That’s the question my sister asked me as I left her house to play golf on a very damp day.
So can you play golf in rain? Sure you can but being prepared for wet weather will help you cope with it better. There’s plenty of rain gear available for golfers, but knowing how to use it is critical. As someone who has played in the rain a lot, I walk you through the gear required with some tips to help.
What’s the problems faced when playing in the rain?
There are really only 3 problems:
- If your grips and hands are wet, it’s difficult to swing the club without it flying out of your hands.
- If your clothing gets wet, you’re going to have a miserable few hours
- The course will play differently when it’s wet
Here’s my top tips for playing when the sun don’t shine:
Keep your spirits high
Your attitude is probably going to be the determining factor in how well you play and how much you enjoy your round.
If you become negative and constantly complain about the weather, and rough breaks due to it, you’re not going to score well.
Do everything you can to mitigate the weather, then get on with your game. It’s the same for everyone, at least in your group.
Check the weather forecast.
Check the weather forecast ahead of time. Use a forecast that shows you where the rain is likely to fall every three hours. Accuweather is pretty good.
If you’ve got the flexibility, book your tee time for the four hour slot in the day that looks the most promising.
If your tee time has been booked days or weeks in advance, say for a competition, check the forecast an hour before you’re due to set off for the golf course. If it looks like it will rain, make sure you’ve packed the following:
Wet Weather Golf Gear:
Check your grips. If they are worn and it’s coming up to winter, now is the time to get your clubs re-gripped. You need as much help as you can get to keep hold of your clubs in the rain so this should be a high priority.
Waterproof Bag Cover: Rain Hood for clubs or your whole bag
They usually come with your bag and are detachable, so if you’re like me, most of the time my golf bag cover sits in my gear room. Now’s the time to find it and used it as it’s the most direct way to keep your clubs dry. It’s a bit of a fiddle getting clubs in and out of the bag, but it’s worth it.
A Golf Umbrella
I played without an umbrella for my first couple of years, finally buying one when I had money in my account from a tournament win. Now I wouldn’t be without it.
Golf umbrellas are big which means that they can cover both you and your clubs. It’s your first line of defence for keeping everything dry. They are also very sturdily made – I’ve never seen one blow inside out for example. Just slot it into your bag before you head out, and it’s there, ready to use when required.
I have a holder that attaches to my push cart, so that in light rain (and light wind) I don’t have to hold the umbrella. An umbrella is problematic in windy conditions though. My golf trolley is fairly light (no battery) and when it’s windy, and I use the umbrella holder, everything gets blown over a few times a round.
Picking up score cards, pencils and tees on soggy ground isn’t fun. Neither is running full pelt after your scorecard as, blown by the wind, it sets off back down the fairway and towards the group hitting up from behind.
So when it’s really windy, I don’t use the holder when my bag is unattended. Instead I drop the umbrella handle into the slot in my bag and face the umbrella canopy towards the wind. That way, everything stays as dry as possible without drama.
Golf Wet Weather Outerwear
Needs to be waterproof, breathable, rugged yet lightweight.
Waterproof Over trousers: If I had to choose between waterproof trousers and a waterproof jacket, I’d choose the trousers every time. If you wear a jacket and no over trousers, rain will run off the jacket and soak your legs. Plus your legs get less protection from an umbrella. And long wet grass can quickly soak your ankles.
As with all waterproof golf wear, the over trousers should be made from a breathable fabric. There’s little point keeping the rain out if perspiration soaks you from the inside. The fit needs to be snug so that they don’t flap about in the wind, or get in the way of your swing. Easily accessible pockets are essential for holding balls, markers and tees.
An elasticated waist is a must, but probably the most important other feature you need is long waterproof zippers at the bottom of the legs. If you need to slip these on in a hurry, you don’t want to be taking off your golf shoes to do so. So they need the zippers to allow you to get them over your golf shoes quickly.
They should be lightweight, so they pack up small and fit in your golf bag, but also well-constructed so that they can deal with being rolled up.
