How do players prepare for the altitude in Mexico?


From different clubs to a lot of TrackMan sessions and the difficulty of losing your breath, there’s a lot that goes in to handling the altitude in Mexico

Club de Golf Chapultepec sits at around 7,800 feet above sea level, and plays host to the third edition of the WGC Mexico Championship this week.

The significance of the height of the course plays a big factor, as the altitude causes a large increase on how far the ball travels: Last year, there were six drives recorded over 400 yards.

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It’s a week where players get their money’s worth out of TrackMan on the range as they try to adjust to the conditions, but just how big is the distance gap? Players have their own ways and means of calculating the exact difference, which is expected to be around 10%, but during his Tuesday press conference, Justin Thomas shook his head when asked if it was as simple as just using a club less for a shot.

“It’s a lot different,” Thomas told reporters. “I would say, but I feel like we’ve a pretty good idea on it and I don’t really want to give anybody else an edge” 

He did however give a little insight in to the difference between a normal six iron and a six iron out in Mexico for him, and the numbers are staggering.

“A 6-iron at home I hit about 200 yards. Last week (at Riviera) I was probably hitting, in the mornings when we were warming up for the restarts we were going about 180, and this week it could be anywhere from 230-240 just depending on the height I hit it and how hard I hit it.

“I would say the weirdest part is when you’re 250 yards away and you look down at your ball and you look up and the pin is that far away and you look back down and you have a pretty decent lofted iron in your hand, that’s the hardest part is getting accustomed to that. You know if you hit it right that’s the right club that’s the hardest part just trusting it.” 

Thomas also went on to discuss how he and caddie Jimmy Johnson prepare, and what he feels is the most important thing to pay attention to this week.

 “We’ve written down each year how far goes and I’ve already done a little bit of work on TrackMan to try and figure it out. We have a good system, we know what times of day it does what and what trajectory does what and I feel like there’s no real formula you just have to kind of figure out what the shot is and we have a pretty good idea.

“The hardest part is truly losing your breath through a bag of balls if you’re not taking your time and you’re just trying to hit, like I do at home, hit a shot, get another ball, hit a shot. You can’t walk and talk at the same time out here… it’s pretty unbelievable so it’s just as important to be rested and to be fresh mentally and physically as it is to know how far the ball is going”

But just dialling in the numbers on TrackMan isn’t enough for everybody. Tiger Woods switched out his 2-iron for a 5 wood last week at Riviera to prepare for the altitude, in the hope it will give him more spin to play to his advantage.

He also increased the loft of the M5 Ti Fairway wood from 13-degrees to 15 degrees, though has stuck with the same Mitsubishi Diamana D+ White 80TX shaft.

“The 5-wood will spin more,” Woods said as the reason for his change.