How Much Does Wind Affect A Golf Ball?

One of the great features of golf is that it’s outdoors. We get to spend the whole afternoon amongst beautiful scenery and breathe all the fresh air. No playing in sweaty gyms or on concrete courts; we are one with nature. 

But sometimes, nature is not as welcoming as we’d like and throws a windy day at us.

Golf is already hard enough, and we don’t need any more variables, but the wind definitely adds some excitement to any course that you may have become all too familiar with. 

Learning how much does wind affect a golf ball is a never-ending endeavor, as each day is different. To become proficient at playing winds correctly, you need to practice but also have a plan of attack

Use this guide as a starting point to ensure you’re monitoring wind accurately and making beneficial adjustments to your shot selection and set-up.

In this article, we will look at the following:

  • How Wind Affects Your Golf Ball
  • How To Handle Upwind (Into The Wind) Shots
  • How To Handle Downwind (With The Wind) Shots
  • How To Handle Side Wind
  • How Much Does Wind Affect A Golf Ball: Wind Comparison Chart
  • How To Calculate Distance In The Wind
  • 3 Common Mistakes When Playing In Windy Conditions
  • Summary—How Much Does Wind Affect a Golf Ball?

Let’s get started!

A white golf flag blows in the wind with the words "how much does wind affect a golf ball" in the foreground.

How Wind Affects Your Golf Ball

Wind affects the spin of your golf ball more than any other factor. Of course, if you’re hitting dead into the wind, then the physical resistance is at its strongest, but what is actually happening is the wind is either speeding up or slowing down the ball’s RPMs

High shots are always more susceptible to wind because it has a longer time to effect change on your ball’s spin rate. Whichever trajectory your ball is on will be exaggerated in relation to how strong the wind is blowing. 

To navigate your way through winds of any speed, it’s crucial to identify two aspects: 

  • Speed
  • Direction

Every day will be different, but the more you practice, the less intimidating it will be to play on windy days.

A female golfer wearing red swings a golf club.

How To Handle Upwind (into the Wind) Shots

Most amateurs dread hitting shots into a strong gust, but in many cases, hitting into the wind is easier than gauging a strong downwind. Let me explain. 

Assuming your target is dead straight, and the wind is dead straight in your face, it’s going to increase the backspin rate of your ball. This creates a higher apex and more sudden drop (maybe even regress a few yards). 

Shots directed into the wind are more favorable than downwind because your ball doesn’t travel as far and, therefore, has less time to get in trouble. 

Woods vs. Irons Into The Wind:

The lower you can keep your ball, the better your results will be when playing in a strong wind. With that in mind, woods and long irons are your friends here.

I know many people don’t want to hear that, but it’s these windy days that make these clubs worth a little extra practice. 

Fairway woods are designed to create very little backspin. The center of gravity is moved back in the head, which helps to launch the ball “high” without the use of backspin. 

Long irons work on a similar principle, but due to their design, most golfers tend to attack at a steep angle, which creates more backspin than necessary. This leads them to believe that long irons are the issue when, in fact, they just need a minor adjustment to make the most of what long irons have to offer.

A male golfer wearing a white polo swings a golf club.

How To Handle Downwind (with the Wind) Shots

It’s a popular opinion that downwind is favorable as it helps you gain distance. While this is true on the surface, downwind shots are much harder to control. 

When faced with downwind shots, it’s best to keep your ball low to prevent the wind from carrying your ball. Of course, it may be beneficial to ride the wind on certain drives. In this case, tee your ball high to encourage a strike higher on the clubface.

This will reduce spin, so the wind will have an easier time pushing your ball. 

Due to the wind keeping your ball airborne for longer, if you happen to hit one offline, the wind will carry it even further offline. It exaggerates whichever shot you’ve hit, so draws can quickly become hooks, and fades will start to slice. 

Woods vs Irons With The Wind:

There’s nothing better than launching a booming drive into the stratosphere and watching it hang in the air as if it’s never going to come down, but those are few and far between.

The likelihood of playing downwind with woods is that they start slightly offline, and then the wind carries it deeper and deeper into trouble. 

When playing downwind, let your irons do the talking. Irons naturally create less side spin on your ball, which will help your mis-struck shots stay on the map

Take extra care when hitting wedges and short irons downwind. These are most at risk to airmail your target. Be sure to swing easily and control your height on all full swings with 9-iron or less. 

A red and white golf flag blows in the wind.

How To Handle Side Wind

Side wind is arguably the toughest to judge, as most people give it too much credit. It takes a strong crosswind of 15 mph or more to have a real effect on your ball flight. If at this speed, it will be a rare case when you have to start your flight path outside of the green, for example. 

