Influence of weather and altitude on a ball flight

A golf ball flight is affected by many environment factors. Regardless of the hitting with the club, the flight of the ball is affected by:

  • Wind speed and direction
  • Rain
  • Temperature
  • Pressure (altitude above sea level)
  • Air humidity

Carry and Roll of a golf ball shot distance

 

Enivironmental conditions

The effect of the wind on the ball distance is shown here (still under development).

Naturally rainfall shortens the hitting distances with each club. Unfortunately any accurate calculation of the shot distance in the rain is practically impossible due to the difficult to quantify intensity of rainfall and ground wetness. As a rough rule of thumb, a 3 to 5% distance reduction can be taken. The average reduction of the yardage by 4% is applied in the calculation below.

The temperature increase (both the air and the ball) increases efficiency of the energy transfer to the ball, so that the initial ball speed is faster. The result of the more elastic rebound is also increased backspin on the ball. Finally, the ball travels further than in colder conditions.

At higher altitudes above mean sea level (AMSL), the atmospheric pressure is lower. So the air density drops there, which causes a decrease in air resistance during the flight of the ball. With small differences in altitude, the impact of this phenomenon is negligible, but in the case of high-altitude fields (over 600m / 2000ft AMSL), the ball distances increase by up to several percent. At high altitudes, the force of gravity also decreases, but the influence of this factor is negligible when calculating the ball’s flight distance.

Higher air humidity means that the ball has to overcome more resistance in flight, but at the same time it increases the “lift” of the ball due to backspin. As a result, the ball flies higher and the carry distance increases slightly, but the total shot length does not change by more than 1 yard / meter when the humidity varies from extremely low to high (10-90% RH). The influence of humidity on the impact length can therefore be neglected.

 

Estimating the ball flight distance

As a popular rules of thumb golfers often predict that the distance increases by:

  • 1% for every 300 meters above sea level.
  • 2 yards for every 10°F (3.4 meters for every 10°C) for a drive

The calculator below provides a slightly more precise estimation of the impact of above factors on the ball distance. However, please note that this is only an average approximation of the ball’s flight behavior due to the complexity of the physical phenomena affecting the flight of the golf ball.
For this calculator, I used TrackMan data collected for the average golfer.

 




 

 

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update: April 2022