How Weather & Temperature Affect Golf Ball Distance

Where I live, the air isn’t dry and the temperature isn’t that warm. I know how far I typically hit the ball, but when I took a trip to the desert, I noticed that my distances jumped quite a bit. That’s when I realized that there are a number of different factors that impact how far you hit the golf ball.

As a general rule, golf ball distance will increase when temperature, elevation, and humidity are increased. You could expect to add 20-30 yards to your driving distance when playing in warm weather at elevation compared to cold weather at sea level.

I have a friend that just recently took a trip to Arizona and was hitting a few drives over 300 yards. Here, his average distance is probably closer to 260, so that’s pretty crazy. There are more factors than just temperature though, so we’ll jump into what can impact distance and what balls might work the best.

Have you experienced an increase or decrease in distance because of weather? Let me know in the comments below.

What Affects Golf Ball Distance?

What I enjoy so much about golf is that you can go to a handful of different courses and they can all play differently. Courses by the ocean might have a lot of wind while mountain courses might have air that’s drier.

This basically means that weather has a big impact on how far you hit the ball. Here are the things that have the biggest impact (in no specific order):

  1. Temperature
  2. Rain
  3. Wind
  4. Humidity
  5. Elevation

Temperature: Generally speaking, you’ll hit the ball longer when it’s warmer out. Part of the reason could be that your body isn’t as loose, but the other reason is because of the air itself.

When the air gets colder it also gets dense. When it’s dense there’s more drag on the ball. It probably won’t be a huge difference, but you’ll definitely notice a loss.

I went golfing the other day and it was getting pretty cold (9 degrees C/48 degrees F), so I was driving the ball a little over 240 yards. A month or so ago it was 20 degrees (68 F) and my distances were closer to 250 yards.

Part of the reason is that the ground was wet and the ball didn’t roll as much. Part of the reason is the colder temperature. Here are a few different temperatures where I checked my distances:

TemperatureMy Driver Distance
20 C/68 F (dry)250 Yards
9 C/48 F (wet)243 Yards
3 C/37 F (dry)242 Yards
I use my Shot Scope V3 to see my distances

How much yardage do you lose in cold weather? According to tests I’ve done and the results of others, a 10-degree (F) drop in temperature will reduce your yardage by 2-3 yards. When the ground is wet, you could expect these numbers to be higher.

Rain: Another time you’d expect to hit the ball shorter is when it’s raining out. The rain itself could play a role, but it’s what results from the rain that makes the biggest impact.

Wet conditions could have an impact on your grip, which could take some distance away. Just think about golfing without a glove or imagine having a slippery grip. You won’t be able to swing through the ball 100%.

What’s sort of interesting is that your ball will spin less when it’s wet. Less spin could help you hit the ball straighter, which could give you more distance. I don’t think it’s enough to outweigh the other factors though.

RELATED: How Backspin & Sidespin Affect A Golf Ball

Rain can also cause the ground to get soft. I’m sure you’ve hit your fair share of fat (chunky) shots, don’t worry, we’ve all done it. You might get away with hitting behind the ball when the ground is firm, but that won’t be the case when it’s wet.

The final (and biggest) effect of rain is how much the ball rolls. When the ground is wet, your ball isn’t going to roll very much. Playing a dry course with firm fairways can easily add 20+ yards to your shots when you factor in total distance.

Wind: One of the hardest things to do is play golf in the wind. It’ll mess up your yardage (higher or lower) and can push your ball all over the course.

I remember playing a course by the ocean on a pretty windy day. I don’t remember what I ended up shooting but I know I had a really tough time hitting the ball more than 200 yards.

Wind at your back is a good thing off the tee, but it’s not going to be your friend most of the time. When the wind is coming toward you it’ll push your ball higher, your ball will land steeply, and it won’t roll out very much.

When the wind is blowing side to side, it could help you straighten out that slice, but it’ll probably reduce distance as well. Wind that’s blowing the other way will take that slice and push it even further.

Humidity: Most people already know that cold, wet, and windy conditions will impact their distances. What might have the biggest impact is how humid or dry the air is.

Humid air is less dense and will put less drag on the ball. This means you’ll gain distance (if other factors are the same). Areas near the ocean tend to be more humid. Cold, wet, and windy weather can also make this worse.

On the other hand, dry climates like the desert have thicker air, so the ball won’t travel as far (if other factors are the same). That said, elevation and temperature are usually higher in the desert, so this can offset the humidity factor.

Elevation: This is one of the factors that impact distance the most. When you increase elevation, you’ll also increase distance. Air is quite dense at sea level and then it gets lighter as you move into the mountains.

This is the reason my distances increased when I went to the desert. I normally golf at sea level, where there is a decent amount of humidity. That said, the temperature and elevation of the desert are enough to offset the decrease in humidity (plus, the ball rolls longer).

