You’re out on the golf course, the sun is shining, and it’s an all-around magnificent day to play golf, but off in the distance, you hear a rumbling; you look up, and then you see them; menacing dark rain clouds.
Now the first thing most players do is reach for their umbrella and rain jacket, but guess what? That’s the last thing you should be doing; the very first thing you should be doing is making sure your golf bag is zipped up and covered. Once the rain gets on your grips, you can forget about putting a solid strike on the ball because, more than likely, after your swing, your club will fly further than your ball.
Actually, a very good friend of mine carries with him a chamois to keep his grips dry in the event of rain; it’s a great tip, to be honest, and I’m surprised I’ve never seen any other tour pros doing the same.
The rain can also play havoc with the flight of the ball because the water fills not only the grooves of your clubs but also the dimples on the golf ball. This results in what we call a “semi-flyer,” although the ball won’t fly as far as a typical “flyer” because the ball’s weight cancels out the spinless flight pattern.
The heavier weight of the ball due to the rain also means you should probably take one more club on approach shots. Be sure to swing nice-and-easy and let the club do the work for you. Putting in the rain can also be a nightmare because the rain fills the dimples making your ball roll erratically, so keep your golf ball in your pocket for as long as possible before stepping up to address the putt.
So you can see the rain affects play in a few fundamental ways, but to be honest, we haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to playing in the rain.
In this guide, you’ll get practical advice and strategies that are easy to implement and are designed to help you play better and conquer the rain.
Should you Keep Playing in the Rain?
Just like water and oil don’t mix, neither do golf and rain but unfortunately, playing golf in the rain is inevitable, and when it starts, you’ll want to know what to do.
Imagine playing the best front nine you’ve ever played only to have the heavens open up? You won’t want to pack up and leave, right? But you will want to know how to salvage the rest of your round and walk away with a good score. Despite what most golfers think, playing in the rain isn’t that bad, especially if you continue making birdies while your playing partners bogey every other hole.
Of course, waterproof shoes, pants, and jackets will help make the experience slightly more pleasant, as will a golf umbrella and a rain-proof cover for your golf bag. Taking an extra club on approach shots and keeping your golf ball dry when putting is also critical in helping you to play in the rain.
Pro golfers play in the rain all the time, with rounds only canceled or suspended if lightning is in the area. So it’s not a question of whether you should continue playing in the rain because you should; the question is, what steps can you take to make the experience a pleasant one?
Actually, playing golf while it’s raining offers up the perfect opportunity to play without anybody holding you up; you’ll pretty much have the course to yourself. Providing no one else is on the same hole, you can play a few extra shots off the tee, some approach shots, and even have some practice putts from different areas on the green.
My golf course lowers greens fees on days that it’s expected to rain, so this can be an incentive to hit the links and get in some quality practice time by yourself. Remember, don’t forget to pack your wet weather gear and put on your waterproof golf shoes. You’ll also need a few more towels than usual, and keep an eye on the weather forecast for any lightning that may be in the vicinity.
When Should I not Play in the Rain?
This is an excellent question that many hardcore and avid golfers struggle with because most of us would play rain, hail, or shine, so when is it too wet to actually play golf?
According to the rules of golf as stated by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews or the R&A, playing in the rain is defined as:
“Casual water” is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water. A ball is in casual water when it lies in, or any part of it touches the casual water.”
Basically, the golf course needs to be playable; if you can see standing water on the greens and fairways, your best bet is to head back to the clubhouse for a drink or two and a nice club sandwich.
Top 5 Tips for Golfing Success in the Rain
Having been a professional coach for nearly twenty years, I’ve seen my fair share of rain when it comes to tournament play, and to be honest, I don’t mind playing in the rain, primarily because every other golfer hates it; I see it as an opportunity to score.
So let’s take a look at the top 5 tips that will help you play your best golf in the rain.
1. Tricky Conditions = Tough Scoring
When most club golfers hit the course, they have a target score that they’d like to shoot in mind; however, they fail to consider the changing weather conditions such as wind or, in this case, the rain. I can tell you, once the rain starts to come down, you can pretty much forget shooting the best score of your life.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t or won’t shoot a good score, but the reality is that the tricky conditions, particularly putting and chipping, make it very difficult to shoot a good round. Golf is already tough enough, and when you add in the rain and unnecessary pressure on yourself, it becomes almost impossible to play well.
Let go of your expectations and embrace the rain and the tricky conditions; if you can do this, you’ll be well on your way to conquering the elements.
2. Pinpoint focus is Key to Scoring in the Rain
One of the most critical skills of playing golf in the rain is concentrating on the task at hand. Rain can be annoying in many different ways, like slippery grips, poor visibility, and erratic ball flights, so being able to block it all out and focus on the task at hand is imperative to shoot a good round.
Just as losing focus will lead to poor decision-making and even worse scores, the rain exacerbates the problem further, and your score can spiral out of control quicker than on a day with perfect playing conditions.
Play one shot at a time and do your best to block out the inevitable lousy shot that comes with playing in the rain.
3. Positive Attitude
Once you step out onto the first tee, there’s no turning back; you have to commit and do your best to see the round out, and the best way to do that is by having a positive attitude. Now I know it’s cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true; keeping a smile on your face and you’re head held high are critical mental skills to practice while playing in the rain.
If you’re walking around the golf course with your lip on the ground, chances are your game is going to stink. Generally, you’ll have the course all to yourself when it’s raining, which means you can play additional shots to the green and even take some extra putts.
