I'm a fair weather golfer at heart and I'll do pretty much anything possible to avoid playing golf in the rain, but sometimes you just can't avoid it. We've all been caught short out on the golf course when a downpour hits, and you're left with a choice, take cover or plough on.
If you are a golfer who will happily play golf in wet weather then you've probably learned some tips and tricks along the way to make the experience bearable, or even sometimes fun! In this article we're going to go over what it takes to play golf in the rain, the gear you will needs and the changes you will need to make to your game.
Let's dive right in (pardon the pun...)
How to prepare for golf in the rain
If you're a sensible golfer, you probably check the weather forecast before playing. Golfers lucky enough to play in consistently hot, sunny weather conditions will have to pack their sunscreen and sunglasses, but for guys who can face wet conditions, preparing for golf in the rain is a bit of an undertaking.
If I know that it's likely to rain when I'm out on the course, I will at minimum make sure I have the following items in my golf bag:
- Rain hood for my golf bag
- Golf umbrella
- Cap, bucket hat or beanie (depending on the season)
- Waterproof golf jacket
- Extra gloves
- Extra towels
Playing in the U.K. I normally have most of these things in my bag anyway, but I've seen many, many players get caught out when they don't have one of these items.
For the beginners out there, I'll run through each one of these items in a bit more detail so you know what to have with you.
Most golf bags will come with a rain hood which can be attached to the top of your bag to stop water from getting into it and soaking the grips of your clubs. Keeping you clubs dry is pretty essential to playing good golf in the rain as it stops your grips from becoming wet and slippy. If you don't have a rain hood, you can pick one up from Amazon or other golf retailers.
This might seem obvious, but a good quality golf umbrella is an absolute must for any golf bag. DO NOT cheap out on this item as you will regret it when you're out in the driving rain and wind, and your $10 umbrella turns inside out and spears you in the head. Not pleasant. A good umbrella will resists strong gusts of wind and also do the obvious job of keep you and your gear dry. It can also be used on hot sunny days as a refuge from the sun's heat.
Cap, beanie or bucket hat
Having something to cover your head from the elements is always useful. Most golfers will wear a hat to play in, but if you don't, throw one into the bag so that you've got the option to keep your head warm and dry if the heavens open.
Waterproof golf jacket
Any waterproof jacket will do the job in a pinch, but a waterproof designed for golf will keep you dry and allow you play golf unrestricted. Get the best waterproof jacket you can afford as those cheap pack away jackets will leak and make you sweat. Look for high quality fabrics like Gore-Tex to make sure you don't overheat while out on the course.
Playing golf with a wet glove is no fun. The club slips and it's nearly impossible to dry that glove out once it's wet. You can buy specialist rain gloves, but I prefer to use a synthetic glove like the FootJoy WeatherSof as it works just fine in all conditions. Wet weather gloves can make your hands hot and are designed to not be taken off between shots, so take this into account when you're buying gloves. I like to have 3 or 4 gloves in my bag, two new ish and two older ones for use in the rain.
If it looks like rain is a possibility for your round of golf, chuck an extra towel into your bag. You can use this one to keep things bone dry and your usual towel to clean your club, and dry excess moisture from a wet ball. Keep the dry towels inside your bag or hand it inside your umbrella for easy access.
These are the absolute essentials I would have if rain was even a possibility. This is is a different set up to if I knew that rain was guaranteed to play a part in my round of golf. If I know I'm going to get wet, I'll make sure I'm wearing waterproof golf shoes, have full rain gear and lots of gloves and towels. I'll also use a golf trolley with an umbrella attachment so I can keep dry whenever I'm not playing a shot.
Here are a few extra tips and tricks for preparing to play golf in the rain.
Keep your valuables dry
I have a water proof golf bag with zips that stop rain getting in, but this comes at a cost in terms of weight. Most golfers will have a golf bag with at least one waterproof valuables pocket, but they aren't always the most reliable. I put my phone, wallet and keys inside a ziplock bag and keep that inside a pocket. This has saved me on more than one occasion where I've forgotten to close the zips on my valuables pocket and water has flooded in. It's just a case of taking the time before your round to be organised. I also have a dedicated valuables bag for that extra layer of protection.
