Do Golf Courses Close When It Rains?

Do Golf Courses Close When It Rains

Generally, they wouldn’t. However depending on the amount of rain, how wet the course already was and how well it drains it may be closed.

If the greens become sufficiently waterlogged that surface water is affecting putting or if in the opinion of the green staff or owners the playing surfaces might be damaged then they would close the course.

In an ideal world, courses would protect their playing surfaces for the long term, however, there are a number of courses I’ve played down the years that have been open for play during or after wet weather when they really had no business opening. This would be more likely to apply to pay-and-play courses rather than private members’ clubs for obvious reasons. 

One of the worst offenders I can recall was Telford Golf and Country Club where I walked off after about four holes because the fairways were amongst the wettest I had ever played on. I actually complained to the professional staff and suggested that maybe the course should be closed during the winter months if that’s the standard of playing surface they produce!

How Does Rain Affect A Golf Course?

A small amount of rain on a dry golf course wouldn’t have too great an effect. Potentially it would make the fairways and greens a little softer so reducing slightly the amount of runout you would receive.

Moderate rain over an extended period like we tend to have in the UK may lead to fairways and tees becoming a little muddy and your golf ball picking up mud on occasion. It is also likely that the greens would be more prone to pitch marks and visible footmarks depending on how well they drain.

Very heavy rain is likely to lead to puddles on fairways and greens making the course unplayable in the short term.

Depending on the type of soil the course could remain waterlogged for some time. Courses built on clay-based soils don’t tend to drain well and are unlikely to be great places to play during the winter. On the other hand, sandy or chalky soils will drain much better so should provide good quality turf all year round.

Every club will have a slightly different view of how to manage traffic when the course is wet. A general guide would be:

  • a ban on buggies when it is felt that they will start to damage the turf
  • trolleys/carts only allowed with winter wheels
  • a ban on trolleys/carts would come next as the course becomes more waterlogged
  • closing specific holes that get particularly waterlogged
  • temporary tees/temporary greens to protect the main playing surfaces
  • complete closure of the course due to waterlogging of greens or the possibility of long-term turf damage

Golf Courses Near Rivers

It’s not just the rain that falls directly on the golf course that can have an effect. If a course lies near a river then there is a chance that heavy rain further upstream could cause flooding of the golf course. Bridgnorth Golf Club loses a number of holes to flooding by the River Servern on a fairly regular basis. 

Lightning strike survivor

Is Golf Harder In The Rain?

Yes, most definitely. Here are some of the reasons:

  • It becomes more difficult to keep a good grip on the club
  • It can be more difficult to maintain solid footing
  • Water can be trapped between clubface and ball at impact affecting how the ball flies
  • Mud may adhere to the golf ball and will affect its flight
  • Fairways can become waterlogged affecting how far your ball will run
  • As greens become increasingly wet they will tend to get slower making putting harder
  • Slower and wetter greens will affect the amount of break when you putt
  • It will become more difficult to concentrate on your golf as you will be trying to keep your gear and yourself dry
  • People who need glasses will find it increasingly difficult to keep their glasses dry enough to see clearly

What Do I Need To Play Golf In The Rain?

Playing golf in the rain is rarely fun! Since needing glasses myself I found it even less enjoyable. If you know that rain is likely to affect your round then the following equipment can help you mitigate the effects.

  • Waterproof golf shoes – in my opinion, one of the most important pieces of golfing equipment
  • Waterproof suit – some people hate them but a good quality suit can be worth its weight in gold
  • Double canopy umbrella – a good quality golfing umbrella that won’t blow inside out
  • Umbrella holder – if you’re using a handcart then adding an umbrella holder will make your life much easier
  • Rain gloves – specifically designed to work in wet weather to help you get a grip
  • Towels – take some extra towels to help keep your clubs dry and keep them in a plastic bag till you need them
  • Rain hood – The hoods that come with most golf bags won’t be waterproof so add a waterproof hood to help keep your clubs dry
  • Bag cover – Unless you spent a fortune on a waterproof golf bag then you’ll need a waterproof cover for your bag since everything in there will get soaked quite quickly otherwise
  • Brush/groove cleaner – something to get the mud out of the grooves on your clubs

I cover these and more in Tips For Golfing in the Rain.

What To Do After Playing Golf In The Rain?

Make sure you dry out all of your equipment properly. Don’t leave your expensive golf shoes next to a radiator as that’s likely to damage them. Take out any insoles and pad the shoe with some newspaper to help the shoe keep its shape and dry out.

Wipe down all of your clubs and ideally give the faces a good clean so they are ready for your next round.

Don’t leave wet gear in the trunk (boot) of your car as you’re going to end up regretting it.

How Much Does Rain Affect A Golf Ball?

When it’s raining you will probably lose a few yards carry distance but the bigger problem is likely to be the fact you will get significantly less run on your shots. With your driver that could mean as much as 30 or 40 yards if the fairways are particularly wet so that your ball plugs on landing. You will also have to adjust your clubbing for approach shots as softer greens mean you are less likely to see your approach shots roll after landing.

It may also affect your quality of strike if water gets between the ball and clubface at impact. This is likely to reduce the amount of spin you can generate on your shot.

Do Golf Tournaments Continue In The Rain?

Whether it’s a PGA Tour event or a club competition there are going to be two reasons why play is stopped by rain.

  • Course conditions are being adversely affected to the point where putting is impossible for example
  • Lightning – do you want to be out in an open field carrying a bag full of metal sticks?

Many people probably think golf isn’t played in the rain because their only example is seeing golf on TV. Certainly in the USA, it seems quite likely that lightning will accompany rain and for that reason, PGA Tour officials will have no option but to close the course. Don’t forget that it’s not just the players but there may be tens of thousands of spectators that could also be killed or injured.

Lee Trevino has been struck by lightning and so has Retief Goosen. According to the US National Weather Service, 10 golfers have been killed by lightning strikes between 2006 and 2019.

Over in the UK lightning is much less likely to accompany rain and so British golfers often have to don their waterproofs and splash around in muddy conditions!

Do Golf Courses Close When It Rains: Conclusion

Just because a golf course is open when it’s raining don’t assume that it is necessarily advisable to play! Having the right equipment certainly helps if you intend to play anyway. Playing good golf in the rain is difficult but if you manage it then you may feel like you accomplished something.

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