4. Conservative Play is your Best Bet
If you’re like me and you like to play aggressively and take risks, then you’re definitely going to struggle in the rain. Golfing when it’s raining requires you to change your mindset and play the course much more conservatively than you usually would.
To be honest, I tend to score much better when it rains because the conditions force me to play a more conservative and risk-free round. For example, on a par 4 where I would typically “cut” the corner and take on the water, I would instead take a long iron and lay up in a safe spot, then attack the green on my approach, rather than off the tee.
Most club golfers take too many risks, so playing in the rain just might be the medicine your game needs; Throttle back, play conservatively and be patient.
5. Suitable Clothing and Outerwear
There’s nothing worse than being out on the course, and you’re freezing cold; your hands are shaking, and you can barely feel the club in your hands, let alone grip it correctly.; this is why having the appropriate outerwear is paramount to keeping you comfortable and salvaging your round.
Having two or three pairs of gloves will be critical, as will keeping towels in your bags to wipe your grips dry from the rain. You can also purchase some high-quality rain gloves, which do a better job than traditional gloves at keeping your hands warm and dry; oh, and don’t forget an umbrella; golf umbrellas are huge and help keep you and your clubs nice and dry.
There are a few other items of clothing you should invest in that will also help you stay comfortable and, more importantly, dry while playing in the rain.
- Golf umbrella
- Winter gloves
- Rain gloves
- Waterproof golf shoes
- Waterproof jackets and pants
- Towels and
- A golf bag cover
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4 Ways the Rain Affects Your Play
Understanding that the rain will play havoc with your game will go a long way in keeping you focused and patient. The rain will affect your putting, chipping and pitching, driving, and even decision-making. So let’s take a look at four main areas where the rain will significantly affect your play.
1. Ball Doesn’t Carry As Far
The first primary difference that you’ll notice is the distance your golf balls travel, and no, it doesn’t travel further. The rain, much like hitting into the wind, “forces” your ball down much quicker than if you were playing in sunny conditions. A rule of thumb is to take an “extra club” than you usually would. E.g., instead of approaching the green with an 8 iron, take a 7 iron and swing nice and smoothly.
If you know what to expect, then playing golf in the rain is really not that difficult. Most people find it challenging because they don’t know what to expect. When club golfers come across unfamiliar situations, they tend to make poor decisions that result in double and triple bogeys.
2. Extra Care on your Short Game
The next biggest area of your game where you’ll notice a difference is how the golf ball reacts on the putting surface. Because the ball is wet, it will not roll as far, particularly after your chips around the green. You’ll also find mud, grass, and water in between the grooves of your club, which means the ball won’t spin as it usually would.
The greens will also be much softer, meaning the ball can plug in greenside bunkers and even on the greens. Making adjustments to your putting style is paramount; for some, this will be a difficult change, while for others much easier.
Generally speaking, greens are much slower, so you’ll need a more direct line to the cup; personally, I find it more challenging to put in the rain because I like to putt with much softer hands.
3. Utilize your Long Irons Around the Green
As we’ve mentioned, when you hit your driver in the rain, the ball will not travel anywhere near as far as it would in dry conditions. When you hit your irons, you’re also going to notice the same problem, but as I’ve stated earlier, if you know what to expect, it’s an easy fix.
Taking an “extra” club is the best strategy to combat the rain and heavier ball. Make sure you swing slow and rhythmically and let the club do the work for you. You can also hit a “knock-down” shot, which helps keep the trajectory of the ball lower and “on line” for longer.
A knock-down shot is also great in the rain because it keeps the spin to a minimum, meaning you’ll get slightly more roll once on the green.
4. Extra Care on the Putting Greens
Many amateur golfers have little to no experience in playing golf in the rain, and as such, they’re unaware of just how much putting in the rain differs from putting in clear sunny conditions.
The first aspect of putting in the rain you need to consider is not only the water on the green but the water that has filled the dimples on the golf ball. These two things combined slow down the roll of the ball, which affects the way you approach your putts. Putting in the rain, you’ll have to take a much more direct line to the cup than you would otherwise.
An excellent way to prepare yourself for putting in the rain is to practice in it; yep, that’s right; next time it’s raining, head down to the course, take your putter out, and start putting from different distances. This will give you some experience and feedback on how the ball reacts from various distances in the wet.
Playing in the Mud
My daughter loves Peppa Pig, and if you know the cartoon, you’ll know what I’m talking about; they love playing in the mud. Unfortunately, I don’t know that many golfers that like “trodding” around the course in muddy conditions.
Mud can and will affect the flight of your ball because the weight and balance of the ball are altered. Luckily, however, on the putting greens, you can mark your ball, which means you can pick it up and wipe it clean; just be sure to keep a dry towel in your bag, and don’t forget to take advantage of the ball cleaners found on the tee box on most holes.
Professional Golf and the Rain
As mentioned earlier, professional golfers play in the rain all the time, and the round is only canceled or suspended if lightning is detected in the surrounding area.
Pro golfers also have caddies who come in handy, particularly during inclement weather. Caddies help keep the clubs clean and make sure your grips are dry before each shot; ah, what it must be like to have a professional caddy doing everything for you.
The 18th Hole
Playing in the rain can be fun depending on how you look at it, but as I’ve shown you in this guide, keeping a smile on your face and embracing the conditions are all part of the challenge.
At the end of the day, you should learn to play in the rain because it’s only inevitable that one day you’ll be halfway through the best round of your life, and the heavens will open; if you’ve put in the practice, then you’ll be ready for whatever the elements throw your way.