Can You Golf In The Rain? – Tips For Playing When It is Wet

Written by John VanDerLaan 

Can You Golf In The Rain?

Playing golf in the rain is inevitable if you spend any time at all in the game. Whether it’s on purpose, because you got caught in a sudden downpour, or you just can’t walk away from the best round of your life. The key is to “be prepared” as they say in the Boy Scouts. 

Golf In The Rain On CaddyShack

The modern game of golf was developed around coastal areas prone to seasonal heavy downpours, and since the game was invented, golfers have been coming up with strategies to mitigate the circumstances and keep a grip on their clubs, their sanity, and having a blast doing so. To this day some of the best golf courses in the world are set in places where the changing elements present a crucial part of the experience.

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Through the expertise developed over generations, in this article we’ll take a look at some of what you’ll be up against, how to embrace it, and maybe even use it in your favor so that the next time you head to the course, you can rely on the fact that you’ve got everything you need and a system in place to tackle any challenges that Mother Nature can throw your way.

Will Golf Courses Let You Play In The Rain?

Lightning On The Golf Course

The key here is not whether or not there is rain, but whether or not there is lightning. Unless the ground becomes so inundated that it’s going to do unnecessary damage to the course, or flooding closes too many of the holes, golf courses will generally never stop play for rain alone.

Thunderstorms, however, are a different story. Expect to hear a horn blast well before bad weather even approaches your course, signaling golfers to immediately leave the course. This will include some delay without any lightning strikes in the area before letting golfers resume. Take it from an experienced expert like Lee Trevino - getting struck by lightning on the golf course is one badge of honor you should save for another day.

Even though courses will let you play in the rain, there are some things to be aware of and some changes to normal policies that you should expect. First of all, if you are riding a cart, be prepared to play “cart path only” meaning you cannot drive the cart on ANY grass areas of the course, you can merely park the cart as close as possible to your ball without leaving the path, and then walk the rest of the way.

Also be prepared for some other caveats like bunkers that are flooded or unplayable and potentially even measures like temporary greens or hole closures. Learn the rules for these situations, starting with the casual water rules, so that you can keep a proper score and also take advantage of extra relief when necessary.

Can You Drive A Golf Cart In The Rain?

Golf Carts In The Rain

You can absolutely drive a golf cart in the rain, but it should be done with extreme caution. The fact that it feels like a toy car doesn’t mean there can’t be very real consequences for losing control of your golf cart.

Typically if there is more than a little bit of rain, courses will switch to “cart path only” which alleviates a lot of the concerns. Golfers testing these rules, however, can run into a myriad of problems. Including, but not limited to: getting the cart stuck in a soft area, getting the cart stranded in standing water, or losing control of the cart on a small slope and having it tip over or run aground into something even more dangerous.

How To Keep Golf Clubs Dry In The Rain?

Man Keeping Dry While Playing Golf In The Rain

The real art of playing golf in the rain is keeping your clubs dry. The key to pulling this off is to have a system, and stick to it. This helps as you should have a pre-shot routine anyway, you are just going to have to expand your pre-shot routine and also include a post-shot routine. In some ways it can actually help keep a golfer more in rhythm and more focused if done properly.

The precursor to keeping clubs dry in the rain is to keep your TOWEL or TOWELS dry. If you are expecting rain you can never have too many dry towels. This means keeping them anywhere you can keep them that is protected - underneath rain gear, inside a waterproof pocket on your golf bag, hung up in the frame of your umbrella, or preferably all three.

Once you have a system for keeping towels dry, you can go with a post-shot routine that involves the mantra “nobody is leaving the spot from where the shot was hit until the club is cleaned, dried, back in the bag, and the glove is hanging from underneath the umbrella.” This advice comes from an old TOUR caddie but is applicable even if you’re playing by yourself (you have to be your own caddie). If you have foregone the umbrella and are instead riding in a cart, use the roof of your cart the same way a TOUR player would use their umbrella.

Pros And Cons Of Playing Golf In The Rain

Michael VanDerLaan playing golf in the rain

Golf Gear Advisor staff member Michael VanDerLaan playing golf in the rain.

Some people dread playing in the rain, but others grew up playing that way, and even more pay top dollar to go to places like Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, St. Andrews, Chambers Bay, or countless gems in Southeast Asia and play golf in places where heavy rain is billed as part of the show.

