Does Weather Affect a Golf Ball's Distance?

September 3, 2020 // Article by: Brad Miller

Well, now that we are able to get out and enjoy the links, the golf season is finally in full "swing".  And with the PGA tour restarting June 11th, you often hear golf announcers talk about the "carry of the golf ball", but what exactly does that mean.   Basically it just means how long the ball remains in the air after it leaves the clubface. The question is, does weather affect the distance a golf ball travels. The answer is yes, and it's really a combination of physics and meteorology.

A golf ball will travel less distance in colder temperatures for two reasons. First, when the golf ball and golf club are colder, the transfer of energy is not as efficient, so the ball speed will be less. Second, colder air is more dense than warm air, so there is more friction and drag. This will slow the ball down after impact and it won't carry as far. The same can be said about the human body. Muscles are more flexible and responsive when the temperature is warm than when it's cold, so we are able to move more efficiently.

Now as for the golf ball itself, when its warmer, the rubber materials used to make the balls respond better. So, a warmer ball will come off the clubface with more velocity and spin than a colder ball. Plus, it will carry a bit farther because warm air is less dense. Golf ball selection also plays a part. If you are playing golf and the air temperature is below 50 degrees, a higher compression golf ball won't travel as far as a low compression ball. Pro tip, men, don't be afraid to use a woman's (lower compression) golf ball if you are playing when the air temperature is below 50 degrees.

Finally, while club selection is an integral part of golf, it is easily overlooked when playing in colder weather. Basically, you need to use more club when playing in the cold weather versus warmer weather. For about every ten degrees, the average golfer (90 mph swing speed) will see a difference of 2 yards in distance. So, if you hit your 9 iron 130 yards in 90 degree weather, you're only going to hit it about 122 yards when it's 50 degrees. That is about one club shorter, so your club choice would be an 8 iron in that situation.  While there isn't a huge yardage distance when playing in the cold versus warm weather, golf is a game of precision and a few yards either way can absolutely make a difference, especially with your irons.  Case in point, you hit your driver when its 50 degrees, it travels about 230 yards, when it's warm, maybe it goes almost 240 yards.  But usually you aren't looking for distance precision with the driver.  But, let's say your next shot to the green is 130 yards and there is water just in front.  Well if you hit your 9 iron at 50 degrees, your ball is wet, so that "extra" club would have been needed to clear the water and land safely on the green.  Here is a helpful table to show you the differences.

Weather Driver 5 Iron 9 Iron
50 Degrees 227 yards 167 yards 122 yards
90 Degrees 235 yards 175 yards 130 yards

Based on a 90 mph golf swing

There are a few other factors to take into consideration, but these are the main "drivers" when it comes to how weather can and does affect the golf ball. Fore !!

Are you obsessed with weather? Now you can listen to more weather discussions and topics in The Weather Lounge, a new podcast with hosts Brad Miller and Mike Mihalik, both of whom are also meteorologists. Listen here: