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Pretzel

Does Altitude Matter?

24 posts in this topic

Living in Colorado, I know that my golf ball should travel a good deal further in the air and total than when at sea level. However in a recent trip to Michigan, I noticed that my distances only changed by 5 yards or so with the irons and around 10 with hybrids and woods. I expected a much greater change myself and it makes me wonder if I subconsciously was hitting the ball harder to try and match my usual distances or compensate for the air pressure. Has anyone else played at altitude and close to sea level and noticed a small difference as well?

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I've been playing golf at sea level for the last 15 years. And, I only average about 240 off the tee. So I would like to think that if I was playing at 5000 feet I would be bombing it out there. Ha. Doubt it. I do play in the Adirondaks on occasion and I notice a small difference with distances. I wish it was more.
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I'll be traveling to Asheville, NC this weekend to play the course at Grove Park Inn. I'll see if I notice much difference between Sea Level (Myrtle Beach) and 2500 feet (Asheville).
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I don't have any scientific data for you - but I think it does matter. Maybe not 30 yards or anything like that.  But I feel the ball doesn't travel as far when I play at sea level.  And similarly when it has just rained or is a super humid day here at 1000 feet.

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As a general rule of thumb, you'll see about a 10% increase in distance from sea level to 5,000 feet, assuming all other variables are held constant . I say this because, while the air in Colorado may be thinner due to elevation, this is somewhat mitigated by drier and cooler air, which has a higher density than warmer more humid air. I would imagine the difference in distance between Colorado and Michigan was due to warmer and more humid air in Michigan, which offset some of the altitude difference.

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I don't have any scientific explanations.. But I grew up playing in Iowa, basically sea level.. I then lived in Colorado for about 3 years playing a lot of golf.. I recently moved back to Iowa about 5 months ago, and I am struggling pretty bad transitioning.. I would say easily a good 10% distances change.. Lost about 25-30 yards on the drive.. And a good 10-15 yard difference in all my irons.. I'm always back and forth with club selection and changing back and forth.. Finally the last 2 weeks or so I'm just starting to get used everything and starting to feel good about what I can do at what distances, and starting to score better again
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Just watched a segment on The Golf Channel and Matt Ginella was in Denver playing.  He was saying at 5400 feet you should see about a 10% increase in distance at that altitude compared to see level, but I would guess it would all depend on the individual.

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Originally Posted by IowaKid

I don't have any scientific explanations.. But I grew up playing in Iowa, basically sea level..  I then lived in Colorado for about 3 years playing a lot of golf.

I don't think Iowa is basically at sea level.  But surely lower than Colorado.

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My non-science observations have been that when playing the high desert, my yardages are much much longer.

Hot, dry, and high had me hitting shots I never thought possible. Not sure how much has been because of the hot and dry but I was two clubs longer at 4000 feet.

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Originally Posted by rustyredcab

Hot, dry, and high had me hitting shots I never thought possible. Not sure how much has been because of the hot and dry but I was two clubs longer at 4000 feet.

The hot will make it go further, the dry will not. I was informed of this recently in another thread and did some research on it. Strange but true.

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Originally Posted by Pretzel

Living in Colorado, I know that my golf ball should travel a good deal further in the air and total than when at sea level. However in a recent trip to Michigan, I noticed that my distances only changed by 5 yards or so with the irons and around 10 with hybrids and woods. I expected a much greater change myself and it makes me wonder if I subconsciously was hitting the ball harder to try and match my usual distances or compensate for the air pressure. Has anyone else played at altitude and close to sea level and noticed a small difference as well?

I grew up in Michigan and know that the humidity would get very high in the summer months surrounded by all those lakes which effect carry and how long the ball stays in the air. A few weeks back here in NY we had 90 degree temps with high humidity and I was hitting 1/2 a club less into the greens than normal.

Another factor with distance versus thin air is the higher you naturally hit the ball the more you benefit from playing in higher altitudes. So a low ball hitter that plays in high altitudes will not see too much of a drop in distance when they play at lower altitudes. The combination of humidity and spin(natural ball height) have a great effect on distance at different sea levels! Of course hard dry fairways will add to the roll and come into the equation as well so there are a lot of factors.

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Originally Posted by Parker0065

I grew up in Michigan and know that the humidity would get very high in the summer months surrounded by all those lakes which effect carry and how long the ball stays in the air. A few weeks back here in NY we had 90 degree temps with high humidity and I was hitting 1/2 a club less into the greens than normal.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The higher the humidity, the less dense the air is, and therefore, there is less drag affecting the golf ball. This will do two things: 1) Allow a ball to carry farther when launched high and 2) Not allow shots to climb as high due to less effective spin (lower drag = less spin effect). You likely have a lower launch angle and higher spin rate, so in the higher humidity, a shot may not carry as far.

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My only experience with playing golf in extreme altitude was at the Banff Springs Golf Club at 4800 feet. I didn't necessarily measure the difference but I hit it much farther with every club and, when I hit it high, the ball stayed in the air forever. It was such a blast.

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I don't think Iowa is basically at sea level.  But surely lower than Colorado.

No, Iowa isn't at sea level.

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Watch the Solheim Cup this weekend and see for yourself. The ladies are playing a 7000 yd course. I'd wager we'll some longer than average drives from them.

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Originally Posted by Dave2512

Watch the Solheim Cup this weekend and see for yourself. The ladies are playing a 7000 yd course. I'd wager we'll some longer than average drives from them.

I'm hoping to go and see it, but having trouble getting grounds passes since I would only be able to go on the weekend. It would be cool if they used this as a test to see if Colorado can really host more of the big tournaments since The International at Castle Pines stopped happening. I'd love to have a U.S. Open around here someday if they like what they see this week.

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Originally Posted by Pretzel

I'm hoping to go and see it, but having trouble getting grounds passes since I would only be able to go on the weekend. It would be cool if they used this as a test to see if Colorado can really host more of the big tournaments since The International at Castle Pines stopped happening. I'd love to have a U.S. Open around here someday if they like what they see this week.

I checked today and tix are still available.

Heads up Cherry Hills will be hosting the 2014 BMW Championship.

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The biggest difference in total driving distance that I notice on different courses is the amount of rollout.

Many people totally misjudge how much carry they have (or actually the lack of it).

The two courses I play the most are close to 1,000 ft. difference in elevation. If there's a difference in carry it's not enough for me to notice with just that much change.

When I play down at the gulf (at close to sea level) it would be 1,800 ft. lower than my course. I figure there should be a carry difference then, but I still hit the same distances as far as I can tell. Maybe it's just that I'm pumped up to be on vacation when I play down there (or maybe it's the shrimp and oysters?)

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