Choose the right putter
Rain on the greens makes them slower, it's a fact. I will sometimes switch my putter to a heavier mallet model if I know that I'm going to be playing on slow, wet greens and need to give the ball a decent hit. This won't suit everyone, but I find that a blade style putter is more of a precision tool for quicker surfaces and the mallet gives me more confidence when feel goes out of the window. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Hybrids are your friend
Wet grass and mud balls are part and parcel of golf in the rain and this makes it harder to get solid contact with the golf ball. As the ball wont be rolling out as far due to soggy fairways, you will most likely be hitting longer clubs for your approach shots than normal. If it's really raining, I try and avoid hitting my long irons if at all possible. I will often put an extra hybrid in the bag to replace my 4-5 iron and use it for a variety of shots, from off the tee, to bump and runs around the green. The wide sole of a hybrid will stop the golf club digging into wet turf and the bigger sweet spot will be more forgiving when swinging with rain gear on. Embrace the hybrid, it could be a life saver!
Accept wet sand in bunkers
Bunker play is enough of a challenge without the sand being heavy and wet. Wet sand will require more speed in your swing to get the ball out of the bunker and this can lead to you decelerating or thinning the ball. The best tips I can give you for wet bunkers is to just accept the lie you get and then trust your sand wedge to get the ball out. Make a committed swing and slap the sand behind the ball and GET IT ON THE GREEN. We're not worried about getting it close in wet weather, we just want to be putting. You could use your lob wedge, sand wedge, or gap wedge, it doesn't matter as long as you feel like you are committed to the shot.
What to wear golfing in the rain
I've given a run down of the essential items for playing golf in the rain, but what should you wear to stay dry AND allow your golf swing to be as unrestricted as possible? A key concept here is layering and I'll work from the ground up to give you a detailed break down of the right gear for the job.
Waterproof golf shoes
Sure those Nike Roshe golf shoes look cool, but they are going to be completely useless when it rains. Thankfully, you don't need to look like your granddad in his FootJoy Aqualites to wear waterproof shoes these days with most of the top manufacturers producing excellent options which keep your feet dry without them getting sweaty.
In the summer months I normally play in a spikeless shoe, but when the rainy fall and winter days roll in, I switch to a shoe with a soft spike. Wet feet is a guaranteed way to ruin your round and can make you totally miserable. Spend the extra cash on a good pair and you'll actually enjoy playing golf in the rain (maybe).
Pro tip - I keep some blister plasters in my bag at all times. Golf shoes can start rubbing at any time and when they do, it's the worst. Changes in the weather can lead to unwanted friction so put some Compeeds or similar in your bag for when the unexpected strikes.
Ok stay with me here, but a good pair of socks is essential for any type of weather when playing golf, not just in the rain. Those thin novelty socks you got for Christmas 4 years ago just aren't going to cut it. Get some quality sports socks with padded soles and make sure you wash them before using them. New socks can rub and slip around in your shoes.
A pair of well fitting breathable waterproof pants can be the difference between finishing a round and walking in after 9 holes. I will often wear my waterproofs in the winter even if it isn't raining as I don't mind them getting wet and muddy. You can wear whatever you want under your waterproofs, but make sure you're prepared if they get too hot. Going commando isn't an option. Like all things in golf, buy the best you can afford, they will last longer and do a better job than cheaper options.
Gloves and mitts
Rain gloves are useful if you're playing in steady rain and you can't keep your normal gloves dry. I don't like wearing a glove on moth hands so I don't tend to wear rain gloves, so I'll put 3 to 4 synthetic all weather gloves in my bag and rotate them.
Mitts are great for keeping your hands warm and dry between shots, but they can get in the way and be a hassle to keep taking on and off.
