With the WGC – Mexico Championship being held at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City, there has been greater talk of the effect of altitude on the golf ball than ever before. The Chapultepec Golf Club sits 7,835 feet above sea level at its highest point, thereby making it the highest PGA Tour venue of all time.
Most golfers have an understanding that the ball flies further when playing at altitude and this is true. The ball will carry a greater distance at altitude due to the decrease in air density which therefore makes it easier for the ball to fly through the air. The exact impact on distance is hard to calculate however a rough calculation shows that the ball will fly an extra 9%, compared to sea level, at the Chapultepec Golf Club.
The increase in distance this week was evident in round one with there being 39 drives over 350 yards and a longest drive of 387 yards by Jhonattan Vegas. More startling perhaps though was the distance that irons were being hit, with Dustin Johnson hitting a 2-iron pin high with his tee shot on a 332-yard par 4.
Although many of you will be sitting thinking that an extra 9% distance to your shots would be great, it also comes with its difficulties. Along with the increased distance, the ball also flies at a lower trajectory making the ball harder to stop on the green. On top of this, the altitude also makes clubbing much more difficult as the extra distance you get can depend greatly on the type of shot you hit and the distance each shot goes can vary greatly. The difficulty of clubbing was highlighted by Thomas Pieters who, in practice, hit one 9-iron 190 metres and the next 9-iron 160 metres.
So before everyone starts looking for a new golf course at altitude, just remember, the extra distance also comes with its fair share of difficulties.
– Ally Millar, Commerical Assistant