The weather was unkind to the early starters on day one of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and Richard Boxall has been giving us an insight into how best to deal with playing in the rain.
I didn’t like playing in the rain. I didn’t mind if it was windy, but I didn’t feel comfortable when it was wet. The main problem for me was I felt a little hampered and restricted by the waterproof jackets of that era. It was like playing while wearing a continental quilt with sleeves! I rarely wore one as a result, but playing in a sweater in the rain was also not ideal.
It’s tough for the caddies as well, and they suddenly need more arms than an octopus. They’re organising gloves and towels to hang at the top of the umbrella, constantly drying club grips and, obviously, the bags become a lot heavier and full of wet gear.
The players here this week will do what they can to go about their business, but the distractions of wet weather can be bothersome, and even more so if they have a bad run of holes.
The forecast for the remainder of the week at Wentworth does not look great, with thunderstorms predicted for the weekend, but at least there’s no real wind to speak of which is a bonus. A combination of wind and rain, particularly on a course as tough as the West, can be a real card-wrecker if you get out of position.
With all the changes to the layout over the last couple of years, we won’t see much difference in the greens no matter how much rain we might have. They will still be firm and fast, with the sub-air system drying them out as quickly as they get wet.
The fairways will obviously become softer and you won’t get much run on the ball, so the players will just have to get used to clubbing up on occasion.
But the game plan remains the same whatever condition the course is in. This is a place where the ability to shape the ball the ball on most holes is a useful asset. But, what becomes absolutely paramount in damp conditions, is hitting the fairways. If you keep finding the lush, wet rough, you’re in trouble around here.
On most parkland courses, you have the option of running the ball onto the greens if you can gouge it out of the long grass far enough. But you cannot do that at Wentworth now, because the majority of the greens are well-guarded at the front.
So if you keep it straight off the tees, the course will not play that much more different in adverse conditions. But if you got offline too often, the West Course becomes a much tougher animal.
Having damp, softer fairways actually makes it easier to position the ball, so you can fly it rather than having to shape and run your ball on the dogleg holes. And, if it gets really drenched, it becomes a test of target golf without the need to shape your shots too often.
As for the mindset, that doesn’t really change whatever the conditions. The idea is simple – get round 72 holes in one less shot than everybody else! Routines stay the same, the only difference will be having to wipe the grips and clubheads down after a couple of practice swings if the heavens really open.
At least the player gets everything dried for him and then takes charge of the umbrella. And that’s just tough for the caddies!