Dealing with the altitude effect


Did you happen to watch any of the World Golf Championship won by Phil Mickelson in Mexico City?

Wow. What an amazing finish to that tournament.

Had Justin Thomas gone on to win the tournament, the approach shot he holed for eagle on the 72nd hole would be remembered as an all-timer. Now, it will simply be remembered as an incredible shot that still did not result in victory.  On the other hand, watching 47-year old Mickelson win his 43rd PGA Tour event was awesome to see.

As great as the golf was to watch, I must admit that I was more fascinated by the statistics provided to us regarding the altitude effect on the yardages.

It’s something that we don’t worry about here in Southern California, but it sure does make a difference at the 7,328 feet that Mexico City sits at.

A 15 percent difference to be exact.

Now, despite this altitude effect, the world’s greatest golfers already hit the ball a country mile. But when average length professionals are striking a 6-iron from 220 yards, we know that something is vastly different.  Suddenly, that 220- yard shot is playing only 187 yards. That 6-iron Average Joe is striking no longer seems to crazy.

This difference in altitude reminded me of the years I spent as a golf professional in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

During my time there, I didn’t think much of the altitude difference. Santa Fe, similar to Mexico City, has an altitude of 7,000 feet.

The professional tees at our golf course exceeded 7,500 yards, which can be quite intimidating on the scorecard. However, given the altitude, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

To take this a step farther, I look back at a trip my parents and I took to Colorado when I was a young teenager. As we were driving through Colorado Springs, it was decided that we would venture up to the top of Pikes Peak to check out the view.

In case you aren’t aware, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet above sea level.

I don’t remember how long it took us to drive to the top, but once we got there, we got out of the car to take it all in.  Just then, my dad opened up the trunk and grabbed the driver’s from our golf bags.  Yes, this was sort of a golf trip after all.

We found a clear spot away from any bystanders, and each teed up a ball.  On the count of three we struck our drives clear into the Colorado sky.

It was awesome, and I will never forget that moment.

Golf is about experiences. When you play at a high altitude, you must learn to factor in the altitude difference. And, if you’re driving anywhere near Colorado Springs, keep the sun roof closed on your car because I’m not sure if those golf balls have landed yet.

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