What Type Of Golf Balls To Use In Cold Weather?

When the weather starts getting close to freezing it might make sense to switch the ball you’re playing (if you even want to play golf at this point). This is mainly for people who use higher compression balls.

The best option would be to use a 2 or 3 piece golf ball that has a lower compression rating and a softer feel. Cold weather makes the ball slightly harder, so using a high-compression ball could end up feeling like a rock.

When the air gets cold, the ball doesn’t compress as well and the effect on mis-hits gets exaggerated. A softer ball compresses more easily, leading to straighter shots in frosty conditions.

Phil Mickelson

If Phil is switching balls in the winter, we probably should too. If you’re not sure about golf ball compression and how it can impact your game I’d recommend checking out our in-depth post.

I’m sure you’ve hit a ball that felt way too hard, almost like hitting a rock. The reason that’s the case is that the compression rating is high. This means it takes more speed to properly compress the ball.

RELATED: Soft vs Hard Golf Balls: The Key Differences

When you don’t compress the ball properly your mishits will be even worse and you’ll lack some distance. You’ll be amazed by how far you hit the ball when it actually goes straight.

Do low compression golf balls go further in cold weather? All things being equal, high and low compression balls should travel a similar distance. However, you’ll hit straighter shots more often with a lower compression ball, which will give you a better average distance.

Not only that, but if you’re playing in wet conditions, you don’t want to lose $5 balls when they plug in the ground. If it’s still dry out then you don’t have to worry.

If you’re curious about what ball to play, you can read our best golf balls for average golfers article or our best golf balls for mid handicappers article here.

Are Pro V1s Good In Cold Weather?

For most golfers, playing a Pro V1 won’t be the best choice when the temperature gets cold. The high compression rating will feel very firm when you make contact and it might not compress enough to take advantage of its benefits.

Pro V1s are the most popular ball out there and are some of the best-performing on the market. That said, they are high-compression balls and will feel super hard if your swing speed isn’t fast enough.

If you’re a low handicapper then you might consider playing these balls. For the average golfer out there, they probably aren’t the best. You can also see some Pro V1 alternatives if you’re still interested.

We actually did a Pro V1 vs Kirkland Signature test to see if I could tell the differences. The Pro V1 was better, but the much cheaper Kirkland ball performed close for me. Better players will notice a difference, but I don’t think the average hacker would.

Both of these balls have a compression rating close to 90, which is a bit high for cold weather. If it was me, I’d look for something with a lower compression rating when I’m playing winter golf.

How To Play Better Golf In Extreme Weather

Not only should you consider changing your ball when the temperature drops, but you should also consider changing your strategy on the course. Here are a few tips:

1. Club Up

We just spent some time talking about how weather affects your ball and its distance. When you’re playing cold-weather golf, in the rain, or hitting into the wind, you might want to hit a longer club.

If you’re 180 yards out and normally hit your 5 iron, you’ll probably end up 10-20 yards short, depending on the elements. Take out your 3 iron/hybrid and put a smooth swing on it.

2. Keep The Ball Low

Keeping the ball lower, especially in the wind, will help you hit the ball longer, and hopefully, lower scores. There are a few reasons why this is the better strategy.

The first is that high shots will plug in the ground when the course is wet. This means the ball won’t roll out and you might even lose a few during the round.

Hitting the ball high also has a better chance of being manipulated by the wind. If the wind is helping, take advantage. If not, you’ll either lose a bunch of distance or your slice/hook will be even worse.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Your Ball Goes Right (And How To Fix It)

The final reason is that the ball will roll down the fairway more when you keep it low. It’s easier said than done, but once you can do it, you’ll have better control over the ball.

3. Know When To Be Aggressive/Conservative

Knowing when to play it safe and when to go for it is a never-ending battle on the course. It might be even more important when you’re playing in not-so-ideal weather.

When you’re playing on wet ground, keeping the ball in the fairway is super important. You need to focus on hitting the fairway off the tee and the green on your approach shots. Use whatever club you feel the most comfortable with.

It’s not always easy to control the ball when the rough is wet. You might hit the ball too far (a flier) or you might take too much dirt (fat shot). It’s so much easier from the fairway.

On the other hand, being more aggressive around the green might be the better option. The green will be slow and your ball will stop quicker. Put a bit more pace on your putts and chips.

If it’s just cold out (not wet) then it’s not as important to hit the fairways and greens. The green might be pretty firm though, and if that’s the case, your ball won’t stop as quickly. You might want to be more conservative with your chips and putts.

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Hey, I'm Jon. I started Out Of Bounds Golf to share my findings after testing golf gear for the past 10+ years. My goal is to make the game a little easier to understand, whether that's with finding the right product or answering common questions. I currently live in the Pacific Northwest.

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