How do you judge distance in the wind? If it's through a mix of guesswork and estimation then you're never going to be as accurate as you could be. The first thing you need to do is work out which direction the wind is blowing in. This is often easier said than done but should always be done as part of a good pre-shot routine.
On tree-lined courses the wind can swirl at ground level and, as the flag is blowing in a different direction to the way the clouds are moving, it can become seriously confusing.
The advice here is not to worry too much about what is going on at the ground. Instead, look to the clouds, see how the top of the trees are moving and make your decision based on that. Once the ball gets above the tree line, the wind will come into play.
Crosswinds won't affect your distance too much, but they do make it even more important to consider how to aim properly. Failing to allow for enough wind is just one of the mistakes great golfers don't make. On the contrary, playing into a headwind or with a tailwind behind will have a huge impact on distance. And to work out just how much, we recommend using the following handy calculations...
Calculating distance in the wind - Headwind
A great rule to use 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
Calculating distance in the wind - Downwind
When playing downwind use 0.5% instead, so judging your distance in the wind would look a bit 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
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Calculating distance in the wind - Shot shape
Despite the numbers shown above there is an art to picking the right club in the wind. Part of this is based on how you shape golf shots. The basic concept to bear in mind here is that if your shot is moving in the same direction as the wind is blowing the ball will go further.
So, if you are hitting a hook (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, this can actually cause problems.
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 riding the wind.
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 M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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