The PGA Championship kicks off this week at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, SC and the golf course is going to be an absolute brute. Earlier this year, Golf Digest ranked it as the toughest course in America. However, soft conditions should make play even more challenging. Aside from the wind whipping off the Atlantic Ocean and a masochistic design courtesy of Pete Dye, the moisture in the ground will play a major role.
A lot of things change when playing in the rain, or just after the downpour. Besides slippery grips and extra waterproof clothing, the course itself can play significantly different than when it’s dry. If you ever find yourself in soft conditions on the golf course, here are our 3 keys to consider to keep your scores down and your spirits up.
1. Tee Shots Don’t Roll
Expect this week’s winner to be a bomber off the tee. At 7,676 yards, this is the longest course in the history of the four major championships. With soft fairways from the week of rain, it will play even longer.
Normally, when your tee shot hits the fairway (hopefully) you can expect 10-30 yards of roll after the ball lands. With the added moisture in the ground, the ball isn’t going to go anywhere. Splat. It’ll land and just stop, maybe even plugging into the ground. If that’s the case, expect the PGA to allow players to lift, clean, and place their golf balls.
What does this mean? With limited roll on tee shots, shorter hitters will be even farther back. Players that carry the ball a long way in the air and don’t rely on roll will have the advantage of hitting shorter distances into the greens.
2. Approach Shots Spin Back
Now that you’ve bombed your tee shot in the air, you’ve got a sand wedge into the green. You take a full swing, land the ball in the middle of the green, and it spins back off the front of the putting surface.
When the greens are soft, your ball is going to dig into the turf more than it would normally. If you’ve got a good amount of spin on the ball, it’s going to grab and bite, and often spin back a fair bit. You can even expect longer clubs like a 4 iron to spin the ball back a bit.
Better players adjust for these conditions by taking spin off the ball and playing shots that would normally roll out some. Since the greens are so receptive, the ball will sit and stop without rolling back (this is often referred to as “throwing darts”). The way to accomplish this shot is take to club up, and make a 3/4 swing. The ball will travel the same distance but have less spin and fly on a lower trajectory. The result is being able to control where your ball ultimately ends up on the green.
3. Bunkers are EXTRA Punishing
God forbid you miss the green and land in a bunker. When it’s wet out, avoid the sand at all costs. Wet sand is heavier, and heavy sand is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s fluffy, sometimes it’s hard and compact.
If you’re playing in the rain, the bunker might have casual water in it. If you land in the water, you’re entitled to a drop no closer to the hole but still in the bunker. This often is not any better of an option since dropping behind the water can put you on the downslope of the bunker. Plus, your drop might plug. Now you have a plugged lie on a down-slope in a bunker that you have to hit over water. Nightmare.
The way to deal with heavy sand is to swing harder. The thicker sand will need more force going through it to get the ball out. And if your ball does wind up plugging, swing even harder. Dig your club in an inch behind the ball and hope for the best.
What are your tips for playing when it’s wet out? Let us know how your handle damp conditions in the comments section below!