You have probably experienced this many times, you spend a few hours at the driving range smashing balls with the same club to perfect your swing, distance and accuracy, you go to the course brimming with confidence only to find almost every shot is fat, thin, sliced or shanked. What happened between a great day at the range and a terrible follow up on the course?
Why does this happen?
At the range you are hitting off a perfectly flat fake grass mat, something you never get on a real course what with different lies and hazards to challenge you. The range tries to replicate the fairway but how many of your shots actually hit the fairway? (50% if you’re lucky), the only exception would perhaps be the tee off area, and that’s only 18 shots from probably 90 strokes. On the range there are no consequences and that puts you in different mind-set, try and change this and imagine every shot counts
Advantages of the driving range
It could be argued that the driving range helps to build muscle memory, and this may be true to an extent if you just want to hit your driver again and again.
- Access to professional teachers, you will always find a willing PGA Pro at every range happy to provide you with tuition (swing, set up etc.) for a small cost.
- Driving ranges are often open in the evenings or when there is inclement weather, so you can still swing some clubs even when your local course is closed.
- The cost of spending a few hours down the range is small, a bucket of balls for a few $, a drink and perhaps a certain level of satisfaction – works out cheaper than a round of golf.
How can you improve your driving range experience?
Try not to be tempted to use one club to hit a bucket of balls, try different clubs and simulate a real course if possible. You don’t get multiple chances to hit the ball on a round (unless you are playing mulligan golf) so try and avoid that on the range. Hit one shot each with the driver followed by a rescue or fairway wood, an iron and wedge. Change your aim, use the different flags and markers on the range to add a bit of variety. Alternating clubs and types of shot forces you to think more about set up and swing, hopefully you feel this to be a more beneficial use of your time.
From a personal perspective I would always prefer to go to a real course, if you are lucky you may have a pitch and putt course near you or a short 9 hole course. I am fortunate to have a 9 hole course close to my home where they let me play 2 balls on a round of 9. I don’t keep a scorecard on this but treat it purely as practice in the real world, different lies and hazards to deal with. There is also an increase in the number of driving ranges that provide more real world practice areas, putting greens, bunkers and chipping arenas. They cost a little more but at least you get the opportunity to practice shots that you will likely encounter on your next round.