When conditions are tough on the golf course, players will be desperately trying to work out how to calculate distance in the wind. For some, it's a combination of guesswork and approximations, but that approach can really hurt your accuracy and damage your scores.
In this article, we help you understand how to judge distances in the wind and provide you with some useful calculations that could save you shots...
How do you calculate wind distance in golf?
Before you do anything, you need to work out the direction that the wind is blowing. This is easier said than done, but it a crucial part of your pre-shot routine in difficult conditions.
On tree-lined tracks, the wind swirls at ground level, which can cause the flag to blow in a different direction to the way the clouds are moving. Not only does this add to the confusion, but it can make you doubt your next shot and not fully commit to your swing.
The advice here is not to worry too much about what is going on at ground level. Instead, look up to the clouds, check how tree tops are moving and make your decision based on that. Once the ball gets above the tree line, the wind will almost certainly come into play and affect the ball.
Crosswinds won't affect your distance too much, but they do make it even more important to focus on how to aim properly. Failing to factor in enough wind is just one of the mistakes great golfers don't make.
On the other hand, playing into a headwind or with a tailwind behind will have a huge impact on distance. When planning your next shot in windy conditions, we recommend using the following handy calculations...
Wind calculations: Hitting into the wind
The general rule is to add 1% for every 1mph of headwind. So the following distances would change like this:
- 100-yard shot into a 5mph wind = 105 yards
- 200-yard shot into a 5mph wind = 210 yards
- 100-yard shot into a 10mph wind = 110 yards
- 200-yard shot into a 10mph wind = 220 yards
- 100-yard shot into a 20mph wind = 120 yards
- 200-yard shot into a 20mph wind = 240 yards
- 100-yard shot into a 30mph wind = 130 yards
- 200-yard shot into a 30mph wind = 260 yards
Wind calculations: Hitting downwind
When playing downwind you would use 0.5%, so judging your distance in the wind would look like this:
- 100-yard shot with a 5mph tailwind = 98 yards
- 200-yard shot with a 5mph tailwind = 195 yards
- 100-yard shot with a 10mph tailwind = 95 yards
- 200-yard shot with a 10mph tailwind = 190 yards
- 100-yard shot with a 20mph tailwind = 90 yards
- 200-yard shot with a 20mph tailwind = 180 yards
- 100-yard shot with a 30mph tailwind = 85 yards
- 200-yard shot with a 30mph tailwind = 170 yards
Irrespective of the number outlined above, you can't afford to neglect the art of picking the right club. Considerations around how you shape your golf shots will come into your decision process, but the simple concept is that if you aim to hit your shot in the same direction as the wind is blowing, the ball will travel further.
So, if you are hooking the golf ball (or cutting across the golf ball for a left-hander) and the wind is blowing right to left, it is likely to go further. You might think this is a huge benefit but, for many good ball-strikers, looking for precise distance control when hitting into the greens can cause problem if you don't factor in the extra distance.
For these players, shaping the ball back into the wind is often the better play, creating a softer ball flight that will stop faster after landing. And for those who tend to play with the same shape on the majority of shots, keep in mind that the ball will go further when moving in the same direction as the wind.
Calculating distance in the wind checklist
1) Work out which way the wind is blowing as part of your pre-shot routine
2) Check the tops of the trees for help with wind direction in the air, as this may be different to ground level
3) Use the handy calculations we have provided to judge distances in the wind
4) Aim at your target based on your shot-shape, and use the wind to your advantage.
Get the Golf Monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to the Golf Monthly newsletter to stay up to date with all the latest tour news, equipment news, reviews, head-to-heads and buyer’s guides from our team of experienced experts.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
How Much Does It Cost To Play PGA National Resort Champion Course?
Fancy taking on the 'Bear Trap'? Here's how much a round at the famous Champion course will set you back
By Michael Weston Published
I Played A Great New Format In My Weekend Club Competition... And I Can't Believe How Much I Enjoyed It!
This fun team format is a great way to bring a bit of variety to your club's weekend comps...
By Barry Plummer Published
Golfing New Year’s Resolutions... How To Commit Both On And Off The Course!
Golfing New Year's resolutions advice from our mental game coach Gareth Shaw
By Gareth Shaw Published
Confidence In Golf: Why Does It Go And How Can You Rediscover It?
Confidence tips for golf from mental skills coach, Gareth Shaw
By Gareth Shaw Published
How To Stop Hooking The Golf Ball
Want to know how to stop hooking the golf ball? In this video and article, Golf Monthly Top 50 Coach Trey Niven shares two simple steps to get you back on track
By Trey Niven Last updated
How To Spin The Golf Ball
Top 50 Coach Trey Niven discusses how to spin the golf ball and shares a handy drill
By Trey Niven Published
Why Do I Pull Iron Shots? Causes And Cures
In this article and video, Katie Dawkins looks at why golfers pull iron shots and offers some helpful tips
By Katie Dawkins Published
Inside Takeaway Golf Fix
Start your swing right with these inside takeaway golf tips
By Andrew Jones Last updated
Best Golf Exercises: 10 Moves For Every Golfer To Try
Below, we look at the best golf exercises as demonstrated by golf strength and conditioning coach Jamie Greaves
By Jamie Greaves Last updated
Golf Strength Training: Upper And Lower Body Exercises
In these golf strength training videos, fitness guru Jamie Greaves demonstrates some fantastic exercises to help boost muscle mass, strength and power
By Jamie Greaves Published