Water proof jacket or rain shirt
What you wear on your top half will depend on personal preference and how much rain you're expecting to get. Tiger Woods famously cannot or will not play in a rain jacket as it restricts his swing. A lightweight three quarter sleeve rain shirt is a good option for those who play in warmer climates or want more flexibility.
Personally, I have no issue with a full rain jacket, and I need one to keep me warm and dry in the winter months. I try and wear something made from Gore Tex or a similarly flexible, breathable fabric so I can swing freely on a rainy day. All of the big brands in the golf industry will make good quality options, so find a jacket which fits, and look after it. It will look after you.
A hat which keeps your head warm and dry is always helpful. It's a bonus if it can keep the rain out of your eyes. Waterproof caps, buckets and beanies do exist but are probably for the most die hard players. Get a well fitting cap and you'll be fine. Keep a spare in your bag if it gets totally soaked.
How to play golf in wind and rain
I've written a comprehensive guide to playing golf in the wind which you can find here. When you add rain into the mix, my first recommendation would be to seriously consider if it's worth playing that day! But, if you want to continue anyway or if you don't have a choice, let look at some things you can do to reduce the impact the rain will have on your game.
Choose your clubs carefully
When it's raining, water and wet grass are obviously going to be a factor. With the introduction of swing and ball tracking technology, we have learned that when water gets between the ball and the club face its reduces the amount of spin for that shot. This will have a different impact for different clubs so we have to stop and think before pulling a club for a certain yardage.
Here's an example. You have 150 yards to the middle of the green from the fairway. The ball is wet and the green is receptive. You are wearing full rain gear and have been making three quarter swings all day. You normally hit your 7 iron 150 yards carry. What club should you be hitting in this scenario? if we assume that the wind isn't playing a factor, in this situation you could hit your 7 or 6 iron. The water on the ball will reduce spin and cause the ball to fly a little bit further and will probably cancel out you not making a full swing.
If you were in the rough for this shot, I would consider hitting an 8 iron as the increased amount of grass and moisture between the ball and the club face will likely cause a low spinning flyer!
If you are on the tee and it's raining, you will more than likely need to club up as much as you can while feeling comfortable. Unless you're in driving rain, water on the ball and club shouldn't be as much of a factor, but a soggy fairway will reduce roll out. If you normally hit your driver 240 yards with 15-20 yards of roll, play for a total distance of 220. The more height you get off the tee, the less this be a factor but still make sure you know your carry distances with your clubs. It could be the difference between being in the fairway or the hazard.
Keep your golf club grips dry
This is pretty self explanatory, but a wet grip makes holding onto the club and controlling your shots much more difficult. Special rain gloves are designed to grip more when playing in wet conditions, but they aren't to everyone's taste. I prefer to try and keep my gloves and grips as dry as possible so that I can keep my shots consistent. Keep a dry towel and spare gloves in your golf bag to keep those grips nice and dry.
If it's cold and wet out on the golf course, it's easy to let negative thoughts creep into your game. If I have a couple of bad shots or holes, I will start to blame the weather. Yes, the rain makes things tricky, but we are still the ones hitting the shots and more often than not the frustration comes from not accepting and adapting to the different conditions. The round will take longer, you will need to think about your shots a little bit more, and take your time keeping you and your gear dry.
Try and keep the chat with your playing partners light. You are in this together and it's probably better than being at work!
Get It On The Green
As we've noted above, water takes spin off your shots. Chipping around the greens in the rain can be a bit of a lottery, and your normal array of shots can become limited. That low spinner you like to play could end up running through the green or that bump and run could check up on the first bounce and stop 30 feet short.
My advice is to Get It On The Green, and then give yourself a chance to make a putt. Getting cute with your short game is risky in the best of conditions so when the odds are stacked against you, play the percentages and hole those putts!
Final thoughts on golf in the rain
Preparation is key to playing golf int he rain. If you've prepared your gear and your mindset out on the course for the adverse conditions then you will still enjoy yourself. Accepting that your score won't be as good and that scrambling will be your main focus helps to get your head in gear and your game in line. Get out there and enjoy golf!