Effect of Temperature on Ball Flight

This week’s Q&A is an excerpt from Frank’s book: Dear Frank…Answers to 100 of your Golf Equipment Questions

 

Frank,
I really enjoy reading your Q&A every week, so please keep it going. My question relates to the effect that air temperature has on ball flight. I’ve noticed that a 20 degree F difference in temperature can substantially affect the distance on my shots. In some cases, I’ve even found this when playing on consecutive days when the temperature is very different, I need to be careful about club selection. How does temperature impact the ball? Is there an ideal temperature range that golf balls are designed to be played in?

Thanks,

– Brendan

Brendan,

Many golfers — even the pros — don’t pay enough attention to the air temperature when selecting a club for a particular shot. The ball temperature also affects its resilience properties, but not as much as the air temperature. As air temperature increases, the air becomes less dense, and this is why it is more difficult for airplanes to take off on hot days than cold days. The lift forces are reduced in hot (less dense) air, as are the drag forces — and the overall effect is that balls will travel farther on hot days than cold days.

A general rule of thumb is to estimate a 2 to 2.5 yard difference for every 10° F. So at 40 ° F, the ball will travel about 10 to 12 ½ yards less than at 90° F. In combination with your decreased body temperature, which will have some effect on your swing, this could add up to something significant — at least one to one and a half clubs’ difference in your selection. Hope this helps warm you up for the next cold day on the course.

Frank

5 thoughts on “Effect of Temperature on Ball Flight

  1. Merry Christmas and great comments from all. Sorry. Anyway here in most Northern Vermont all the above are true. Cold temps, lots of clothes and high humidity will take quite a bit of distance off your shots. Of course in July…

  2. Frank,
    Living and playing golf in the Netherlands there is an additional factor which also plays a roll in ball flight and distance. During the winter months much of this country has relatively high levels of air humidity and I have noticed on days of low temperatures and high humidity I need at least one, or even two, clubs more than in the summer months. In addition, our fairways are often quite wet in the winter and thus ball run is much reduced compared to summer conditions. Golf will continue to be a thinking person’s game!

  3. Frank:
    Your research is interesting.
    When you combine a 40 degree temp with a ten mph wind, you lose 24 yards (10 (for temp) + 14 (for wind). Add cold hands and you could lose 30 yards (three clubs!)
    Bill W in Norman OK

  4. Hi, Frank. Greetings from Jackson Hole. Here, it is not uncommon for us to have temperature swings of as much as 40 degrees during the course of a round, beginning an early morning tee time with the air temperature of perhaps 40 degrees and the air temperature increasing to perhaps 80 degrees before we reach the clubhouse. Of course, the ball performance (and our swing performance) changes dramatically during the round when we encounter these conditions. Thanks, as always, for your input.

  5. Frank,
    Makes a lot of sense; up north here, when there’s no white crap on the ground, my drives are about 10-15yds less and I usually hit 2 clubs more when the temps are sufficiently down, not forgetting about the wind either. Great, viable answer…

    Will

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