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Sometimes, there just isn't another option. You have to play golf in the rain.
Although I would assume that most of the golfers reading this would much rather spend a rainy day on the golf course than at work, rain still isn't ideal. Unless you enjoy the smell of wet golf shoes, then I think we can agree that playing in sunlight is more enjoyable.
Even if you don't play golf during a downpour, I'm sure that you've experienced the after effects of a nice thunderstorm. The golf course plays significantly different, and adjustments must be made to shoot a good score.
As a competitive amateur golfer, I generally don't get a caddy who will take care of me and keep me dry when the clouds get a little heavy.
In this post, you will learn how to survive the rain from the standpoint of a golfer who more often than not has to carry his own clubs when it rains.
The golden rule in golf is this—if you see lightning, get off the course. Otherwise, nobody is keeping you from shooting your best round ever.
That is... Unless you're feeling risky. Cue one of my favorite movie scenes of all time:
Jokes aside, if you've ever watched the professionals play in rainy conditions, you might have noticed that they seem to continue along as if nothing was happening. Helps to have a caddie keeping things dry for you!
As an amateur golfer, I usually do not have this luxury in golf tournaments, and I'm guessing that you do not either.
Throughout this post, I will take you through the essentials of playing well in the rain, and also dive into some unique strategies for keeping yourself dry while carrying your own bag in the rain.
Here are some of the topics that I will be discussing:
- How to dress, and what to bring for a rainy day of golf
- How to stay dry throughout the round
- Some swing adjustments that you might consider making
- Course management in rain
- Some shots that you might encounter, and how to play them
- The "annoyance factor"
As in my post about playing golf in the cold, I believe that dressing for the elements is the first and foremost priority. If you don't put on the right clothes, your rainy golf experience will not only be miserable, but you will most likely shoot higher than usual.
Below are all of the clothing and accessories that I bring on a rainy day:
- Hat- The last thing you want is water dripping all over your face when you're trying to focus on a putt. If it is raining hard enough, flip your hat backward (no it's not bad golf etiquette) to keep the water droplets out of your eyes.
- Rain pants and rain jacket - Okay, I understand. A nice rain suit is EXPENSIVE. At the very least, make sure to throw on a pair of rain pants. The rain jacket is not quite as necessary in my opinion, but in a torrential downpour, it helps :)
- Change of socks - It sounds a bit weird, but throw an extra pair of socks in a plastic bag. Change your socks out at the turn, and you'll feel like a brand-new golfer!
- Dry Fit Golf Shirt (important) - For those of you who still rock the cotton golf shirts, these won't be your friend during a rainy round of golf. Wet cotton shirts stick to your back, and limit your turn, which will cause some embarrassing golf shots. You want to have a loose, athletic golf shirt that won't restrict your backswing turn.
- Umbrella - In my opinion, having an umbrella is extremely annoying, and I generally won't use one because it frustrates me too much. If you can get past the extra effort of carrying it around and chasing it when the wind blows, then I suggest using an umbrella. If not, you must have a rain jacket and rain pants.
- Golf Bag Cover - Most golf bags come with this, but keeping your clubs dry is important for keeping the bag light. When all your head covers get soaked, it adds a few pounds on your back. Also, you don't want rain going into your golf bag where the golf grips are.
- Rain Glove!!! - Several instructors may tell you that wearing any sort of glove in the rain is useless, but I disagree. I use this rain glove, and cannot play without it! Even when it is soaking wet, it still provides some sort of grip on the club (note: most rain gloves will come with two gloves, one for each hand. Try to avoid using the opposite-handed glove, as it alters your grip slightly. I've seen Mickelson use both, but in my opinion, it is difficult to do if you haven't practiced with two gloves).
- Towels - On a rainy day, I will remove the towel that normally rests between my clubs, and put it in the large pocket of my golf bag. Also, I keep a small to medium-sized towel in a grocery/plastic bag in case the first towel gets too wet. Lastly, I will place a small towel at the bottom of my golf bag. This absorbs moisture from setting the bag on the ground, and keeps the grips dry.
We all know how difficult it is to stay dry without a caddy, but in order to play well, we must find a way.
During the round, it will be impossible to stay completely dry, so it is important to focus on the things that matter.
In order to play well, you must keep the following things as dry as possible:
- Your glove(s)
- Your grips
- Your club-heads (before each shot)
I'll start out with the gloves.
I have found that the best way to keep gloves dry is to fold them up after every shot and put them in your rain pants. This is another reason why rain pants are essential. Also, I keep two to three rain gloves in plastic bags so if one gets too wet, I have a few more to fall back on.
Next, you must keep your grips dry. As I mentioned earlier, putting a small towel at the bottom of your bag under the grips will help soak up moisture and keep them dry.
I have also found that putting tees in the end of each grip helps as well. When you push a tee into the grip of the club (push it as far as it goes), you are creating a new surface of contact at the bottom of the bag. Instead of the butt end of the grip touching the damp towel, the tee is.
Finally, it is important to keep the club-heads dry before each shot.
I know that this is tedious of me to ask of you, but give it your best shot, especially when putting. Chances are, if you play in the rain, there will be wet sand that gets on your putter face. If you don't wipe this off before a putt, the ball will not pop off the face as usual, and you will surely miss the putt.
