Kate Smith, The Cornhuskers And High Altitude Golf

Kate Smith, Cornhuskers, and High Altitude Golf

In the midst of acclimating to the altitude in Colorado, Nebraska Cornhusker, Kate Smith, managed a three-under-par 69 in the opening round of the Ptarmigan Ram Classic. With no break before the next round, she went on to a 74 closing opening day with a one-under-par 143, earning a sixth place tie in the individual standings.

Smith holds the distinction of being the only five-time Minnesota state high school girls golf champion in history. She was playing in the number one position for the Huskers in her first collegiate meet in Colorado. Unfortunately, she was also battling altitude sickness. “I was out of breath before I started,” said Smith. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations, but playing in the number one spot, I didn’t want to let the team down.”

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, sometimes referred to as “mountain sickness,” can happen when an athlete trains at low altitudes, but competes at a much higher altitude. As you move from sea level to higher altitudes, air pressure decreases and your ability to easily take in oxygen is reduced. Because your lungs are struggling to get the air they need, your body compensates by increasing your breathing rate, depth and heart rate. Exercise that was easy at home, becomes much more difficult at the higher altitude until your body acclimates to the difference.


The increased breathing rate causes your body to lose more fluids and dehydration becomes a real cause for concern. Dehydration causes most acute altitude sickness. The symptoms can include headache, mild dizziness, nausea, insomnia and irritability. Increased sun exposure often exacerbates the problem.


Monitor Your Fluids When Playing Golf At High Altitudes
Monitor Your Fluids When Playing Golf At High Altitudes

To avoid altitude sickness, it is best to gradually increase altitude, giving your body time to acclimate and adjust. After 8000 feet, ascend no more than 1000 feet per day. If possible, sleep at a lower altitude than where you’ll be exercising during the day. Carefully monitor your fluid intake and stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before and immediately after exercising at higher altitudes.

When golfing at high altitudes, players must also account for the differences in ball trajectory. In general a 10% rule is applied. Meaning, if you hit a sand wedge 100 yards at sea level, it will travel 110 yards in the thin air present at high altitudes. However, the 10% rule does not take into account the many variables of playing golf at higher altitudes. Controlling trajectory is key. A high-ball flight in thin air makes controlling distances exceedingly difficult.

To help control trajectory, try implementing these elements from the folks at www.pga.com.

  • Ball Position – The wedges and short iron are played from one to two inches back of center. The mid irons are in the center of the stance. Long irons should be played from one to two inches inside the left instep. The woods are positioned evenly with the left instep.
  • Angle of Attack – The club must return to the ball with a descending strike, which helps create minimal spin and penetrating flight.
  • Centerness of Contact – Finding the center of the club each time you hit the ball will help develop consistency.
  • Arm Speed – From the top of the swing, the arms need to be in rhythm with the rotation of the golf swing to the finish. If you can control the flight of each shot, you should have the same arm speed with a wedge and a driver. Inconsistent flights occur when the arm beats the body to the finish.

Changing altitudes when golfing requires some planning and adjustment. You can still succeed and show your college spirit in the process. With over 150+ college licenses, LinksWalker has everything you need to achieve your goals on the course while showing pride in your alma mater.