How To Use The Wind To Your Advantage
I love days when the wind blows hard, and certainly encountered just that during the third round of the Victorian PGA at RACV Cape Schanck Resort in October. Winds of 50 kilometres per hour, with gusts of up to 70km/h, blew all day and it required using an entirely different strategy to normal. Knowing how to tackle the wind on a day like this is the difference between your score blowing out completely or helping you make up a lot of ground on the field.
The key is to use the wind to your advantage when you can and take what’s given when you can’t. Simply put, that means getting the ball up in the air on downwind holes and keeping it low when you’re into it. When the wind is with you, hitting it higher helps carry the ball further and, interestingly, straighten out any curve you may have put on the ball. The saying, “Tee it high and let it fly” is great advice when the wind’s up your backside. Off the tee with my driver, I move the ball up an inch or so in the stance and tilt my left shoulder (right shoulder for a right-handers) slightly lower than normal. This pre-sets my address for a higher launch angle. From here I swing normally and let my set up dictate the angle of attack. With irons, take a more lofted club than you normally would because the ball will obviously go further downwind.
Conversely, hitting tee shots against the wind requires a much lower ball flight because anything up in the air won’t go very far and will get knocked well offline. Contacting the ball solidly into the wind is your No.1 concern because any mis-hit will be exaggerated and veer off target quickly. With the driver, lower the height of your tee and move the ball back in your stance a touch. Focus on a nice smooth rhythm and stay centred for a quality strike. The urge to hit the ball harder into the wind to gain extra distance is a temptation important to resist and no truer words have been spoken than, “Swing it easy when it’s breezy.” On iron shots, and depending on the wind strength, I take one to three clubs more than the distance dictates. With a slightly narrower stance and ball position back a little, make a smooth, three-quarter swing. This puts less spin on the ball, so it comes out lower and doesn’t give the wind as much chance to have an effect. You can practise this shot at the range on calm days by hitting a club that’s 20 metres too much for the target you’re aiming at. Shorten your backswing and swing smoothly to see how much control’s required for solid contact.
Contacting the ball solidly into the wind is your No.1 concern.
For crosswind shots I use the wind off the tee, meaning I let the wind take the ball in whichever direction it’s blowing rather than fight it. You have to aim further away from the target, but it will help gain some extra metres. With iron shots, I hold the ball against the wind by hitting draws or fades up into it. This takes practice (talk to your local PGA professional for some guidance), but allows for more control on approach shots into greens, as the ball doesn’t get away from you when it lands.
So next time it’s a gusty day, use the wind conditions to your advantage and you might just blow everybody away!