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The Impact of Humidity on Golf Ball Distance

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The Impact of Humidity on Golf Ball Distance

One of the reasons we love this game is the challenges it brings. Not only does the course itself test you, so does the weather. 

So how does humidity affect golf balls distance? Does humidity help you hit it longer or shorter than normal?

These are just a few questions we’ll address today to help you understand how muggy weather impacts your golf game. Plus, we’ll share some strategies to help you make the most out of hot, humid rounds so the weather doesn’t negatively affect your scores. 

How Humidity Impacts Golf Balls

Key Takeaways

  • Different weather conditions affect a golf ball’s distance including temperature, humidity, elevation, and wind. 
  • Playing in cold weather hurts the golf balls distance while warmer weather helps distance thanks to lower air pressure.
  • Humid air does not help the golf ball fly farther but heat does – sometimes up to a full club or more depending on temperature.

Keep reading to learn more about different types of weather scenarios to adapt on the golf course. 

Humidity in Golf 

Playing in the humidity usually comes with hot weather… which might make golf easier. Most studies agree that higher temperatures – even if it’s humid air – improve your total distance.

As mentioned, “Heat reduces the air’s density by causing it to expand. Humidity also reduces density because water vapor is lighter than dry air, so the more water vapor in the mixture, the less dense the air. So forget how the air feels on a hot, humid day. It is actually lighter, and will allow the ball to fly farther.”

If you’re playing on a day when you notice the humidity more than the heat it’s hard to believe the air is thinner. As most people feel like the air is heavier and might actually weigh your ball down in flight. But it turns out that it’s not the case and instead, the air is thinner which improves distance. 

But how much yardage does humidity affect distance?

Not nearly as much as playing in dry heat like Arizona and other parts of the country. Dry heat – which means minimal humidity – affects your distance significantly more than humidity.

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Studies have shown that for every 10-degrees increase in temperature results in nearly a yard distance more with each club. Going from 40 to 100 degrees can change a 6-iron by nearly eight yards and driver by nine yards. 

But muscles are also looser in higher temperatures which means more flexibility (doing some extra golf stretches can also help). Paired with the ball bringer warmer, you can hit it longer than ever in high temperatures. 

Heat vs. Humidity in Golf 

To illustrate how heat affects your golf ball make sure to watch this awesome video from Trackman. As noted in the video, air density comes from three factors – temperature, humidity, and air pressure. 

“Denser air creates more resistance for the golf ball, the greater the air density, the more lift and drag. This means greater air density results in shots that fly higher, land steeper and carry shorter.” 

For example, if you’re playing in 100+ degree temperatures, the ball will go further than ever. Compared to cold weather where the ball won’t travel as far for a variety of reasons. 

“Even though humid air may feel heavier, the molecular weight of water is less than that of dry air which consists primarily of nitrogen and oxygen. So higher humidity decreases air density. Even though humidity does affect air density, going from 10% to 90% has negligible effect on distance.” 

In fact, Trackman claimed that an extreme change like that would only result in one extra yard with your 6-iron or driver! 

Ultimately, you shouldn’t change your club selection if you’re just playing in the humidity. It’s usually the temperature that plays a much bigger role. 

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Higher temperatures mean more distance. While lower temperatures mean less distance and one of the reasons that winter golf is that much more challenging. If you’re playing winter golf check out this article now.

How to Play Golf in the Heat and Humidity 

Battling the weather isn’t easy at times but these strategies below should help you out. 

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

The most important thing to remember about playing in heat and humidity is to stay hydrated. Your body is losing a ton of water as you sweat so it’s vital to replenish with a lot of water and fluids. 

While water is important, don’t forget to hydrate with electrolytes too. This might mean a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade to get extra magnesium, sodium, and potassium that your body is losing from sweat.

If you don’t like those drinks (or don’t want the extra calories) make sure to get an electrolyte pack. These salts can be added to water and taste great.

Ride vs. Walk the Course

While golf is a great way to burn calories, walking in high temperatures can zap your energy. This might be a good day to use a golf cart instead of a standard push cart. 

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But if you insist on walking instead of riding, an electric push cart might help you out a lot more. This way you can still get plenty of exercise but let the cart do the “heavy lifting” for you.

If you do decide to walk instead of ride a sun umbrella can also help protect your skin from harmful UV rays. These umbrellas are designed to withstand heat and most golf carts come with an accessory that makes it easy to hold. 

Carry Extra Towels

Keeping your hands dry when playing in humid air and hot weather is one of the most important things to think about. There’s nothing worse than feeling like the club can slip out during your swing.

Carry a few extra small hand towels to dry your hands before hitting shots. This is even more important with your putter too so you can maintain a light grip on the club.

Plus, it’s a good idea to buy a cool golf towel that you can get wet and keep around your neck. You can keep these towels in the cooler and it’ll help a ton on the course.