Also, moisture on the face of a golf club causes the ball to slide up the face, which decreases spin, and creating a "rain flyer." You know that shot that goes forever out of fluffy rough that we call the "flyer?" Well, you can get this shot from the middle of the fairway in rain if your club-face is wet. Most of the time, this doesn't appear to be a factor because the rain will decrease your carry distance, and offset the extra distance created by the flyer.
So before each shot, wipe the club-face on your rain pants (yet another reason you need rain pants!).
Consider this section optional, but there are a few minor swing adjustments that might help you play better in the rain:
- Use the big muscles and turn- When you have wet grips and hands, the left thumb and right hand fingers tend to slip up the grip at the point of maximum tension in the backswing (for a right handed golfer, opposite for left). When you create lots of torque in the swing (muscles working against each other - it's a good thing), the hands might slip. By taking shorter backswings and hitting shots with your body rather than your arms and hands, your hands won't slip as bad. If you do choose to do this, take an extra club.
- Choke up on the grip - In the rain, your feet actually sink a slight amount in the ground. To counteract this, choke up an inch or so on the grip.
- Swing easy - this relates to my first tip, but applies in a more general sense. Yes, your grip might slip by swinging hard, but your feet might as well. Don't be that guy slipping and falling on the first tee because you wanted a few extra yards :)
When playing in the rain, or playing in wet conditions, you must alter your strategy on the course.
The fairways, rough, and greens are all soft, the air is heavy, and you are restricted in your swinging motion.
It might seem obvious, but you need to take plenty of club on each shot.
The approach shots will spin more, and your full shots will travel a shorter distance. Unfortunately, there are no black and white guidelines for estimating distance in the rain, but you must be aware of this factor.
Last, you may consider firing at more flags than usual. With wet greens, your short sided chips won't get away from you as easily, and your approach shots won't bounce over the green. This simple fact explains why the professionals shoot so low the day after a heavy rain!
Instead of trying to explain it through writing, I thought I would share a quick video of Lee Trevino explaining how to hit out of bare/compact/wet bunkers:
Yes, I'm talking to the macho golfer who tries to rip 4 iron in thick, wet rough.
I don't care who you are, you're not going to hit a 4 iron well out of thick, wet rough. Unless the ball is sitting up, or the rough isn't thick enough to cover your golf ball, don't try to muscle a 4 iron 210 yards. The club-face will shut, and you will be hitting your next shot 20 yards in front of where you started.
If you're playing a course with long rough and it is wet, don't hit anything more than a 7 iron. Chances are, your 7 iron will travel further than your 5 iron anyways!
I'm not going to get into too much detail about this subject, because there are so many factors at play. Just remember to aim in the direction of the mud, because the ball tends to fly in the direction opposite to where the mud is.
If you want to read an interesting article on mud balls, I highly recommend reading this one from Golf WRX.
For most amateurs, this shot is scary, and for good reason! If you don't contact the ball first, the result will be terrible.
Before watching the video below, which provides three methods for hitting a chip/pitch off a soggy, tight lie, remember that the putter can be used off the green! If you can putt the ball, by all means do so! There is no sense trying to pull off a shot that even some professionals get anxiety from.
Anyways, here is a good video that shows some different methods for chipping off tight, wet lies:
Note: If chipping up a hill, don't try to drive the ball into the bank. In wet conditions, it will stop dead in its tracks, and you will face the same shot over again. If you don't have confidence hitting a lofted wedge over the bank of the hill, just putt it, or use a hybrid as shown in the video.
Last but not least, I want to cover something that I think we are all familiar with when playing golf in the rain.
I call it the "annoyance factor."
When the rain continually pours down on you for extended periods of time, if you are not up for the challenge, you will get annoyed.
When this happens, it is a thought pattern that is tough to get rid of, and it will affect your decision making during the round.
In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about anger, frustration, and any other negative emotion, and its direct relationship to the intuitive part of the brain.
The intuitive part of the brain, or "system 1" as he calls it in the book, is responsible for subconsciously bringing in information from the outside world for the thinking part of the brain to synthesize and make a judgement with.
The intuitive part of the brain helps us as golfers make decisions about what shot to hit without much thought at all. This process allows you to pick a shot to play without making a bunch of calculations before-hand. You just automatically know that this is the right shot to play thanks to all of the practice that you have done in the past.
When we have negative emotions running through our brains, this intuitive system is crippled in a sense.
Have you ever looked back at a golf round and wondered why you made a certain decision? Chances are, your intuitive brain wasn't functioning rationally, and your decision making was an act of nature.
When it rains, and you get angered by the constant annoying raindrops hitting your face, your intuitive brain becomes temporarily irrational. All of a sudden, you may find yourself making a laundry list of bad, illogical decisions, and your score skyrocketing.
So when you catch yourself falling victim to the "annoyance factor," take a breath, reset, and put a smile on your face.
The rain will try and tear you apart, but in the end, you have control over your thoughts.
Don't let the rain win.
In this post, I have covered just about everything that I can think of when it comes to playing golf in the rain. I hope that you have found it unique, insightful, and most importantly, applicable to your golf game.
In the end, you really don't have to play golf in the rain if you don't want to.
But I know how much of a golf nut you are :)
So learn to play in the rain, and shoot some low scores!