A towel: Wet grips are a problem in the rain. I’ve seen more than one club fly out of a golfers hands because of this issue. Keep them as dry as you can for as long as you can with a rain cover for your bag and your umbrella. Eventually though, they’ll get wet and a wipe down with a towel will remove most of the moisture. Obviously, you need a dry towel, so how do you keep the towel dry? Hang it from the inside of your umbrella!
Golf Glove: I don’t normally wear a glove, but it in the rain I do for the grip that they give me. They soon get wet though, so you may want to pack more than one. There are special wet weather gloves available, I’ve used them with varying results.
Golf Jackets: As for over trousers, they need to be waterproof, breathable and relatively lightweight. The key thing with a golf jacket is that it can, if it doesn’t fit properly, inhibit your golf swing. Golf in the rain is difficult enough without having to cope with that too. So make sure you get the correct fit.
Golf shoes: I have two pairs of golf shoes at any one time, sometime three. A lightweight pair for summer, a waterproof pair for winter, and a new pair that’s replacing one of them that I can’t yet bear to throw away.
Make sure to check the cleats and replace them if they are worn. On that note, replace them often as when they wear, they can be very difficult to remove.
Making sure that your feet don’t slip as you play your shots is crucial. And making sure you don’t slip on slopes on the fairway, keeps your dignity intact.
In the rain, you want waterproof golf shoes. Again, they need to be breathable to let out perspiration (feet sweat a surprising amount). Most manufacturers guarantee waterproofness for a year, so you really can’t go wrong here. And as much as they stop the rain from getting in, they also stop water from soggy ground and grass being an issue.
A cap: The standard golf cap is as essential when it rains as when it shines. Keeping water out of your face makes playing easier. And if you wear spectacles, it’s a must.
Dry clothes for the 19th hole.
You might think that you look heroic, stood in a puddle at the bar after playing in a deluge, but mostly, you’ll just look wet. Pack a spare pair of trousers, a shirt and some socks and use the changing rooms.
Playing golf in the rain tips:
Ball flight in the rain
- The ball isn’t going to compress as much when you strike it and it’s not going to roll as far when it lands, so club up.
- Chip and run shots are difficult to judge, so if you can, chip onto the green rather than trying to run it up.
- Shots to the green will stop quickly, so if you usually play for the front of the green with some roll, aim for the flag.
Watch out for mud balls. When it’s wet, mud from the fairway has a tendency to cling to your ball. It’s going to happen at some point in your round so watch out for it. A lump of mud on your ball will severely affect the ball flight in random ways.
There’s often a local rule for preferred lies at certain times of year that allow you to mark the ball, pick it up and clean it, then replace it. This usually applies to closely mown areas through the green, so not in the rough.
Playing from the Rough
Wet grass tends to grab the hosel of your club more than dry grass, so if you’re in the rough and hacking out, so you’ll need a firmer grip and more strength to muscle though the shot.
Wet sand in bunkers plays differently to dry sand. You’re going to want to close the face a little instead of opening it, and the ball is likely to run out more so swing slightly slower.
On the Green
Putting is really affected by the rain. The greens will be slower, and they won’t break as much. Adapting to this is key, particularly if it was dry when you started your round.
You should usually aim to put the ball past the hole in any case, but now, it’s essential to be firmer with your putting stroke.
Take relief from standing water on a green when appropriate
Top tip – water on a golf ball sits in the dimples and affects the contact between putter head and ball, resulting in weak putts. So mark, clean and dry your ball and leave it on the green for as little time as possible before making your putt. Be sure to wipe your putter head too.
So yes, you can play golf in the rain, and if you’re suitably prepared, it can be very enjoyable.
Are golf courses open in the rain?
- The ground staff at the club will make a call on this with an eye on the weather forecast. Too much rain can make a course unplayable, so the course may be closed.
- If it’s a competition, they’ll try to keep the course open if possible, but even then, the weather may force their hand.
- The best course of action is to check the club website or call them ahead of time.