Golfers who travel to elevation from at or near sea level to have heard it forever: adjust your yardage for the altitude. No problem, right?
Well, adjusting for altitude sounds easier than it actually is, of course. In fact, higher elevations can perplex even the very best players in the world, as shown in the four years that a Champions Tour major championship was played in Central Oregon.
“Coming to Central Oregon you have to really watch the altitude,” says Jeff Fought, the director of golf at Black Butte Ranch who is among the top senior club professionals in the Pacific Northwest. “The ball can fly 10 to 15 percent farther, depending on where a golfer is coming from.”
Plus, in the High Desert of Central Oregon golfers must also factor in a climate that is typically drier and warmer (at least in summer) than what golfers from sea level would typically find. Such conditions actually add distance to a given shot.
The bad news is that there is no exact formula that will offer an exact distance. After all, each golfer must factor in other elements that affect distance, including their own ball flight (the higher the trajectory of a ball flight, the more the altitude will typically affect distance) and the purity of contact.
Still, there are ways for players to hone in on the right distance.
First, figure that for about every 1,700 or 1,800 feet of elevation a ball will travel about 5 percent farther. That means that the ball will typically travel about 10 percent farther at this elevation than at sea level, give or take a few yards.
What does that mean in real terms?
“If you have 160 yards to the green at elevation, you might play it as if it is 140 to 145 yards at sea level,” says Emily Anderson Stewart, a longtime professional at Black Butte Ranch.
If it was only that easy. As stated earlier, there are more variables at play than just the altitude.
The Black Butte Ranch professional staff suggests that golfers spend some time on the range before a round. Hit five balls with each club, trying to hit each to a precise distance. A pattern should emerge.
“Factoring the right distance to the pin should pay dividends when playing at Black Butte Ranch,” Fought says.
Come on out and see what kind of difference the altitude makes in your game.
Book a tee time online, call 855-210-5305 or the Golf Shop at 541-595-1545.
For more information on how to take a lesson from our Black Butte Ranch instructors, visit blackbutteranch.com/golf/lessons-and-instructions. The link also includes a calendar of Black Butte Ranch’s golf schools, clinics and camps.