News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 15, 2007

On and Off the Course: Weather can affect golf ball in different ways

By Jennifer Myers

September is just about the best time of the year to play golf. Even though the calendar says it’s still summer, the cooler nights and blazing sunsets remind us more of autumn. We seem to have gotten past the scorching hot, humid days, and have entered a phase of gorgeous, low-humidity sunny days.

However, the days are shorter, so you’re more likely to encounter various weather conditions in your round of 18 holes. On Thursday of last week, it was 49 degrees at 8 a.m., with dew covering the grass, but by about 10:30 it had warmed up to 75 degrees! What a difference the sun makes! When you play in different conditions, you might need to be aware of what kinds of things have an effect of the flight of your golf ball.

Temperature will affect how far a golf ball travels. When playing on days when the temperature varies, golfers should remember that just because their 8-iron came up short of the green on their first hole when the temperature was 50 degrees, doesn’t mean they need to take more club for the same distance three hours later when the temperature has risen by 25 degrees.

I found a guide on the web at a site called ProbableGolfInstruction.com. It shows that if you hit a 5-iron 168 yards when it is 41 degrees with 100 percent humidity, that ball would go 175 yards. At 68 degrees with 50 percent humidity or 182 yards at temperatures of 95 degrees and 80 percent humidity. For a driver that went 244 yards at 41 degrees, it would go 250 yards at 68 degrees and 262 yards at 95 degrees.

These are scientific calculations, using a robot for a exactly the same swing, and humans do not hit the ball the same way every time, so they can only be used as guidelines.

Also you have to be aware that the type of ball you play makes a difference on how much temperature affects the ball’s flight. A liquid-filled wound ball would tend to lose more distance than a two-piece ball or a solid-core wound ball. Your best bet is to practice with one type of ball consistently enough to be familiar with how much club you need to add or substract at hotter or cooler temperatures.

Spin affects the distance a golf ball travels. Speaking of different types of balls, dimple pattern has an affect on the ball’s flight. The combination of core type and dimple pattern is what categorizes a ball as being for distance or feel, usually giving up some of one to have more of the other. If a ball had no dimples at all, it wouldn’t go very far at all. The first balls used in golf, called the featherie, were made of a leather pouch filled with goose feathers. Since at that time they believed a smooth ball would go farther, the stitching of the leather went on the inside of the pouch, except for the final stitches used to close up the pouch. In 1845 the gutta-percha ball was first introduced. It was made from the gum of a Malaysian Sapodilla tree which was heated and molded to make a smooth sphere.

According to a professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland, it was discovered that the ball flew farther if the surface had been scraped up. If put a swing on a golf ball with dimples that would send it 250 yards, that same swing hit on to a ball with no spin would only go 180 yards. Today’s golf balls have between 300 and 500 dimples. Physics can explain why and how the depth and number of dimples affects the flight of a golf ball, but I’m not going to go into that. If you’ re like me you don’t really care why it happens, just that it does happen! Suffice it to say that it happens because of the forces of lift and drag. Which brings us to wind.

Wind will affect the flight of your ball. This is such a no-brainer that I don’t need to explain it. Just make sure to take it into account when you play golf. Playing golf is not the time to have an inflated ego. Take more club if you’re hitting into the wind. Remember that the higher the ball goes, the more likely it is to be affected by the wind.

Rain or considerable wetness will have an effect on your distance. Again, to me this is obvious. Your ball might plug or at least not roll very far if the ground is very moist. Drives won’t go as far, so you will be hitting longer clubs into greens.The putting surface is also a place where moisture makes a difference. As dew on the grass dissapates throughout a morning, the greens should get faster.

And finally, give verbal directions to your golf ball. There is no scientific evidence that this works, neither is there evidence that it doesn’t work. As long as golfers have voices, they will continue to try to manipulate the ball after it has left their clubhead, usually to no avail, but it is always worth a try.

Quote of the day: “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” — Lee Trevino



Vigo County golf leagues

• Idle Creek Wednesday evening — Low gross Ron Forester, 50; closest to pin Charlie Sullivan, No. 3.

• Ladies Tuesday morning — Team best ball, first Cathy Brannen-Sue Bordon 43, second Judy Hults-Rhea Gasaway-Mary Brannen 45; longest putt Gasaway, No. 1; closest to pin Hults, No. 3.

• Home Builders — Low gross Mark Tarrh 38, Tim Malooley 39; low net Gary Stout 31, Brian Holley 31; longest drive Tarrh, No. 2; closest to pin Malooley, No. 3.