The Big Cat made his professional debut in Mexico this week, and the storylines are aplenty. But in a Wednesday press conference, Woods brought up an oft overlooked variable courses like Club De Golf Chapultepec present: high altitude ball flight.
“It’s a challenge,” Woods said. “I hit a couple shots with a wedge on the course [Tuesday] that flew 180. On Sunday [at Riviera], I hit a 5-iron from 171.”
See the full press conference here (his 180 yard wedge comments come at 17:00):
That’s, uh, impressive, for sure — and he’s probably not lying.
A recent study cited by golf.com shows players gain around 2.5-yards per every 1,000 feet with driver and high irons, 2.7 yards with a 7-i, and 2.2 yards with a wedge. At 7,835 feet above sea level at its highest point — making Club de Golf Chapultepac the highest course on the Tour circuit, according to the PGA Tour — and players carrying 300+ off the tee at sea level, you do the math.
From an average golfer’s perspective, the same golf.com piece — which also discusses the effect temperature has on ball flight — offers a Chapultepac-specific example:
“Let’s say you’re the same guy who usually carries the ball a respectable 250 yards in 70-degree conditions at sea level, on a calm day. … in 90-degree heat and its overall elevation hovering around 7,000 feet above sea level, and that same 250-yard drive will now fly about 270 yards.”
20 added yards of carry? Yeah, science!
CGB is headquartered just over 6,000 feet above sea level, at the foot of Pikes Peak, and we can attest to the joys of boosted ball flight. Unlike Woods, though, our struggle is figuring out how far the ball is going when we aren’t at altitude, and the results are often demoralizing. After a number of humiliating rounds, we’ve adopted a 2-club rule when playing at sea level: take the club you’d normally play, and club up twice for full swings. This rule is anything but scientific (sorry, Bryson) — and obviously doesn’t apply when you find yourself at, say, 3 or 4,000 feet — but it’s been a good starting point for us to plan shots at different altitudes.
Woods struggled with distance control in his opening round Thursday, finishing even par (71) and 8 shots behind leader Rory McIlroy (click here for the PGA’s live leaderboard). Si.com reports players are hitting the ball an average of 15% longer at Chapultepec, so he’s not alone in his struggles, but he’ll need to figure it out soon to make a weekend run. (Try our 2-club rule!)
For the amateur golf world, if you’ve never seen your ball soar effortlessly through the thin air at high altitude, you’re missing out — talk about golf porn. Most of us probably won’t be roping 180 yard wedges anytime soon, but with a little help from atmospheric pressure, it’s nice to know it’s plausible.