How Does Rain Affect Golf? There are Fore Things to Focus On


Every golfer has been there. The golf day you have been looking forward to for ages finally comes round and it is pouring with rain. Living in the UK this happens more often than you would like so you can’t really avoid playing golf in the rain sometimes.

But before you can get better at playing in the rain it is important to understand first how the rain will affect your golf game.

So how does rain affect golf? In wet conditions golfers find it harder to grip both the club and the ground with their golf shoes as they swing. Golf balls travel less distance in the rain and mud picked up on the ball on wet courses also affects the trajectory. Keeping concentration in wet conditions is also more difficult.

Playing golf in wet and cold weather can be a tough experience for many players. But with some good preparation there is a lot you can do to ensure you can still play well and enjoy yourself in wet conditions.

And if there are some prizes to the played for chances are you will have a better chance of winning them as many of your competitors will either be unprepared or just give up due to the rain.

Rain Affects 4 Key Golfing Elements

1. Grip

Keeping a good grip of both the club and the ground is one of the main challenges of playing golf in the rain. Wet golf gloves and wet hands make it very difficult to hold onto the club during the swing no matter how good your club’s grips are.

Keeping your footing and not slipping on wet ground as you turn during a swing can also be difficult and this becomes an even bigger problem for shots on uneven ground.

2. Distance

In the rain the golf ball does not go as far, and even more so in cold wet weather.

When it rains humidity in the air is increased because of the evaporation. Humidity creates thicker air which leads to increased resistance to the golf ball in flight and therefore a ball which does not travel as far.

Wet fairways, rough and greens further reduce the distance of your golf shots by reducing the amount of roll you get and occasionally when the ball plugs into the ground it gets no roll at all.

Water getting trapped between the club face and the golf ball at impact also affects distance.

3. Control

Rain not only reduces the distance the golf ball travels but also affects its trajectory.

Club grooves and dimples on the golf ball filled with water make getting clean contact with the ball much harder. This reduces the grip and spin imparted by the grooves as the ball ‘slips’ on the water up the clubface and leads to shots flying more sporadically.

Wet conditions will also typically lead to some mud being picked up on the ball. Mud on the golf ball makes it curve so it is important to understand what the effect of that will be.

Against expectations, a small amount of mud on one side the ball will result in it curving in the opposite direction. A large amount of mud on the side of the ball will by comparison cause it to curve to the side the mud is on. Mud on the top of the ball will cause it to spin more.

4. Concentration

Golf is a hard game to play in dry conditions. In wet conditions, when your score will almost always be worse than normal, it becomes harder still.

It can be easy to get disheartened therefore as you try hard to cope with the conditions as well as the course and your opponents.

Maintaining concentration over 18 holes in wet, and sometimes cold conditions is tougher than normal and so it can become a battle to stay positive and focused on every shot.

Be Prepared to Play Better Golf in the Rain

You may have heard the mantra of the 5 P‘s in sport – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. And when it comes to playing golf in the rain this is especially true.

The key thing above all else when golfing in wet weather is to give yourself the best possible chance of keeping all the contact points with the club and ball as dry as possible.

Keeping your hands, golf gloves and club grips dry will give you a better chance of holding on to your clubs without it slipping in your hand. Making sure the soft spikes on your golf shoes – wet weather is maybe not the best time to be wearing your spikeless pair – are as clean as possible will also help to prevent slips as your turn during your golf swing on the wet ground.

That is not to say that is not also important to keep yourself dry. Of course, it is and being well prepared with good waterproof gear is vital to help ensure you and your clubs stay as comfortable, warm and dry as possible.

Here is a list of the equipment we recommend you take with you to the course on rainy days:

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers – lookout also for features such as trousers bottoms with zips. This helps enormously if you need to get your waterproofs on in a hurry over your golf shoes.
  • Waterproof golf shoes – anybody who has walked around in wet shoes, never mind wet golf shoes, know how miserable that is. So make sure your golf shoes are waterproof and if check your spikes. If they are bit old and worn it may be time to get them changed to improve grip.
  • Hats – Wearing a baseball cap or rain hat will help keep the rain out of your face and maintain concentration, particularly during your swing.
  • Umbrella – I know, I know this is so obvious but it still needs to be on the list. If it is windy as well raining it can be hard to control your umbrella so make sure it’s of good quality with a strong construction and ideally with vents that help stop it blowing inside out in strong gusts of wind.
  • Gloves – The key reason for wearing a golf glove is grip but when they get wet their effect is minimised almost to nothing. Consider speciality rain gloves to help maintain your grip and carry spares (ideally inside a carrier or zip lock bag) in case your first one gets wet. Some players, including Phil Mickelson, also wear a glove on both hands in very wet conditions to help grip.
  • Towels, towels, towels – A supply of dry towels is absolutely key for wet weather golf. Towels are vital to helping to keep your hands and clubs dry. Again it helps to store them in a carrier bag and hanging one from the underframe of your umbrella is another neat trick to make one easily accessible. And do not forget to towel dry your grips after your round. Drying water loosens the glue that holds the grips in place and will also remove the tackiness and elasticity from the grips.
  • Waterproof golf bags – Check whether your golf bag is waterproof and at the very least make sure you have an easy to attach cover which fits over the heads of your clubs to help keep them dry.
  • Golf trolley – I have always found using a golf trolley in the rain helps me stay more organised and better able to keep me and everything dry. If the course is very wet some courses may not want you to use them but just check before you go out.
  • Hand warmers – Some golfers also carry hand warmers in their waterproof trousers or rain pants. Playing golf in the rain can lead to cold hands which makes it uncomfortable to difficult to grip the club so some golfers use this trick to keep their hands warm in between shots.

