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?
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.
FrankFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org