Golf balls don't go as far when it's cold outside. If you've ever played some kind of winter golf -- not the kind you play in Florida to escape the snow at home -- then you intuitively know this to be true.
However, you might not know why a golf ball is shorter in the cold. There are actually two reasons why golf balls don't go as far in the cold:
- Cold air is actually denser than hot air, which means a golf ball has to get through more particles per inch when the temperature drops. This creates more drag on the golf ball, and that means the ball simply doesn't fly as far.
- Cold air also causes many materials to contract, rather than expand slightly as they might in warmer air. This means the golf ball's compression increases slightly enough to make the ball firmer.
The theory goes that the golf ball goes about 2 yards shorter for every 10 degree drop in temperature. So, a golf ball will go 6 yards shorter in 45-degree weather compared to 75-degree weather. (The golf ball can also not perform as well once it gets too warm, but most people would just not play in that kind of heat.)
Golfers have responded to shorter golf balls in cold weather by going to a lower compression rating on their golf ball. The theory goes that the colder temperatures would lead to a compression more like they'd expect in ideal conditions, thus not causing much distance loss because the deformation at impact will closer resemble their normal. And, yes, that can be true. A number of professional golfers, including Phil Mickelson, stand by going to a softer ball in colder weather.
However, softer golf balls can also have different other characteristics, including dimple pattern, cover type and firmness and more. That means a softer golf ball may go longer in colder weather but may also impact spin, greenside control and distance control. The ideal plan, then, is to pick a softer golf ball that is in the same line as your gamer, giving you the benefits of the lower compression rating while not sacrificing as much in other performance areas.