Adjust Your Golfing Approach in the Rain

Playing golf in wet conditions is undoubtedly more challenging than playing in the dry. But that does not mean there’s nothing you can do to try and make your life a bit easier when playing in the rain.

Here are a number of tips to consider when it comes to how you approach playing in the rain:

  • Play more conservatively – You know the course is going to be more difficult to play so there is no point in making things harder for yourself. Play shots which maximise your chances of staying on the fairway as much as possible. Wet long rough can wrap itself around the club head and cause havoc so avoid it as much as you can.
  • Slow down – With the ball not travelling as far you will be tempted to try and hit the ball harder to compensate. Try not to. Remember grip is the key thing you are wanting to maintain in the rain so concentrate and keeping your tempo and slowing your swing down to try and maintain as much control and grip as possible. The main exception to this will be in longer rough. Long wet grass clings to the club more and slows the clubhead down so you will likely to have hit it harder to get the ball out of there.
  • Hit more club and easier ones – Less distance and run on your shots will likely mean you will have to take more club for shots. Where possible opt to hit more fairway woods and hybrids in preference to longer irons as they are easier to hit, particularly in wet conditions.
  • Be firmer with chips and putts – You will want to hit chips and putts firmer than normal. Rain inevitably slows the greens down and if it has been raining frequently in the days prior to your game the greenkeepers will likely not have been able to mow the course as normal which means the grass will be longer and slower. Putts will also, as a result, take less break (i.e. curve less) on wet greens.
  • Adjust your sand play – Wet sand shots are very different to dry ones. Taking too much wet sand will mean the ball hardly goes anywhere while if you catch the ball neatly it will come out faster and further. Think about approaching a wet sand shot more like a chip therefore and imagine you are playing off grass rather than sand.
  • Hit the ball lower – for better players trying to hit the ball lower will create a shallower landing angle, give more roll and also reduce the chances of the ball picking up mud. Hitting the ball lower also makes it easier to hit the ball straight.

Adjust Your Mental Approach to Playing Rainy Golf

No matter how good a player you are playing golf in the rain will almost inevitably lead to higher scores. When you are constantly battling the elements and trying as hard as you can this can become very discouraging making it harder to maintain concentration.

To try and combat this aim to stay extra patient on the golf course and accept things will be a bit tougher than normal.

In the rain it is even more important than normal to focus on one shot at a time and try not to think about playing all the holes to come in the bad weather. If you have a bad hole, try and forget about it as quickly as you can, remind yourself things are a bit harder and keep thinking about the opportunity the next shot presents.

“When I wake up to a bad day, I look out of the window and think to myself, ‘I know I can handle this and half the field can’t’. A wave of confidence comes over me and, ridiculous though this might sound, I feel taller.”

Paul Lawrie, 1999 Open Champion

Not easy I know but remember everyone else is in the same boat as you and you can only do the best you can.

You never know, this could be the day you play the best ‘wet’ round of golf ever which can be incredibly satisfying.

Knowing the Rules Makes Golf in the Rain Easier

Although playing in the rain is rarely as fun as normal dry weather golf it does come with some rules that differ from the normal ones and which can help your scoring.

If you find yourself in ‘casual water’ for example – ‘water that has accumulated temporarily and does not constitute a recognized hazard of the course’ – you can move your ball to a dry area without penalty as long as it is not closer to the hole. Remember, even if your feet are in casual water you still get relief, not just your ball.

The other main rule change that happens a lot of the time when it is wet is the course may implement ‘winter rules’. This means that if your ball has mud on it you are entitled to lift your ball, clean it and put it back close to its’ original spot, as long as that it is not closer to the hole. The only thing you can’t do is move the ball to a new type of grass. In other words, you can not move the ball from the rough to the fairway or the fringe to the green.

So before you step out into the rain check with the course whether there are any rule changes for the day on account of the wet weather!

Whatever the weather never forget that playing golf is first and foremost about having fun and enjoying the game. So if you do not enjoy playing in the rain and you do not have to don’t bother. Just decide to play another day.

And if there is a chance of thunder and lightning it is definitely not worth it! Remember your golf bag is full of lightning rods so stay warm and dry in the clubhouse and just enjoy each other’s company!

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Related questions

Does rain affect golf ball distance? Rain increases air humidity creating thicker air which leads to more resistance to the golf ball in flight. The golf ball will therefore not travel as far in the rain and even more so in cold wet weather. It is estimated steady rain causes a negative effect on ‘carry’ distance of around 3-5 yards.

Are wet greens fast or slow? Rain makes greens slower than normal as the moisture on the ground and the ball slows it down. In instances of rain over a number of days greenkeepers will likely not be able to mow greens as normal meaning the grass will be longer and even slower. Putts on wet greens also take less break.

Graeme Hay

Graeme Hay is the owner of GolfingFocus.com. Graeme started playing golf when he was only 4 years old and has loved the game ever since. A single figure golfer all of his adult life he lives in London and still enjoys playing whenever he can with friends and family.

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