Why would anyone do that? Well let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of playing golf in the rain:

Pros

-That “raw” feeling of playing the game against the elements

-Don’t have to battle crowds at the course

-A light rain makes most courses a lot easier because everything stops on the softened greens

-Causes you to “play within yourself” and not try risky shots or shots you haven’t practiced

-Get to play some “once in a lifetime” courses in Europe or the Pacific Northwest

Cons

-Can be stressful if unprepared

-Can be uncomfortable without the right gear

-Water on the ball and course makes for more unpredictable shots

-Golf clubs will wear out quicker, if not properly dried and cared for

10 Tips For Playing Golf In The Rain

Golf In The Rain With An Umbrella

1) Always have rain gloves - A set of rain gloves in the bag can make all the difference in the world between a ruined day and continuing to play uninterrupted. Rain gloves should always be in your bag. Some golfers even use them to deal with excessive perspiration regardless of the rain situation. These gloves are specially made so that the material becomes EXTRA tacky when it starts to get wet. They actually stick MORE like glue once it starts coming down.

2) Bring an umbrella - And not just any umbrella. A full-size golf umbrella that can keep you protected even when it’s coming down sideways and while walking around. Even if you’re riding in a cart, it can be a hassle to get it in and out, but while you’re waiting around on the greens it is essential equipment.

3) Bring lots of towels, and always have dry backups - A dry towel is the hottest commodity on a wet golf course. If you keep your towels dry, you always have a chance to recover and continue to properly manage the moisture levels of yourself and your equipment. Once the towels are spent, you become a ship just taking on water,  and it’s only a matter of time before it sinks. 

Keep extra towels hanging from the undercarriage of your umbrella, inside your golf bag, or even under your own rain gear in order to make it through the round.

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4) Invest in a proper rain jacket - A good golf rain jacket is going to cost a pretty penny, but most of the top brands come with lifetime guarantees. They will feature Gore-Tex or a similar patented fabric that allows for both breathability and complete waterproofing while being tailored to not restrict your swing in any way, like a set of non-golf waterproofs might. Note that “water resistant” doesn’t cut it when out on the golf course for several hours. Neither does a poncho or rain slicker that will cause you to sweat and get wetter from the inside-out than you would from the rain.

This is one piece of gear that you don’t want to skimp on. It will make all the difference between a miserable round and gliding from fairway to fairway while the rain rolls off you like water off a duck’s back.

5) Get rain pants to go with that jacket - These don’t have to be QUITE as intense of an investment, but fully waterproof and breathable pants should go with your jacket if you plan some rounds where rain is a distinct possibility and you absolutely have to finish. There are many styles that can be quickly thrown on or off if need be and packed away in a bag. The jacket will take the brunt of the water, but the bottom half needs to be comfortable and able to withstand a downpour, as well.

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6) Waterproof shoes are your friend - It honestly doesn’t take much to really throw you off your game, and one thing that can really do it no matter what else you have going on is wet feet. Which due to the laws of physics will always quickly become COLD, wet feet. This is also a recipe for pain, blisters, and a ruined week or two dealing with healing from that. It’s an essential move to find a set of fully waterproof shoes and possibly even waterproof socks if you plan to play golf in the rain.

7) Don’t forget about warmth - While beaucoup rain gear usually means plenty of layers, it can also cause you to sweat unnecessarily and the temperature usually drops when it’s raining. This combination can cause you to feel quite a bit colder than you normally would even if the temperature dial isn’t reading anything frightening.

Depending on your exact environment, consider giving yourself the option of wearing a light layer that is somewhat absorbent underneath your rain gear, like a lightweight pullover or sweater. This will help absorb some of the sweat from the inside while also keeping you warm, but not overheating.

8) Attitude is everything - The best “bad-weather” golfers are the ones who love the game the most. Many of them grew up playing in areas where there was no option but to tough it out. Playing golf in the rain is when grinders are rewarded. You have to embrace the situation and use it to your advantage. Everyone else is also facing the same situation, and nobody can change it.

The one thing you can change or have control over is how you react to it. 

9) Strategize - Playing golf in the rain is in many respects a different game. Everything is going to change as far as how your ball reacts to the playing surfaces. Rather than complain about every putt being short you have to be able to adapt to what your senses are telling you in the moment rather than relying on your memory of what the ball did before.

It’s also a time to “take what the course gives you.” The center of the green becomes your friend. In many cases, bogey also becomes your friend. Playing golf in the rain is more about course management and expectation management than it is skill. It’s time to forget about pins, concentrate on nothing except playing the simplest shot possible and making good contact. Play like this and trust that the golf Gods will smile on you through the clouds and reward you with a birdie or two, anyway.

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10) Play within yourself - Aside from managing expectations, picking reasonable targets, and adjusting to softer and slower playing surfaces, you also have to change your technique to get the most out of your game in the rain, as well.

With multiple layers on, your swing is always going to be slower and more restricted. Expect everything to fly about one club less as a rule of thumb and make adjustments based on what’s actually happening rather than what you think should happen with a given club in your hand.

