As the weather around the country starts to dip, golfers in temperate climates are clinging to the last few possible days to play golf, often braving the elements to do so.
While being able to get outside and chase the little white ball around is reason enough to play, posting a good score is always the goal, so it’s important to understand what colder temperatures can do to your equipment so that you can adjust accordingly.
Naturally, when you have questions about golf ball performance, one of the best places you can go is to the experts at Titleist’s Golf Ball Research & Development department.
First things first, Titelist R&D says, it’s important to know that cold air is more dense than warm air, which will have an immediate impact on the distance your golf ball flies in chillier temps.
“Colder air increases both the lift and drag forces acting on the ball, which results in a slightly higher and shorter trajectory,” Rick from Team Titleist writes. “There is nothing a golfer can do about the effect of air temperature, besides taking it into account when planning the next shot.”
— Titleist (@Titleist) January 20, 2016
Another factor to consider is that cold golf balls simply do not perform as effectively as warm ones.
“If a ball gets too cold, its materials can lose some resiliency, resulting in a reduction of initial velocity off the clubface,” Titleist warns.
A good way to avoid this phenomenon is to keep an extra ball in your pocket while you play and swap out the golf balls after a hole or two in order to get the most out of a warm ball.
“It’s also a common misconception that you should switch to a lower compression golf ball in colder conditions. This practice is meant to compensate for the increase in compression that occurs when a ball gets colder. If you play with balls that are at near room temperature as we suggest, this becomes a moot point.”
While that’s all good information to know, what are the actual numbers we need to consider? What percentage of distance should you expect to lose playing in colder temperatures.
Titleist says while it’s impossible to make an across-the-board claim that would impact every golfer in every part of the world, there are some basic rules of thumb that Titleist was comfortable releasing.
“For the air temperature effect alone, figure on a distance loss of about 1.5% per 20°F reduction in temperature,” they write. “For example, for a 50°day versus a 70°day, on a 200 yard shot you would lose about 3 yards.”
One and a half percent is not a lot, which is why Titleist says that while the golf ball may get the majority of the blame for decreased distance in colder weather, it’s actually the golfer that is to blame.
“The other factors that typically accompany cold-weather golf (i.e. cold muscles, wearing more layers, frozen ground, wind, etc.) might have a bigger impact on a golfer’s overall performance (than the golf ball).”
So if you’re planning to play in some colder weather, it’s important to keep your golf balls warm, but your body warmer.