How Altitude Affects Your Golf Ball
This week’s BMW Championship will be played at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, CO– a suburb in south Denver. Denver means mountains. And mountains, mean altitude.
The pros will be playing at 5,200 feet plus this week which means “the mile high city” will be witnessing some 370-yard 3-woods and 210-yard 8-irons. No, seriously:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 3, 2014
So when making a trip to the mountains, how should you play yardages? There are a few things to consider.
The first, is a basic rule of thumb– for every 5,000 feet of elevation, subtract 10% of your normal yardage. If you hit a 7-iron 150 yards on average, know that when you play in altitude in a place like Denver, this will play closer a 165-yard shot. Now, this is NOT an exact science. It’s a guessing game. But it’s experimental and finding what’s best for you.
Bernhard Langer has said also, elements such as temperature, humidity and air conditions can have implications on the flight of the ball. With temperatures, the warmer it is, the farther the ball will fly. Why is this? Compression. As the ball warms, the substances which make up the golf ball become easier to compress. Unless it is 250 degrees fahrenheit playing golf in the Amazon (in which case, the ball may begin melting), warmer temperatures will produce longer flights.
Rule of thumb regarding temperatures and ball flight– subtract 1 foot of flight for every degree below 70 degrees. A 60-degree day will see the ball fly 3 yards shorter than normal.
This is true with humidity as well– only to a smaller margin. [Inexact] science states that higher humidity readings will lead to longer ball flight. People around baseball say, “baseballs start flying during the steamy days of summer…” …or something like that. Baseball players– do people say that?
Pilots use this type of information regarding humidity for landings. If the dew point rises, pilots need to equate more altitude to their landings, thus needing more runway. It rings true in golf too.
Finally, the most important element of this entire process– knowing YOUR game. If you’re a high spin player with a high apex height on your shots, high altitudes will have a greater effect on your ball. In altitude, players with these high readings (Jason Day types) will see their ball more affected by the altitudes, where players with lower spin and lower apex heights (Jason Dufner types) will notice less of an effect. Know YOUR game.
All in all, pace of play in golf is already a problem, so I don’t want to see anyone on the golf course with barometric pressure gauges and thermometers attached to their golf carts after reading this article (although barometric pressure is said to have an impact on ball flight as well).
Simply be experimental and observant to the way your ball reacts. Trust the rule of thumb initially and amend it as you gain more experience with altitudes. The pros playing this week do.