Footing is going to be difficult so in many cases it’s good to take even MORE club and use 3/4ths swings and ½ swings to advance the ball rather than risking a slip trying to get everything you can out of a club.

Also know that in wet conditions you are going to get zero roll-out from your driver so expect the course to play at least 10% longer, and consider moving up a tee from what you normally play.

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Can You Play Golf In Heavy Rain?

Golf can absolutely be played in heavy rain. If there is no lightning, there’s a chance to play. The most important thing to check in this instance isn’t actually the sky (after the lightning check) but the ground.

The playing surface is what is going to determine whether or not you can play. In most cases you should be able to take advantage of long-standing rules such as preferred lies and casual water relief and have a great time. Many golf courses are built in such a way and in a climate where the architects were planning to deal with substantial rainfall and the turf types and contours were carefully selected to make sure the course was still playable.

However, a war against water is something that rarely turns out well in the long run. Men always meet their limits and if there has been rain for several days straight, those limits can start to be breached, and even the best laid plans can get overwhelmed and portions of a course can become unplayable. Many times this might result in the closure of only a hole or two, depending on exactly how unprecedented the weather event might be.

One thing to look out for is if you are playing golf in an area that either doesn’t have ground that drains well (like Florida) or doesn’t experience rain very often, so it wasn’t a huge part of the course’s emphasis during the design process (like many in Southern California), you can run into problems quicker when a heavy rain hits. In places like Europe, Oregon, and Washington State many courses are built to where the ground can take a seemingly infinite amount of water without saturating.

Is It Worth Playing Golf In The Rain?

Rainbow On The Golf Course After The Rain

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Most people when they go to play golf instantly look at the weather and say “no way” if it looks like a better chance of rain than not. Some people don’t have that luxury. Our forefathers forged this game against the driving rains and gusty winds of the Scottish and Irish coastlines, walking to and from their villages as a part of their routine as fishermen.

Needless to say, those guys fell in love with the game enough to pass it on to us. And to this day some of the most sought-after golf experiences on the planet actually revolve around the likelihood of playing in the rain. All of the ancient links courses of Scotland and Ireland and of British Open fame have this feature, and it’s become a modern trend to sell this as a bonus to golfers at destinations such as Chambers Bay and Bandon Dunes.

Also, if you’re any kind of tournament or competitive golfer, it’s going to be mandatory at some point in your journey. Golf isn’t played in a bubble, and from the perspective of a purist, playing golf in the rain is part of the deal. What it comes down to is being prepared with the right attitude and the right equipment and you can make sure your walk never gets spoiled again - at least not by some pesky rainclouds.

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Can You Play Top Golf In The Rain?

TopGolf In The Rain

Top Golf is fully weather-proof except for a truly dangerous or extreme weather-event. Just like any covered driving range, it’s a great place to head if you aren’t looking to deal with weather.

The driving bays are all covered, so even though you’re playing into an open-air area, you can stay nice and cool and cozy all year long at Top Golf.

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Can You Play Mini Golf In The Rain?

Mini Golf In The Rain

This all depends on the playing surface. As far as it technically being possible, some mini golf courses are covered with materials that reflect rainwater, therefore puddles will form and it will be unplayable until the rain dies down and the water runs off.

Other courses though have surfaces that allow the rainwater to pass through, and you can play on. Just give your local course a phone call before heading out and see if they expect the course to be playable or not and what their inclement weather policy is.

Final Thoughts

Playing golf in the rain is a rite of passage for many. For others, it is something that is avoided at all costs. For our ancestors - they didn’t have a choice.

For the modern golfer it comes down to, really, “how bad do you want it?”

Are you playing a once-in-a-lifetime course? Are you playing your once-in-a-lifetime best round like the Bishop in Caddyshack? Is it your only time out of the office this week and Mother Nature isn’t cooperating? Are you competing in a tournament? Or are you totally convinced that “the heavy stuff won’t be coming down for quite awhile still” and want to tough it out? 

All of these and more are great reasons to play golf in the rain. Rest easy knowing you won’t be the first and you won’t be the last, and there’s tons of strategy and technology out there to help you mitigate the conditions and play as good or even better than you would during that dreamy “chamber of commerce” weather.

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Photo of author

John VanDerLaan

John is the Lead Editor and founder at Golf Gear Advisor. He is a golf coach and mentor to his 2 sons that are current playing professionals. His son John is currently playing on the Korn Ferry Tour and his son Michael is currently playing on mini tours and preparing for Q School. John Sr. has been their coach and mentor since they were 2 years old. He helped them to succeed in golf with the right equipment, instruction and mindset. John knows a thing or two about playing good golf and he has a passion for sharing his knowledge with others.

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