Many people overcompensate and then find themselves begging for the wind to be stronger or saying that it died as soon as they hit their shot. Don’t be this guy; if the wind is directly across, then acknowledge it, but don’t let it throw off your entire alignment. 

Woods vs Irons In A Crosswind:

Although woods stay in the air longer than irons, they are less affected by crosswinds because of their lower trajectory. Mid-short irons are most at risk because, by the time they are coming down, they’ve lost a lot of their momentum and will be at the mercy of the wind.

When playing irons in a crosswind, be sure to identify your bail-out area. This should be a spot on the course that is wide, so if you misjudge the wind, your ball has a good chance to end up in your bail-out area. 

A golf course with a tree in the mist.

how much does wind affect a golf ball: Wind Comparison Chart

These numbers are based on the average golfer. You can apply them to your yardages by maintaining the same percentage from calm to windy. 

Into The Wind

ClubsCalm Conditions (Yards carried)10 mph Wind20 mph Wind25+ mph
Driver (10%)240y216y192y180y
Long Irons (7.5%)190y176y163y154y
Short Irons (5%)125y118y112y106y

With The Wind

ClubsCalm Conditions (Yards carried)10 mph Wind (new yds carried)20 mph Wind25+ mph
Long Irons(5%)190y200y208212y+
Short Irons(5%)125y131y137y140y+

How To Calculate Distance in the Wind

Calculating wind is not an exact science; you will never know exactly how hard the wind is blowing, and you won’t know the difference between wind speed at ground level and wind speed 180 feet off the ground where your ball will be traveling. 

Having said that, it’s good to establish benchmarks to work off of so you can have a sense of shot monitoring. 

When playing into the wind, it will have a more drastic effect on how you choose your club but not necessarily the greatest impact on ball flight. Since the wind knocks your ball down faster, we need to account for this. 

  • According to the chart above. Your driver will carry 10% less in 10mph winds. So, if you normally carry it 240 yards into the wind, it will only carry 216 yards. 
  • Downwind, the numbers are slightly adjusted to reflect the different ways in which it affects your ball flight. We use 7.5% because we want to protect against a shot that carries too long. 
A golf course littered with golf balls.

3 Common Mistakes When Playing in Windy Conditions

#1: Giving Too Much Credit

Feeling a little bit of wind is okay; your ball is traveling with force, so it will take a stronger wind to really make an impact on your ball. Only make adjustments if the wind is clearly over 10 mph.

Gusts are part of the game, and you can’t predict them, so only change your shot if the wind is consistently over 10 mph. 

#2: Swinging too hard

It’s hard to resist the urge to put a little extra effort into your swing, especially when playing into the wind.

This actually will have the opposite effect since the harder you swing, the more spin you create, resulting in your headwind shots going even shorter and your downwind shots not carrying as far as they could. 

#3: Over Aligning

This happens in crosswinds especially. Players think they are aiming slightly to one side to compensate for the wind when, in reality, they have aimed wildly too far to one side or the other.

With long irons and woods, be sure your adjustments are slight since it will be compounded if you draw an imaginary line all the way to your target. 

Two golfers hide behind a red umbrella in the rain.

Summary—How Much Does Wind Affect a Golf Ball?

The moral of the story is that wind does affect your ball, but unless it’s a strong wind, you won’t have to make a lot of adjustments.

In North America, our winds are much different than those found in Europe. Unless you’re by the ocean, a real windy day is hard to come by. 

Don’t let gusts fool you and make a mountain out of a molehill. Address wind if it’s over 10 mph, but otherwise, don’t think too much about it

Take time in your pre-shot routine to locate a safe bail-out and swing easy. Let your playing partners make the usual mistakes so you can collect at the 19th hole.

Next Up: 7 Golf Club Distance Charts: By Age, Gender And Skill Level

Photo of author
After graduating from the Professional Golf Management program in Palm Springs, CA, I moved back to Toronto, Canada, turned pro and became a Class 'A' member of the PGA of Canada. I then began working at some of the city's most prominent country clubs. While this was exciting, it wasn't as fulfilling as teaching, and I made the change from a pro shop professional to a teaching professional. Within two years, I was the Lead Teaching Professional at one of Toronto's busiest golf instruction facilities. Since then, I've stepped back from the stress of running a successful golf academy to focus on helping golfers in a different way. Knowledge is key so improving a players golf IQ is crucial when choosing things like the right equipment or how to cure a slice. As a writer I can help a wide range of people while still having a little time to golf myself!

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