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Different types of Sandwich - The weather is key at this week's Open

Alex Deakin Alex Deakin | 12:30 UK time, Friday, 15 July 2011

Distance travelled ~ 503'036'000 km: day 196 in Earth's orbit

Mid July, the Open Championship; if we had steady, predictable summers it would be sunny skies and light winds every year, like it seems to be at Augusta, but this is the UK and it is never that simple.

This year we will be fortunate, although the players may see it differently, to see different weather conditions on each of the 4 days at Royal St Georges. The 2011 champion will be the player who is best at manipulating the ball through a very active lower atmosphere.

I am a fair weather golfer and detest playing in the rain but for the pro's who regularly have to play soggy rounds the rain is a mere distraction, it is the wind that is the most crucial of the elements, simply because it is so fickle.

A strong wind can easily make 3 clubs difference, hit a 4 iron into a green one day, or even one hour, and the next you may only need a 7 iron, if the wind is now behind you.

But of course changing the club not only changes the length of shot but also the trajectory and the higher a ball goes the stronger the winds are likely to be. The variation of wind with height, or wind sheer, is caused by the friction of the land.

Gauging the wind as a golfer is an art and why the winner is more likely to be an older, wiser more experienced player and one that has knowledge of playing links golf.

We've all seen players throw a few blades of grass in the air on the tee, but the wind on that tee (possibly sheltered by a sand dune) can be very different both in strength and direction than the wind 200 yards down the fairway and 100 yards up in the atmosphere.

The 'stability' of the lower atmosphere is another variable, when the pressure is low (as it will be this week at Sandwich) the air is said to be unstable. This allows quick movement of air vertically, creating up and downdraughts, which when they hit the ground produce unpredictable sideways gusts.

Even if the weather is relatively calm, because the Open is always on a links course (one by the sea) the winds will always be switching around and provide the biggest problem for the golfers.

Sea breezes develop during the day in the summer months as the land warms up. This means in the cool morning the winds can be light for the early starters. Yet for the later tee off times the sea breeze can scupper their hopes of lifting The Claret Jug.

Sea breezes won't be a factor this year but is a good reason why the Open is always held by the sea, so when we do get a fine mid July the golfers never get it easy at the oldest major of them all.

Watch the BBC's Live coverage of the Open championship


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