by Kevin Caron, Club Fitter
While playing golf, there are infinite variables that the golfer needs to consider before every shot. However, one of the most important is the temperature outside on that specific day. As a golfer, it is imperative that you understand the correlation between temperature and carry distances and in turn you will have an easier time playing on those cold fall days. A few topics that we will cover in regards to temperature is how it will affect distance, ball speed, spin, height, and a few others so you know what to expect when playing in the fall or spring.
When we get down to the simple facts, there are mainly two reasons why you will see less distance when it gets colder outside. First, when it is colder your clubhead along with the golf ball’s temperature will be lower resulting in less energy transfer, also known as ball speed. Second, when the air is colder it is more dense, resulting in more drag on the ball and a less efficient ballflight. Of course there are other variables that will ultimately decrease overall distance, however they are results from the previously mentioned reasons. Launch angles should be lower along with less spin, height, and shallower landing angles. Course conditions may also vary depending on your geographical location, changing how the ball reacts once it reaches the ground. Typically when the ground is colder, it is also firmer. So you may see bigger bounces and more roll, which can make up for some lost distance through the air. Usually when it is warmer, the ground is softer and bounce or roll may be less.
Diving into the data recorded from my own testing using TrackMan in our fitting facility, my findings generally support all previously stated hypotheses. When looking at the tables shown below you can see how temperature does in fact influence a few outcomes. Those being:
- Slower ball speeds
- Lower efficiency (Smash Factor)
- Lower launch angles
- Less spin
- Shorter carry
- Less height
- Shallower landing angle
Some other points to consider when looking at the data gathered is how the temperature will also affect the golfer’s ability to swing. Typically when warmer outside, your body can move more efficiently because your muscles are more flexible. In my data collection, I hit a fair amount of shots as warm up in order to get loose and make sure I gave each group of shots the same attention. To keep the amount of changing factors at a minimum, I hit from the same bay, using the same golf balls, at generally the same time of day (noon). Directly below you will see the data collected and above each table is the specific date, temperature, golf ball used, wind speed and also wind direction.
20 Shots Each With Driver & 7-Iron on 11/9/22
Temperature – 64℉ / Wind – 8 mph (from South) / Golf Ball – Callaway Chrome Soft
|11/9/22||Ball Speed (mph)||Club Speed (mph)||Smash Factor||Launch Angle (deg)||Spin Rate (rpm)||Carry (yds)||Height (ft)||Landing Angle (deg)|
20 Shots Each With Driver & 7-Iron on 12/9/22
Temperature – 38℉ / Wind – 10 mph (from Northeast) / Golf Ball – Callaway Chrome Soft
|12/9/22||Ball Speed (mph)||Club Speed (mph)||Smash Factor||Launch Angle (deg)||Spin Rate (rpm)||Carry (yds)||Height (ft)||Landing Angle (deg)|
Even from this relatively smaller set of data, it is apparent that temperature can have a rather noticeable effect on the golf ball performance. A loss of distance should be expected in colder temperatures. As for how much, it really depends on a few other factors as well such as wind speed, wind direction, and your club head speed. Generally speaking, you should expect roughly 2-5 yards less distance as you decrease every 10 degrees. Relatively, I was swinging the same speed on both days. However, 1 mph less clubhead speed will generate a few yards less of distance. One other variable to consider is the specific club that you are hitting. Shorter clubs such as a pitching wedge or 7-iron will see a smaller distance loss. Usually going to be roughly a half to a full yard less of distance loss versus the driver. This is because you’re generating less speed and the ball has less hang time to be affected by any atmospheric pressure.
In my testing the wind direction had a slightly bigger effect on my carry distances on December 9th since it was 10 mph into my face. The November 9th data set was more of a cross wind that wasn’t affecting the flight as much. Also, as previously mentioned above, energy transfer (ball speed) is less. Less speed correlates to less spin and height along with distance. Many have recommended playing a higher compression ball in the cold months to compensate for the firmer feel you will get from a tour ball such as a ProV1 or TP5. I would not recommend this unless you are fine with sacrificing some performance for a better feel.
If you are an avid golfer and enjoy playing year-round or in all climate types, make this difficult game a little easier by predicting your distances more accurately based on the temperature outside. As the temperature drops, so should your expected yardages (Approx. 2-5 yards per every 10℉ with Driver). The same goes for the warmer summer months, although it goes in the opposite direction (more distance). Expect a few more yards when energy transfer from club to ball is higher and the air is less dense and the ball can fly faster and more efficiently. If you have any questions regarding your current clubs or how they are performing in all temperatures, stop by Miles of Golf and we can show you first hand what effect the colder and warmer temperatures have on your golf ball.