Golf is hard, and playing golf in imperfect conditions makes it even harder. Nothing complicates a simple 150 yard shot into the green like a little 20mph crosswind. Nothing makes you more unsure of a straightforward tee shot than worrying if your driver may slip out of your hands because the grip is soaking wet. However, like anything else in golf, playing in the elements is mostly mental. If you are prepared and have the right mindset, bad weather during a tournament or just a simple match with friends can be a huge advantage to you.
The first step is preparation. During bad weather, don’t stay home and watch tv or read a book or whatever else it is that you do with your free time; go out to the course and practice. Learn how much certain wind speeds and directions will carry shots from each club. If you have a headwind on the driving range that day, practice hitting knockdown shots. If you have a tailwind, find out how much club you need to take off in order to hit to certain distances that you could normally only reach with longer sticks. Sometimes, you’ll have to just hit it under the wind. While I was never able to master the knockdown, an easier way to replicate that low flight path is to simply choke down to the bottom of the grip. You’ll lose some distance (generally about one club), but this allows you to keep the ball low without changing too much about your setup or swing.
One of the best golfers I know, who played for two different division one schools, mastered rain golf. Whenever it started drizzling, he would head out to the practice range and run through all of his clubs. He developed a system to keep all of his grips, his towel, and everything else dry so he could hit each shot confidently. His dad (my coach) told me about one specific AJGA event where he was contending and it started raining midway through the final round. He told his dad, “I’ve got this thing now.” He won.
Even with all that preparation, there is really no substitute for just going out and walking eighteen holes in bad weather. You’ll be able to see how all your shots react and file that away for the next time you play a similar one. Just be ready to book it back to the clubhouse in the event of lightning. Don’t mess with that stuff.
Once you’re prepared to play in the elements, then the second step is easy. You need to go out the day of the tournament with confidence. Your inner monologue should play out something like this:
“Overcast with 15mph steady winds and a 60% chance of rain? #$@% yeah. All these jabronis are going to be complaining about the weather all day while I shoot my handicap or better. I love the wind!”
Does that seem a little cocky? Maybe, but you earned the right to be cocky because you’re the best around at playing in bad conditions.
Another good mental trick to use is thinking about how much fun it’s going to be shaping all those shots to account for the elements rather than just hitting the ball from point A to point B. It really is pretty cool to plan how to make the ball go where you want it to go using nothing but brainpower and maybe a halfhearted toss of some grass. The weather also provides a convenient scapegoat for your bad shots. Channel your inner. “Water on the clubface, bro. I got no chance.” Bubba Watson was endlessly mocked for that quote several other outbursts directed at either his caddy or inanimate objects that clearly had to effect on the result of his shot. Despite the fun we have with the two-time Masters champ, he’s actually on to something. The blame game helps you maintain confidence in your swing for the next time. If you miss the green due to a wind gust of questionable existence, clearly, once the outside forces that conspired against you on that shot have passed, you’ll be just fine. Always take credit for the good shots and pass the buck on the bad ones.
Golf, like life, is about making the best out of any circumstances thrown at you. In bad weather circumstances on the links, it’s not too hard to just be the best out of everyone else. All it takes is a little preparation and the right mindset.