Should You Use Different Clubs Based on Elevation?

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Scour the PGA Tour’s calendar for 2018 and you will find events from the states of Colorado and Utah missing from it. At one time, Colorado was the host state for one of the PGA’s most enjoyable stop-offs, The International. The tournament was a first-class event held at the Castle Pines Golf Course just outside of Denver. There were a number of reasons the tournament was canceled, but one of the most cited was the event was passed on by many top-ranked players.

Despite the amazing course and beautiful surroundings of Castle Pines it couldn’t draw top PGA professionals. But when the likes of Tiger Woods and others played the tournament during its existence from 1986 to 2006, fans could regularly see the sport’s elite drive long shots through the thin mountain air.

Before golf clubs were designed so all players could hit for distance, golfers could wallop long shots thanks to the high elevation at the Colorado tournament. Colorado, Nevada and Utah are special due to their elevation. The same shots golfers hit on courses across the Midwest, South and Eastern Seaboard will fly much higher and further in the driver’s paradise of the Mountain West.

How to hit on a golf course at elevation

The first thing to note when hitting on a course at higher elevation is determine the distance from the green. By knowing the distance, or gaining a good estimation of how near or far you are, you can select the correct club. Some golfers may use GPS or other golf apps to calculate distance; but these are forbidden in tournaments.

Experts stress that it is important to know the yardage to the pin without taking elevation into the equation. Following an assessment on distance and yards to the pin, it is important golfers study the layout of the green. This may sound simple, or even silly, but taking in the area enables a golfer to select the right club. After making an assessment, golfers can begin to decide on which club they will use. This is done by measuring elevation in clubs.

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A golf ball can travel up to 40 percent further when playing in elevated regions. No matter which club you select, it may be a good idea to take some of the power out of your swing. How far a golf ball travels is based on velocity, trajectory, swing and the elements. So, taking a little off that massive drive can help you adjust and prevent from over hitting the ball.

Hitting uphill and downhill

When playing courses in regions with elevation, there is a good chance you will be hitting the ball uphill and downhill. On courses in extreme locations, the method for hitting downhill is to subtract one club for every 10 feet of elevation change. Due to the lack of resistance compared to other locales, the ball will descend very quickly. When playing uphill, it is recommended to add one club for every 10 feet of elevation gained. The ball will still travel farther than on a course at normal elevation. However, it will reach the ground faster after cutting through the thin air.

Golf pros recommend players going downhill to hit the ball so it has a low flight. While hitting it high and hard may seem like the thing to do, a lower trajectory downhill shot is a far safer strategy to get nearer the green.

When playing at elevation, aggression and rushing a shot is a golfer’s enemy. Due to the complexity of the elevation of the location or hitting up or downhill, it is better for golfers to relax and play it conservatively.

According to Titleist, “the shorter the shot, the slower it moves through the air, and the less effect anything aerodynamic will have. So, on short approaches and greenside shots, you don’t have to adjust for elevation”.

Due to the effects of elevation and altitude on a golf ball, the club a golfer chooses must really be determined when on the course. The elevation as well as a player’s power all come into effect when hitting. Perhaps the best thing for a golfer to do is to practice their shots on a course at elevation. Practice will give you the opportunity to experience what it is like to add and subtract clubs due to elevation.