It’s called Whistling Straits for a reason. Located alongside Lake Michigan, Pete Dye’s masterpiece was on full display last week at the Ryder Cup. Of all the elements that lead to a commanding United States victory, many doubted their professional play in the wind would have been one of them.
European players are better known for their acumen when the breeze blows. Europe’s Ryder Cup team consisted of eight players from England and Ireland. The windy conditions of Whistling Straits should have made those players feel like they were at home. In breaking down our historic win, the American will to beat the wind was a key factor that helped complete our capture of the Cup.
How did the US team play so well in the wind and what can we all learn from their strategy?
When we step up to a normal dry, calm, level shot we have a couple of choices. Can you make the ball curve both ways? If so, which flight pattern will you use? If you have only one-shot pattern, how does that shape fit your current situation? Now consider those same questions when the wind is significantly blowing. Most feel playing in the wind makes it much more complicated, but if you watched the Americans this weekend you will realize it doesn’t have to be.
Let’s start with the easier scenario, you only have one ball flight pattern. Think of players like Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson who predominantly play a left to right ball flight. Think back to their matches, they consistently put themselves in position to win holes all weekend. Not lose them. They did this by using their ball flight.
If you employ one-shot pattern on the course, here’s a successful blueprint for wind strategy:
What direction is the wind blowing? (across, with or against?)
Where is my safest landing area?
How does my shot shape get to the safe landing area?
In your face – use extra club
At your back – use less club
Across with your curve – aim further toward the side the breeze is coming from
Across against your curve – aim toward your target
If you like to utilize two different shot shapes, here’s your step-by-step strategy:
Great players stick to their most comfortable shot shape under difficult situations. Windy conditions are challenging enough, so don’t complicate the matter by trying to work the ball both ways. Some may argue it gives you an advantage, but Dustin Johnson plays one shot shape and went undefeated this weekend against the best in the world.
PGA Coaches from coast to coast are always trying to simplify the game for their players. Pay attention to our team’s success in Kohler, Wisconsin. The straightforward approach to playing the wind was not only brilliant but very effective. Next time you tee it up on a blustery day, do your best to follow their lead and keep it simple as well.
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