Detecting Wind Direction

Wed, 04/29/2009 - 12:00 -- Don Trahan

Detecting Wind Direction

On Tuesday, I walked 18 holes with DJ at the Quail Hollow County Club in Charlotte, the site of this week¢€™s PGA Tour event, getting in a full practice round. Yesterday he played in the Pro-Am and got another good look at the course before he tees it up today at 1:00 PM for the first round.

Tuesday, it was a breezy, so the wind was a factor in playing every shot. When I play with any wind above a soft puff, I can never hit a shot without being absolutely certain the direction the wind is blowing. I have to factor the direction and force of the wind into how I am going to play my shot. Wind blowing consistently in one direction is the simplest to judge. It really gets difficult and crazy when it is swirling around changing directions, or gusting and then laying down.

You¢€™ve seen this or done it yourself. The simplest way to determine wind direction is to grab some pieces of grass, throw them up in the air, and watch which way the wind blows them to the ground. If you are set back in a sheltered area, look up and check out the top of the trees, or at a nearby green and look at the flag to see which way it is being blown by the wind. If you are near a lake, the waves can give you a good idea which way the wind is blowing. Out on tour, the caddies and pros usually check the local weather to find out which direction the wind is predicted to blow. The yardage books they use on tour have direction compass or an arrow pointing due north so they can get assistance on wind direction.

When I bend over and tee up a ball, grabbing some grass with my right hand before I stand up is a part of my routine. For the rest of my shots, I will throw up grass before I make my club and shot selection because the wind is a major factor in determining the club and the shot I will hit. Many times if the wind is being fickle and elusive, I will throw up grass as many times I need until I am convinced of the direction and can COMMIT to the shot based on the direction and force of the wind at that moment.

PGA Tour players are also very committed to knowing the direction and force of the wind on all shots. If you stand near the tee, you will hear many of the pros ask their caddy for the direction of the wind. The caddy will respond with say, off the right and may point or wave of his hand in the appropriate direction. Sometimes he bends over, grabs some grass, throws it up, watchs the flow, and then gives his pro the answer.

The thing that blows my mind, when I watch and see these pro and caddy wind conversations, is how most of the time the caddy never uses throwing up grass, and if he does, the pro doesn¢€™t even watch. Now, what they mostly do is feel it, and look around to assess all the external factors and give his calculation — a little into us and off the right, or off the left and helping a little. The pro says OK and then steps up and swings. My question at this point is, what is a little off the right and how much is it into us? I want to know just about exactly the direction, not an estimate that could be 10 to 20 or more degrees off. I want and need to see the direction the grass is being blown by the wind.

What I really want to know is what is the big deal with not bending over, grabbing some grass and throwing it up to see which way the grass blows. They are all strong and healthy and bending over is no big deal. But, I guess it is a big deal since just about none of the caddies and the pros do it anymore. It is just look around, see, feel and make a calculated judgment. Heck, at my age, I consider it good exercise, as well as getting a good stretch. Of course, it also giver you a good, visual means to see what the wind is doing.

There is one player I see mostly on TV, who bends over, multiple times if needed, to grab some grass to check the wind. He is a pretty good player and is ranked #1 in the world. Tiger pays a lot of attention to the wind when he plays, and throwing up grass and watching where it goes is a critical element to his shot and club selection.

I like the way he thinks and acts on this wind direction thing. A lot like me.

The Surge!

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