Peaceful greens set the stage for some of the fiercest competitions in golf – and a major player in this setting is none other than the weather.
"In golf, the elements are always in play," said Kevin Roth, sports meteorologist for Rotogrinders.com. "It's always outside, and that means if it's windy, if it's raining, if there's lightning, if there's snow, all of these different things, the temperature, all matters in how the outcome of the game is."
Here are some of the ways weather can impact your golf game.
That warm, life-giving star can do more than be a beaming spectator. According to Roth, the sun's location in the sky is key as it will cause the grass to lean toward it.
"That will cause your putt to go in just a slightly different direction than if the sun was on the other side and the grass was leaning slightly the other way," he said.
In addition to the direction of the sun’s rays, the amount of sunlight can impact the gameplay, as well. Roth said hot, sunny days can dry out the already smooth golf course, reducing friction and making it easy for balls to roll right off of the greens.
Rain and lightning
One weather element that can positively affect the game may be a bit surprising – precipitation.
"The best weather for professional golfers is actually light rain because it causes the greens to slow down a little bit," Roth said. "So, you're hitting these approach shots onto the green, and a ball that would normally skip right off the green sticks instead."
While light rain can be beneficial to play in, heavy rain can lead to water pooling and ponding on the course, causing games to be canceled. Games may also be canceled due to lightning strikes during a storm, particularly because the golfers are holding metal clubs in the air, Roth noted.
"A little bit of rain is great. A lot of rain or thunderstorm is very, very bad," he said.
Before the ball even hits the green, it sails through the air, putting it at the mercy of air temperature and elevation.
Warmer air and air at higher elevations can help a golfer driver the ball much farther, due to the air being much thinner, according to Roth. For example, if a player is counting on a big drive, hot temperatures of 80-90 degrees can help them hit their ball a figurative mile.
Colder air and air at lower elevations, however, is denser and creates more air resistance on the ball. Roth said athletes have to adjust their gameplay and count more on their putting game to make things happen on colder days.
Another variable that golfers have to consider is the wind.
"Wind is the biggest factor of all as far as how weather impacts golf," Roth said. He noted that while the wind may impact every stroke, it impacts longer drives the most since the ball is in the air for a long time.
Even a 5- or 10-mile-per-hour wind can play a significant role when the drive is 300-yards long, meaning players must factor in the direction and strength of the wind.
Players must also take into account that the wind can vary depending on the time of day they tee off.
According to Roth, the general pattern is that in the morning, winds tend to be a little bit lighter, and then in the afternoon, as those winds in the upper atmosphere start mixing to the surface, you see stronger gusts down at the surface.
"To some degree, the outcome of the tournament is decided based on when you're teeing off just as much as it's decided by who's playing the best golf," he said. "If you get the wrong side of the weather draw, you're not going to win. Period."
Weather on par
"Golf is great because the weather has a huge impact on it," Roth said. "It's maybe the number one sport where weather matters, and if there's one that competes, it's baseball."
Competition aside, good weather can simply make for an enjoyable golf game.
"You're out in nature. There's birds chirping. It's just a wonderful little getaway," Roth said.