A Lesson Learned: Good golf in bad weather

Jimmy Walker battles the field and the weather at Pebble Beach
Photo: Courtesy USA Today
Jimmy Walker battles the field and the weather at Pebble Beach
Sean Dougherty, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, February 09, 2014 | 10:05 p.m.

You can't write anything about this week's golf at Pebble Beach, even a golf instruction article, without acknowledging Jimmy Walker and the amazing run he is on right now. Three wins on the season, three wins in only eight starts. The first three wins on the PGA Tour of his career. That's just mind-boggling. So congratulations to him.

His success this week is even more impressive when you consider that the conditions on the Monterey Peninsula all week were less than ideal. There were strong winds and heavy rains throughout the week, cool temperatures and the ever-present "marine layer" (we call that fog here in Kansas).

** Your tips for playing in cold weather **

So this week's "A Lesson Learned" is about how every golfer can perform better when playing in adverse weather.

There are three main items I keep in mind when I'm getting ready to play in tough weather conditions - or even more, when I talk to a student who is getting ready to play.

1.) Be prepared: Your number one goal when there is rain - is to keep your hands and grips as dry as possible. Your comfort is, of course, important, but you have virtually no chance of a good swing when you can't control the club. I make sure to have a rain jacket, rain gloves, an umbrella, etc. But I am extra attentive to having a dry towel in my bag or in the cart to keep my hold of the club as firm as possible.

2.) Adjust my game and expectations: The ball is not going to fly as far in bad weather. There are several reasons for this but the most obvious (and important) is that I'm not going to swing as hard. More than anything else, I want to keep my balance and make solid contact on every shot. It may mean taking one (or two) more clubs than what I'd do under calm, sunny skies. That's okay. I'll make the adjustments and make a smooth swing.

3.) Less spin is better: When playing in wind, you do not want to overswing for reasons stated above. But also, the one thing you don't want when it's windy is more spin on your ball. An easier, smoother swing will acheive that as well.

(And for my friends playing golf around the country right now in the snow -- use orange golf balls).

** Tips for playing in the rain **

Golf is an outdoor sport and dealing with the weather is absolutely part of the game. But that doesn't mean that your scores or your enjoyment need to suffer because conditions are less than ideal. Dress appropriately, keep your hands and grips dry and understand your limitations while making an easier swing - and you'll be able to still have a great time. Just like Jimmy Walker.

Sean Dougherty is the Head Golf Professional at Milburn Country Club in Overland Park, KS. Sean has played in two PGA Professional National Championships and will be competing in the PGA Professional National Championship in Myrtle Beach, SC this June. He has played in one major championships, the 2011 PGA Championship in Atlanta. To follow Sean on Twitter his handle is @uncwgolf1

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