Use Rain Gloves

If you get sweaty hands when playing golf in heat or humidity try out rain gloves instead of standard leather gloves. I’ve done this for years and noticed a huge difference in how I can grip the club.

While these gloves don’t have as good of a feeling as leather gloves they can make a huge difference in your grip. 

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Stay Mentally Tough

Profusely sweating and wondering how far the golf ball flies is challenging, the hardest part is staying mentally in the game. Heat zaps your energy and sometimes can lead to some poor decision-making.

Even PGA Tour players experience this late in the season. A good example is the 2023 FedEx Playoff event at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

As Jordan Speith said to after one round, “I just kind of felt like I was foggy in some of my decisions,” he said. “Like I kind of felt like, man, what was I thinking hitting that club there when I could have hit this one. Like I was trying to — I just stepped up, grabbed a club, and I was so worried about it being dry and then all of a sudden I’m over the ball and I’m like, what am I doing here.”

When playing in thinner air and humid conditions make sure to stick to your pre-shot routine. This will help you stay focused and make solid decisions, even if your mind and body are tired.

FAQs Playing Golf in Extreme Weather 

Do you have more questions about how a golf ball is affected by humidity and other weather conditions? If so, keep reading to learn more now. 

Does the ball go farther when it’s humid?

Yes, the golf ball will generally fly slightly longer distances when it’s humid.

Because a lot of times the humidity is paired with heat – which has a much bigger effect on total distance. If you’re playing in 70 degrees with 70% humidity vs. 100 degrees with 70% humidity, it could be .5 to 1.5 difference in club selection. 

What affects the trajectory of a golf ball?

Ball flight is impacted by wind and elevation more than anything else. The golf ball flight will have a slight difference in humid weather but not nearly enough for the average golfer to notice.

How to Play Golf in the Rain
The Impact of Humidity on Golf Ball Distance 7

Does rain slow down greens?

Yes, wet rainy weather affects the golf course. When playing in colder months with rain you’ll need to adapt your approach shots and putting.

With approach shots the general rule is that you can land it closer to the hole as it will stop sooner. But the wet conditions will impact distance so you might need to club up to increase distance.

On the greens you need to hit putts harder as the greens are softer. You won’t have lightning fast greens in wet conditions so make sure to hit your putt with some extra effort.

How do I adjust my yardage for wind? 

Wind is another tricky element in the game of golf. With temperature and humidity you can adapt how far golf balls fly pretty easily by looking at the weather forecast during the round.

But wind can change much faster than temperatures during the round and you have to figure out which direction the wind is blowing. Not to mention how much it’s blowing and if it’s swirling too.

Wind will affect how far the ball goes but it’s up to read the wind properly and select the right club for the job. Check out our full guide to playing golf in the wind here.

How does altitude affect distance in golf?

Altitude and wind play a much bigger role in how far the golf ball travels than humidity. For example, if you’re playing at sea level the ball will travel less than if you’re at 1,000 or 2,000 (or more) feet of elevation.

This is why most golfers like playing at higher altitudes – temperatures are cooler and since the air is less dense, it leads to longer drives off the tee.

To learn more about playing golf at elevation, click here now.

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My Experience

Heat and humidity can make the game quite a bit challenging if you aren’t prepared – both physically and mentally. While golf balls fly farther when it’s hot and humid vs. dense air there are other things to think about other than just what golf clubs to use for each shot.

Physically you need to hydrate more than ever. The sun can zap your energy and make it hard to stay focused on the back nine. 

If you’re walking when playing with heat and humidity you need to be extra careful to stay hydrated. Unless walking is required – such as a USGA event – if it’s extremely hot I’d suggest riding in a cart instead. This makes it easier to save energy and stay hydrated.

Mentally it’s just as tough because you don’t have as much energy to make decisions. If I ever play a competitive event in hot, humid weather I try to plan ahead as much as possible to minimize decision-making. 

This means creating a game plan ahead of time for each tee shot, how I’ll play par 5s, and any other strategies. The less I have to think during the round, the more I can conserve energy, and hopefully play better.

Final Thoughts 

Playing golf in humidity, heat, cold, wind, and possibly elevation can make this game a lot more complicated.

Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of perfect 70-degree weather days that are made for scoring. A lot of times the Golf Gods like to test us to see how we can adapt to the situations. 

When playing in the heat and humidity make sure you hydrate above all else with plenty of water and electrolytes.

While beer tastes great on the golf course, it’s only dehydrating you more and can hurt your game. Save it for after the round so you can focus on good hydration and nutrition during the round.

Aside from the mental challenges, don’t forget that humidity will impact the golf ball a lot too.  

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Michael Leonard

Michael is a friend and contributor to the Left Rough. He is a full-time writer, podcast host of Wicked Smart Golf, and mental golf coach. He’s played for 25+ years and regularly competes in amateur golf tournaments in Arizona.