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Wind, will it ever end?
Dry windy days will persist for some time to come. Golf professionals agree that extremely windy and blustery conditions provide the most difficult challenge to scoring.
To play their best, recreational and amateur golfers need to grasp how to accommodate difficult circumstances that are beyond their control. One’s awareness and adjustment to blustery conditions can make a big difference in their ability to cope and play smart golf.
Most tour pros describe the links courses played in the British Open as the most demanding in terms of wind play. Those classic courses are relatively flat, subject to wind coming off the water, with an abundance of sand bunkers adding to the complication.
Many links courses, like St. Andrews in Scotland, require low running shots with accurate placement in terms of line and distance. That’s why many players have an opportunity to do well on those courses since it is not a “bomb-andgouge” type of play.
Then comes one of the trickiest holes in major tournament golf – I’m speaking of the par-3, 12th hole at Augusta National in the Masters. If you’ve watched any of the Masters – which takes place in Augusta, Ga. – you know that the 12th is a shortish par 3 defining “Amen Corner” with Rae’s Creek
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guarding the shallow green and a confusing breeze coming from several directions, causing golfers plenty of consternation.
My favorite wind hole on tour, though, is the 137-yard, par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, the island green, in Ponte Vedra Beach Fla.
At the 2007 Players’ Championship, with thousands of spectators ringing the borders of the hole, more than 100 of the best players in the world, battling 35-mph winds coming in from the Atlantic, put 50 balls in the water in one day.
Two years earlier, veteran Bob Tway was sitting at No. 10 in the standings when he came to the windy island green.
Tway put four balls in the water that day and carded a 12, still the highest score recorded by a pro at 17.
Generally speaking, for long shots, golfers need to keep the ball somewhat low when hitting into the wind, even if they’re usually a high-ball hitter. When hitting a driver into a stiff breeze, the best bet is to get the ball running hard on the ground on the short grass, usually done by delofting the club and keeping the angle of attack from the inside.
One of the smart things to do is to go to a practice range that is set up to hit into the prevailing wind. Note that shots launched downwind will probably go farther, but be aware that a tail wind often knocks the ball down robbing you of the full carry distance.
Modifying a swing to hit a lower or higher trajectory and reduce the spin takes plenty of practice.
Essentially the same technique goes for iron shots as it does with the driver and fairway woods.
Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.