Teachable Moments: How smart club selection helped Harris English win in the wind
Welcome to Teachable Moments, GOLF’s new weekly instruction column that will help you improve your game through the excellence and expertise of the Tour stars of the week. Class is now in session.
Unless you’re playing golf on a simulator, you’re going to have to face the challenges that the weather presents. There are those rare days when the weather is pristine and all you have to worry about is hitting your number, but those are few and far between. There are many challenges that the weather can throw your way on the course, but the most common is wind.
Wind can turn even the simplest swings into shots you have to be crisp with in your execution. It can even affect putts, too. But just because the wind is yet another obstacle in this game of endless challenges doesn’t mean you need to fret. There are strategies you can employ to command your ball even on the windiest days.
PGA Tour players typically play in favorable conditions, but even they find themselves hitting into the fan every once in a while. January’s Hawaii swing is a perfect example of this. The weather might be sunny and warm, but the winds of the Pacific make the conditions far from perfect.
Throughout last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, players had to contend with gusts up to 25 mph. Sunday’s conditions were an embodiment of that ethos as a steady breeze blew across the course, with gusts coming up in spurts. In fact, the wind played a pivotal role in a defining shot for champion Harris English’s run to the title.
Facing a 141-yard shot into a stiff breeze on the par-4 13th, English made the shot look easy as he stuffed his approach within two feet of the cup. But the shot was anything but simple with a strong wind in his face.
The conventional wisdom in the wind is “when it’s breezy, swing easy,” and he did just that. Instead of swinging with all his might to power the ball through the wind, English instead clubbed up and took something off the shot.
“My full 8-iron goes about 170, so I was trying to hit it about 160 thinking the wind was going to hit it probably 15, 20 yards, and it did,” English said. “The wind was really whipping in our face and I think I had 141 yards, so I just hit a little easy 8-iron.”
Hitting into the wind is a scary proposition for amateurs, and most make it worse by trying to do too much with the shot. Logic says that we need to swing harder into the wind to make it go farther, but that will only hurt you. That added muster trying to power the ball through the breeze will result in added spin and, with it, less control of the shot.
Instead, be like English and club up with an easy swing. The ball will come out with less spin and be much easier to control. If you can control your ball in the wind, you’ll be a step ahead of all of your competitors.