How do temperature, humidity, elevation affect how far the golf ball flies?

How do temperature, humidity and altitude affect how far the golf ball flies?


Most every golfer believes that their golf ball flies much farther in the heat of the summer than in the colder months of winter (or even fall or spring), and, well, it does. However, the effect heat has on the distance the golf ball travels isn't as much as most golfers, including many professionals, think.

There are a variety of factors that impact how far the golf ball flies, including the three biggest outside of the wind: temperature, humidity and altitude.

How much does heat affect how far the golf ball travels?

According to the folks at TrackMan, for every 10 degrees of increase in temperature, the golf ball flies approximately 1.33 to 1.66 yards farther, depending on the club being used. This is because the temperature changes air density, which is ultimately the factor determining how well the golf ball can fly through the air with minimal drag and ideal lift.

The difference between playing golf in 40 degree temperatures compared to 90 degree temperatures is in upwards of 7-10 yards -- per shot.

How much does humidity affect how far the golf ball travels?

Humidity has a significant effect on golf ball distance, too. The higher the humidity, the longer the ball flies. You can feel humid air more, but water weighs less than the nitrogen and oxygen molecules that make up dry air. So, you're hitting into thinner air, which means the ball goes farther as though a golfer were playing at a higher altitude. Ultimately, however, going from basically no humidity to full humidity has the effect of a single yard.

All told, these kinds of common weather factors will never have more effect than a whole club.

How much does altitude affect how far the golf ball travels?

Altitude, or elevation, and wind have the greatest and most apparent effect on golf ball distance. Every 1,000 feet above sea level a golf course sits, a golfer can expect their ball to travel approximately 2 percent farther.

For example, if a golf course were a mile above sea level -- hi, Denver -- then you could expect the golf ball to go approximately 10 percent farther than at sea level. If you're a professional golfer competing in the WGC-Mexico Championship, the golf ball will go 12.5-15 percent farther because the host course is 7,500 feet above sea level!

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he talks about golf on various social platforms:

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