Most weekend golfers don’t do enough to compensate for the effects of wind on their shots. A 20 mph headwind can shorten your shot by 20 yards. A 20 mph tailwind can create an extra 10 yards of carry. A crosswind of the same speed can easily double the distance of your slice or hook, turning what’s normally a 20 yard miss into a 40 yard disaster.
Before heading out, I always check a weather website to determine the general wind conditions. But wind speed can vary significantly on the course, even from hole to hole.
Without a handheld anemometer, figuring wind speed generally is reduced to a few superstitions, such as tossing some blades of grass into the air to see what happens. Fortunately, there’s a more “scientific” method. The US government has used our tax dollars to construct the handy chart below:
|Beaufort number||Description||Speed||Visual Clues and Damage Effects|
|0||Calm||Calm||Calm wind. Smoke rises vertically with little if any drift.|
|1||Light Air||1 to 3 mph||Direction of wind shown by smoke drift, not by wind vanes. Little if any movement with flags. Wind barely moves tree leaves.|
|2||Light Breeze||4 to 7 mph||Wind felt on face. Leaves rustle and small twigs move. Ordinary wind vanes move.|
|3||Gentle Breeze||8 to 12 mph||Leaves and small twigs in constant motion. Wind blows up dry leaves from the ground. Flags are extended out.|
|4||Moderate Breeze||13 to 18 mph||Wind moves small branches. Wind raises dust and loose paper from the ground and drives them along.|
|5||Fresh Breeze||19 to 24 mph||Large branches and small trees in leaf begin to sway. Crested wavelets form on inland lakes and large rivers.|
|6||Strong Breeze||25 to 31 mph||Large branches in continuous motion. Whistling sounds heard in overhead or nearby power and telephone lines. Umbrellas used with difficulty.|
|7||Near Gale||32 to 38 mph||Whole trees in motion. Inconvenience felt when walking against the wind.|
|8||Gale||39 to 46 mph||Wind breaks twigs and small branches. Wind generally impedes walking.|
|9||Strong Gale||47 to 54 mph||Structural damage occurs, such as chimney covers, roofing tiles blown off, and television antennas damaged. Ground is littered with many small twigs and broken branches.|
|10||Whole Gale||55 to 63 mph||Considerable structural damage occurs, especially on roofs. Small trees may be blown over and uprooted.|
|11||Storm Force||64 to 75 mph||Widespread damage occurs. Larger trees blown over and uprooted.|
|12||Hurricane Force||over 75 mph||Severe and extensive damage. Roofs can be peeled off. Windows broken. Trees uprooted. RVs and small mobile homes overturned. Moving automobiles can be pushed off the roadways.|
I’d say that playing in anything higher than a “6” is pure folly.
But short of that, the main thing is to take the proper club. And that’s going to vary from player to player. I hit the ball very high, so wind tends to affect my shots more than a guy who hits it lower. To compensate for a 20 mph head wind, I’ll likely have to take three clubs. Not only will I get more distance from the longer club, the lower loft will help me keep it under the wind.