one of those moments on the golf course that has stuck with me. The good news is that you don’t need to play with a professional golfer to fully understand the effects of wind on the golf ball. Chances are that there’s a Trackman somewhere near you, and it measures the entire ball flight to help golfers understand what wind does to their shots.

If that’s not a possibility for you, here are a few important things that I have learned after playing with the data and running the calculations:

  • The effects of wind are not linear. Unfortunately, there is not a simple equation such as “1 mph equals 1 yard” that golfers can use to calculate how far the ball will fly in the wind. Different clubs, due to their different launch conditions and different ball flight, will be affected differently.
  • A headwind hurts more than a tailwind helps. In fact, at higher wind speeds, a headwind will hurt more than twice as much as a tailwind helps.
  • Headwinds and tailwinds can significantly impact how much bounce and roll you see, and must be taken into account when picking your landing spot.

A great example of how wind affects bounce and roll was seen at the World Long Drive Championship a few years ago. The wind was blowing from behind the players and they were hitting drives that were going 450 yards or more. Yes, they were seeing more carry due to the wind, but they were also seeing a lot of bounce and roll. When I looked at the data, I noticed that not only was the landing angle of the ball shallower, but the landing speed of the ball was significantly higher. A normal drive will typically land at around 65-70 mph, but some of these shots were landing at nearly 100 mph. Because the downwind was reducing the amount of drag the golf ball was experiencing, the ball was hitting the ground faster and at a flatter angle.

The following is an example of a PGA and LPGA Tour 6-iron shot under different wind conditions. You can see how the distance gained or lost is different for the same amount of tailwind or headwind. Notice how much the landing angle changes as well.

PGA TOUR 6-iron

LPGA Tour 6-iron

Since there isn’t a hard rule for how wind affects all shots, I would encourage you to find a certified TrackMan professional and play around on a windy day. He or she will be able to use the normalization feature in TrackMan to show you how far the ball would have carried under calm conditions, as well as show you real-time data of what the ball did in the conditions that day.

Over time you will start to build a knowledge base for how different winds and conditions truly affect your ball flight. Trust that knowledge on the golf course, and you will be much better off.

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Justin Padjen, business development for TrackMan, has worked with more than 200 PGA and LPGA Tour professionals, including multiple world No. 1's. His knowledge of the science of golf has led to audiences with the top players, coaches, universities, and manufacturers in the world. Justin studied Electrical Engineering at North Carolina State University before earning a Master’s in Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University. His current focus is TrackMan University, which is revolutionizing the way golf is taught and understood.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Pingback: What Is a Birdie in Golf? Meaning and How to Earn One - Coaching Kidz

  2. Pingback: D-Plane Golf | The DIY Golfer

  3. Pingback: Wind | Nur Golf

  4. Antoine Gehlhausen

    Sep 4, 2015 at 5:41 am

    This may seem like a good idea and certainly gives you the general direction of the wind, but unless you re going to hit the ball at your height it really means very little. There has been very little published on wind and how it affects the golf ball, you have to look at the sailing industry to really understand wind.

  5. Mike

    Aug 12, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    first time I got such an informative data. definitely will me the next time I play in the windy condition. Thanks!

  6. Tom Duckworth

    Aug 11, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Great read very good information. Even without a Trackman this gives me a good starting point. Have you ever looked a numbers when it’s a side wind? That would be a great follow up story to this one.

    • Justin Padjen

      Aug 12, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Yes we have. That would be a good follow-up article. I will see about covering that topic in the future. Thanks.

      • TinCup

        Aug 19, 2015 at 7:57 am

        +1 for the side-wind article. Especially on “quartering” winds

  7. Nick

    Aug 11, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Are there any charts or rules of thumb like this for elevation from tee to green? I don’t mean elevation as in ‘sea level vs playing in Denver’. I mean, for example, “If I’m on a tee box that’s elevated 50 feet from the green, roughly how much shorter does it play?”

    • Justin Padjen

      Aug 12, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      We have a similar animated video on “Ups & Downs”, but it has not been released publicly yet. Stay tuned for more from TrackMan University!

      • BC

        Mar 5, 2020 at 11:12 am

        Very informative, thank you. Is there a similar chart showing the impacts of temperature on distance?

  8. Zeta

    Aug 11, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Made a chart with meters: http://i.imgur.com/eQJhaft.png

  9. B C

    Aug 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    I use the wind speed as the percentage that it will affect to ball when hitting into a headwind. So your 150 club will go 135 into a 10 mph wind. And 120 into 20. The percent goes up slightly with more lofted clubs. But if you apply that “formula” to the chart above its pretty close.

    Most people way underestimate the effect of a headwind. It’s hard mentally to make a full 8 iron swing from 120 yards though if you normally hit it 150. If the wind dies then the ball is WAY deep. Better to learn a knockdown shot to reduce spin and height.

    Think of it this way. The longer the ball is in the air the more effect wind has on the shot. Keep it lower and it will get there faster and be less affected.

  10. Philip

    Aug 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    I can tell by feel what 1/2/3/4 club wind is and I’m always tweaking it as i play. I personally think this is better than simulating on a trackman as you do not have access to wind speeds during play – you can only feel the wind and look at tree tops (which I keep forgetting to do). That being said, the last few times I played I was beginning to realize that a tailwind is approximately half of a headwind and this article just confirms it – thanks.

  11. other paul

    Aug 10, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    I would have really appreciated a formula ????

  12. Mat

    Aug 10, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I sure would like to see more of these Trackman U videos. Anyone have a site address?

    • Justin Padjen

      Aug 12, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Thank you. We are currently hard at work on the “new” TrackMan University. In the meantime, please check out our blog and YouTube page for more content. The links are available in my profile.

  13. WP

    Aug 10, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Good read – thanks. The basic concept is more or less intuitive but I would have underestimated the difference.

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Instruction

What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching

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Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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The importance of arm structure

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How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.

To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.

I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.

From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.

@peterthomson

When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.

A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.

Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.

www.kelleygolf.com

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What is ground force in the golf swing?

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There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.

 

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