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Colder temperatures and the effects on ball distance


rogerw
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Searched the forum and found a few posts on this, but nothing that seemed to summarize the topic so I thought I would post this as it is that time of the year again for a lot of us.

Yesterday was the first day of the season that I played in sub 50* weather (it was probably 45* and a solid 10MPH wind all day). I noticed a drastic decrease in distance across all of my clubs, but it certainly was more noticeable in the longer clubs. Having played less than a week earlier in low 50* weather I was a bit shocked to see such a drastic change, so I started to research the topic a bit.

I found that there are multiple posts on the net stating that once the temperature drops below 50* there are several factors that start to play effect in the loss of distance.

1. The compression of the ball is greatly effected
2. The density of the air changes and becomes heavier reducing the ball flight distance.
3. While agreeing whole-heartedly with these two factors, I would also add that the cold, at least for me, reduces my swing speed. I just don't seem to feel as "loosened up" in 45* weather as I normally do in 60* weather. Unfortunately, I don't have any way of testing this scientifically, and at this point can only call it "a feel".

To counteract the effects of #1 above, I first tried switching to a softer ball that I had in my shag bag. It felt much softer off the club, but added little if any distance. I then tried keeping a ball in my pocket and rotating the two balls every other hole. This seemed to help enough to be noticeable, but certainly didn't recover all of the lost distance.

Regarding #2, there is nothing that can be done, this we have to live with

Regarding #3, I tried hitting a bucket of balls before playing and then walked the course (I normally do this anyway) in an attempt to keep my muscles loose, and I did notice that after 4-5 holes some distance did come back as I began to warm up and adjust to the colder temperatures better.

If I was going to rate the above factors by how much distance was lost due to them, from highest to lowest, I would say 2, 3, 1. Warming up certainly helped more than keeping the balls warm or switching to a lower compression rated ball, but as a whole only improved my distances by maybe 20-25%. I'm left with assuming that the higher density air is the largest contributor, which unfortunately is the one that can't be controlled.

I'm sure that someone on here probably has researched this in depth much more than I have so I'm interested in hearing if there are other factors that I missed or maybe someone has some additional data that they could put forth.

One thing I would like to see is an air density graph that shows how temperature variation changes the density? I would be curious to see if there is a huge difference below 50* as that would reinforce what I noticed.
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Don't forget the amount and shapes of the dimples on the golf ball you use. Some dimple patterns will create a lot more drag thus causing shots to be shorter. You may also notice shots to fly higher in denser air.
The other limiting factor is more than likely you're also wearing more restrictive clothes that don't allow the movement like playing in a short sleeved shirt does.
A couple of tricks that were popular a few years ago was to use Lady Precept golf balls and hand warmers in the bag to keep the golf balls warm.....would keep your hands warm also

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Overall distance from club to club isn't much different for me because of the huge kick that I get off the fairways and approach areas. I have been under-clubbing with success lately due to all the hard roll outs.
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I played today in 50* weather with 38* wind chills. One thing I noticed is my hands and fingers stiffen up and I can't get as much hand action, causing my club head speed to be reduced. I didn't even think about other factors such as ball compression and air density, I wonder how much they affect distance. Anywho, the whole day I was at least a club shorter, maybe more.
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Restrictive clothing affecting swing speed and limits on ball compression. The big two and not much else to worry yourself over. I am not a scientist, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night.
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Restrictive clothing affecting swing speed and limits on ball compression. The big two and not much else to worry yourself over. I am not a scientist, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

Agreed, the restrictive clothing is also another point. I normally layer in the fall/winter and once I hit three layers, the movement is certainly more restrictive than it would be in a polo.

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I've been playing a couple of nines a week over the fall. It has been anywhere from 50 to 55 degrees most days. I'd say the biggest thing that takes away distance is not being loose. Here it is very dry and I am getting huge bounces so when I hit it well, I get just as much distance if not more with the driver. I think the greatest golf cold weather piece of clothing is the vest. I don't like wearing more than one layer on the arms so this really helps me stay warm. I also wear long underwear on the bottom if it is really cold. I'd honestly rather be a little chilly than have on a bunch of clothes.

I actually playing when it is a little cold. I like hour and 15 minute 9s walking. I'll give an iron away to play fast.
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A couple of tricks that were popular a few years ago was to use Lady Precept golf balls and hand warmers in the bag to keep the golf balls warm.....would keep your hands warm also

Not to be a nit-picker...well, yes, to be a nitpicker...if you're playing an official round by USGA rules (i.e. posting a score for handicap purposes or playing in a tournament), using hand-warmers to warm your golf ball is against rule 14-3/13.5. Wouldn't want someone reading this post to get disqualified somewhere!

http://http://www.usga.org/rule-book...f/decision-14/
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Not to be a nit-picker...well, yes, to be a nitpicker...if you're playing an official round by USGA rules (i.e. posting a score for handicap purposes or playing in a tournament), using hand-warmers to warm your golf ball is against rule 14-3/13.5. Wouldn't want someone reading this post to get disqualified somewhere!

you're absolutely right dr and I really should have included that! thanks for nitpicking
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Regarding ball-warming, a hand warmer won't really do the job, anyway. The ball has to be heated all the way to the center to get the full effect, and since golf balls aren't the greatest conductors of heat, they have to be thoroughly warmed up before they get taken to the course, like for an hour in an oven set on Warm. Then they could well have cooled off in the time it takes to get to the course and start playing, so this isn't a big deal, really.
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Not sure about the US, but in the UK I definitely notice a difference which is very visible on the range. On average I would say my shots are 20 yards shorter in cold weather (e.g 40 farenheit versus 60 farenheit).

I think most of this is due to the extra humidity and the range balls though!
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Ive played in as cold as about 38 deg F before, probably about a 2 club difference in distance though didnt feel quite as cold as there was basically no wind. Was funny on one hole, as I hit a shot into a water hazard in front of the green. The water was frozen and the ball hit it and bounced off and landed just short of the green.
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Great thread guys!!! I played in 50 temps with significant wind (so wind chill prob put us well below 50) a few weeks back and i remember not feeling the ball "compress" once during the whole round. I never got that sweet feeling of compression off the club face. And i was constantly short on all my approach shots and i just chalked it up to a crappy round. I did notice also, a greater tendency to top the ball, and i'm thinking it was stiffer mucles or something that was causing me to pull up or something on the swing. in either case, it was a terrible round.
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Colder air is less humid and therefore more dense. This will definitely affect distance.

????

There are quite a few variables that go into determining the density of air. Saying what you did is extremely misleading and not anywhere near close to explaining what really goes on.
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Colder air is less humid and therefore more dense. This will definitely affect distance.

????

That’s right. And as far as mere humidity is concerned, in constant temp higher humidity means lower density of air as long as water is in the air as gas (= vapour). This is because the molar mass of water is lower than that of air.

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Note: This thread is 2453 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

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