What does hot weather do to golf balls?

CROMWELL, Conn. — It was 85 degrees on Thursday morning when Taylor Pendrith teed off on the seventh hole at TPC River Highlands. The forecast called for the temperature to climb to nearly 100, with plenty of New England humidity filling the sun-soaked air during the opening round of the Travelers Championship.

Having birdied the previous hole, the Candian pulled out his driver, teed up a Srixon Z-Star Diamond ball and smashed it. The ball screamed down the fairway at 181 miles per hour, flew 121 feet into the air and landed 310 yards away in the left fairway. After it rolled to 339 yards, Pendrith’s ball was just 117 from the hole, setting up another birdie.

Pendrith has power to spare, and unlike players and spectators, the metal in golf clubs is not affected by temperatures that make The Weather Channel must-see television. Golf balls, however, are another story. Warm and humid air changes how they perform.

According to Jeff Brunski, Srixon’s vice president of research and development, “The golf ball’s flight is notably longer in warmer air. This is due to the fact that warm air, being lighter or lower in density than cold air, creates less resistance, or drag, on the golf ball. The impact is particularly noticeable for drives and other longer shots.”

Standing under a red umbrella on the practice range this week, Fordie Pitts, Titleist’s tour consultant for golf ball research and development, agreed.

“(Golf balls) get a little livelier, a little faster,” he said before noting that, counterintuitively, humidity can do the same thing.

“When it comes to humidity, people don’t think that the ball goes as far in humid weather, but it’s actually the opposite,” Pitts said. “The effects of humidity on the player is probably a bigger reason for a change in distance, but the humid air is less dense.”

A general view of signage prior to the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands on June 19, 2024 in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Warming up and staying loose in hot weather is usually easier for golfers. Shots should fly farther when it’s hot and humid, so if you see shots flying a little shorter than you expect, Pitts said, your energy levels are likely fading in the heat.

If warm air is less dense, which allows golf balls to fly farther, will shots come off the face with less spin, too?

“Spin is created at impact, and whatever the environment is around the guy to allow him to swing it faster, that can be the reason for more spin,” Pitts said.

Finally, while golf balls can undergo a physical change in extreme heat, players on the course don’t need to worry about that.

“There is a point when the material in a ball can get too hot, but no one is going to be outside in the kind of heat that it would take to make that happen,” Pitts said with a laugh, standing steps away from a cooler filled with ice and water.

“Think about it, if you leave golf balls in the trunk of your can for hours on a hot day, and it gets to something like 150 degrees in the car, we’re seen that golf balls can start to melt, but no one is playing in anything close to that.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek