Golf News

How does rain affect golf courses and golf equipment?

Valhalla Golf Club

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Overnight rains in the Bluegrass State had already softened Valhalla Golf Club before a late-morning storm dropped more water on the course and sent players, caddies and fans at the 2024 PGA Championship scurrying for shelter. The waves of rain are just the first taste of what forecasters predict is coming this week to the Louisville area, so if you are a fan of firm and fast courses, you won’t be happy.

Recreational golfers hate playing in rainy, wet conditions because they typically don’t prepare for the weather, and they don’t understand the necessary adjustments they need to make in order to play well in the rain. On the other hand, pros and elite players like those in the field at the PGA Championship start to salivate when a soft rain falls. Wind spooks the game’s best players because it adds unpredictability, but armed with good rain gear, an umbrella-carrying caddie loaded, a supply of dry towels and experience, pros look at rain-softened golf courses like kids eye chocolate chip cookies when they come out of the oven.

Below is a brief description of what water does to golf equipment and the course, and how players at the PGA Championship will likely compensate and adapt to the wet conditions we anticipate seeing at Valhalla this week.

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Off the tee

Wet golf courses effectively play longer and broader off the tee because, after a drive shot lands in the fairway, it typically does not roll very far. In fact, in rainy conditions, tee shots often hit the ground and either stop inches from where they land or even pop up and backward a foot or two. If a course is very wet, a tee shot might even embed in the fairway.

Valhalla Golf Club

On many holes at the 2024 PGA Championship, the farther you miss off the tee, the worse the rough gets. (David Dusek/Golfweek)

The result of the softened condition is that a tee shot that might land in the fairway and roll into the rough will often stay in the fairway in wet conditions. Yes, players will lose some distance, but they will frequently hit more fairways.

In some cases, golfers may opt to add some loft to their driver in hopes of getting more carry distance in wet conditions.

The one thing that pros and caddies work hard to avoid is letting the golf ball get wet before the player hits his tee shot. In a steady rain, caddies frequently hold an umbrella over a teed golf ball, keeping it as dry as possible while the player goes through his pre-shot…


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