Study: Does Climate Affect A Player's Development?
10 Oct 2018
by Brendan Ryan of Golf Placement Services

Rory McIlroy's (R) development wasn't dampered by a colder climate (CBC photo)
Rory McIlroy's (R) development wasn't dampered by a colder climate (CBC photo)

Let me ask you a question: when considering college, what’s the most important thing to you? Based on data collected on thousands of junior golfers, the top 3 answers are: academics, the coach and weather.

Since I love data, I thought it would be interesting to see how much weather really matters, so I decided to look at the data; I examined the climate for junior golf homes of the current top 20 male professional golfers, the current top 20 amateurs in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Ranking and the last 20 individual NCAA National Champions.

When gathering the data, I categorized each player on the list based on data from weather.com into 3 categories:

(1) 300+ days of golf per year with weather of at least 60 degrees
(2) 225+ days of golf per year with weather of at least 60 degrees
(3) 150 or so days of golf per year with weather of at least 60 degrees

Example of 1’s are Florida, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and California, examples of 2’s are Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia and examples of 3 are South Korea, Northern Ireland, Wisconsin, Canada and the Dakotas.

Please note: while players might be from the same country, the regions have very different climates. Since the climates are different, the players ended in dissimilar categories.

Top 20 Professionals in the World

For the breakdown of the top 20 Players in the World, here is what I found:

Players in Category 1 – Dustin Johnston (South Carolina), Brooks Koepka (Florida), Bryson DeChambeau (California), Rickie Fowler (California), Jordan Spieth (Texas), Jason Day (Australia), Tiger Woods (California), Bubba Watson (Florida), Patrick Reed (Texas), Xander Schauffele (California)

Total = 10

Players in Category 2 – Justin Thomas (Kentucky), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Jon Rahm (Spain), Webb Simpson (North Carolina)

Total = 4

Players in Category 3 – Justin Rose (England), Rory McIlroy (N. Ireland), Tommy Fleetwood (England), Tony Finau (Utah), Alex Noren (Sweden), Paul Casey (England)

Total = 6

Top 20 Amateurs in the World

For the breakdown of the top 20 Players in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Ranking, here’s what I found:

Players in Category 1 – Collin Morikawa (California), Justin Suh (California), Braden Thornberry (Mississippi), Min Woo Lee (Australia), Andy Zhang (Florida), Philip Knowles (Florida), Cole Hammer (Texas), Chun An Yu (Taiwan / Arizona), Matthew Wolff (California / Oklahoma), Isaiah Salinda (California), Davis Riley (Mississippi), Chandler Phillips (Texas)

Total = 12

Players in Category 2 – John Augenstein (Kentucky), Thomas Walsh (North Carolina), Alex Smalley (North Carolina), Takumi Kanaya (Japan), Zach Bauchou (Virginia / Oklahoma), Will Gordon (North Carolina)

Total = 6

Players in Category 3 – Victor Hovland (Oklahoma / Norway), Daniel Hillier (New Zealand)

Total = 2

Last 20 NCAA Champions

For the data from the last 20 Individual NCAA Champions:

Players in Category 1 – Braden Thornberry (Mississippi), Aaron Wise (Cape Town, SA / Live in California), Max Homa (California), John Peterson (Texas), Kevin Chappell (California), Jamie Lovemark (California), Jonathan Moore (California), Alejandro Canizares (Spain), Troy Matteson (Florida), Charles Howell (Georgia) and James McLean (Australia)

Total = 11

Players in Category 2 – James Lepp (Canada), Ryan Moore (Washington)

Total = 2

Players in Category 3 – Broc Everett (Iowa), Cameron Wilson (Connecticut), Thomas Pieters (Belgium), Scott Langley (Illinois), Matt Hill (Canada), Nick Gilliam (Wisconsin), Luke Donald (England)

Total = 7

Based on the data, 55% (33/60) came from category 1 climates, 20% (12/60) came from category 2 climates and 25% (15/60) came from category 3 climates. Surprised? While more research is needed to fully understand the nuances, environment is certainly tied to the individuals learning. Based on this, here are some takeaways for players from different climates:

Ideal Climates: While you have the best opportunity based on the weather and course conditions to shoot a good score, it is important to invest in developing different shot shapes and trajectories, as well as learning to play in the rain / wind when it comes; next time it’s raining in Southern California run to the first tee and get in 9 holes. When the weather is idea, consider playing different games to sharpen your skills. For example, play with just irons, or ever other iron, or the rough out of bounds or play where your competitor names the shot shape you need to hit each shot.

Less than Ideal Climates: While you have less opportunity to shoot low scores in perfect weather and conditions, you have great opportunities to invest in skills that will serve you in the long run. In my experience the best players from these climates use cold months very carefully to refine technical skills through lots of block practice. They are also diligent about the time they have on the course, keeping careful stats and making sure nice days are spent at the course engaged in competition. When the weather is not ideal, don’t be afraid to play from a much shorter yardage to ensure you can still shoot good scores.

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