The weather forecast for the Old Course and today's second round of the British Open may look somewhat adventurous, but from a golf technology standpoint, it looks like a freak show.
Based on standard tour launch conditions data for both the driver (based on ShotLink statistics) and the 6-iron (based on research by Trackman), the effects on distance depending on whether you are downwind or into the wind could mean more than a 100-yard window. Winds tomorrow at St. Andrews are expected to reach about 30 miles per hour.
Utilizing the golf ball trajectory simulation software from Foresight Sports, makers of the GC2 launch monitor, the calculated distance for tour-level swings at sea level with no wind looks like this: For a driver swing that produces about 168 miles per hour of ballspeed (the current PGA Tour average, according to ShotLink), the expected distance would be 304 yards.
However, if the predicted wind occurs, a shot downwind at 30 miles per hour would end up rolling out at 363 yards, a gain of 59 yards over the hit in calm conditions. The big benefit is a flatter landing angle, which led to 41 yards of rollout. Conversely, hitting your tee shot into the wind, could cost you 60 yards. Average tee shots at tour speeds hit into a 30 mile per hour wind would stop around 245 yards, rolling out barely five yards because of their higher flight and much steeper landing angle.
It gets even more problematic with iron shots. While a typical tour 6-iron carries 180 yards, if a player is hitting that same 6-iron downwind at 30 miles per hour, it carries 204 yards, according to Foresight Sports software. It's also got a 27-degree landing angle, which means it's going to have a tough time finishing anywhere close to its ballmark.
But the real beast comes when you try to hit that 6-iron into a 30 mile per hour blow. According to the calculations with Foresight's software, you'd lose about 50 yards, or net a 130-yard carry with that 6-iron. And in a straight 30-mile-per-hour crosswind? Shots could be blown 40 yards offline. (Of course, we realize players don't hit the same shot regardless of the conditions. A longer iron will generate much more ball speed (distance), probably about 10 miles per hour by dropping down to a 4-iron from a 6-iron, and vice versa when you go from a 6-iron to an 8-iron. But then you're still just guessing on getting the right amount of release once the ball lands.
In other words, good luck, boys. Or, perhaps more accurately, the guys who can get it done in these conditions are way better than you think.