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How weather impacts your golf game: Weather IQ

Next time you don't make par, blame the weather! Temperature, wind, and moisture can all impact how you play the ball and which club you should use.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Whether you’re a PGA professional or a casual golfer, the weather has a huge impact on the sport.

In golf, the atmospheric elements are always in play.

There are three main weather components that can take your shot from a birdie to a triple bogey: wind, rain and temperature.

Wind

Stewart Williams, a meteorologist for the PGA Tour, said wind has the biggest impact on amateur golfers – but can trip up the pros, too.

“The wind will determine what club you're going to use on a certain hole,” he explained. “If it's left-to-right or right-to-left, or is in their face. Depending on how long you are, club selection is a big deal.”

Even a 5-or-10 mph wind plays a role if the drive is hundreds of yards. The longer the drive, the bigger impact due to the ball spending more time in the air.

Rain

Rain has an impact on the game regardless of how heavy the rain is. Light showers are more of a nuisance, but you still have to factor in drag on the ball. Any added moisture will impact how far the ball will go forcing golfers to adjust their swing.

When it’s raining, there are additional factors to consider: carrying an umbrella, having a towel to wipe your clubs and keeping your ball dry.

Plus, heavy rain can lead to puddles on the course, which can end your game.

“The rules of golf dictate the condition of the golf course. So, if there's some puddling on the golf course, but you can take relief from that puddle and move the ball and still be able to play under the rules of golf, then you’ll keep playing," Stewart explained. "But if it's heavy enough and there are rivers going down the fairway, then obviously you can't play.”

Temperature

Don’t forget to consider temperature when scheduling your tee time. Pros and amateur golfers alike have better form and flexibility when the weather is warm. Cold air means you'll need to bundle up in extra layers, which will retrict your swing.

Typically, a player will also need more club when the air is colder. Cold air is denser than warm air and creates additional drag and friction on a golf ball.

Former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas said the difference is about two yards of carry for every ten degree temperature change. Theoretically, if you play at 60 degrees in the morning compared with 80 degrees in the afternoon, you’re looking at a four-yard loss.

Sunlight and Sun Angle

Grass tends to grow more towards the sun and towards bodies of water, such as lakes. This may cause a putt to go slightly in a different direction.

“So if you're putting against the ‘grain’, it can slow your ball speed down on the green,” Williams said.

Also, sun angle has a small role, too. Early in the morning or later in the afternoon, long shadows can form across the green. This makes a putt sometimes harder to read.

RELATED: Meet the meteorologist for the PGA Tour - Stewart Williams

Lightning

It’s easy to imagine why thunderstorms mean a no-go for a round of golf. You can easily be struck by lightning especially while holding a metal club. 

Remember when thunder roars, move indoors.

Williams told WCNC Charlotte the PGA’s rule of thumb is about 8 miles. When lightning moves inside that promixity to the golf course, they will begin moving golfers and spectators to safety. This is about the same rules used at Bank of America Stadium for Charlotte FC matches and Carolina Panthers games. However, Williams said time is more important to them than distance.

“A lot of it has to do with timing because every golf course is different: some are compact, some are very spread out. Then when you add 20- to 30,000 spectators out there watching the golf, obviously you have to give more time to get the spectators to safety.”

 🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte Weather Team on their YouTube channel, Weather IQ. 🎥

Frost

During the colder months, frost can be a concern for golfers because a course may not let you on until the frost melts. This avoids the grass being killed by people walking back and forth on it.

Plus, if there’s frost that means all the impacts above about cold temperature and moisture apply.

Ideal Golfing Weather

Williams believes the ideal day for a round of golf is a sunny sky with low temperatures in the upper 50s, highs in the upper 70s and a light wind. Sounds like a hole-in-one!

Contact Brittany Van Voorhees at bvanvoorhe@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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