Driving Range Practice Tips for Faster Improvement
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Like most things in life, if you want to get better at golf, you must practice. There is simply no other way around it. However, how you practice is probably more important than how much time you spend out on the driving range. There is an old cliché “Practice with a Purpose”, and while it seems obvious, the basics are the basics for a reason. Spend any amount of time at a golf practice facility, and it’s pretty easy to see who takes their practice seriously and who doesn’t. If you want to take your practice seriously, here are some invaluable driving range practice tips for faster improvement that will help you make the most out of the time you dedicate to improving your golf game.
1. Have a Specific Target at All Times
With so much space on your average driving range, and no pressure to execute (like there would be on the golf course), it’s easy to spend your time on the range freewheeling a bucket of balls without a specific target. However, this is an example of counterproductive work on your game; to improve, you must have a target for every shot.
The target can be anything: A flagstick (if your range has them), a yardage stake, a number, a patch of dirt, a grouping of weeds. What matters is that you define your target and stick with one throughout your practice session. Once you have a target, the next question becomes “How do I know if I’m aimed properly?”
2. Use Alignment Tools
Most players with handicaps 10 and higher never use anything to check alignment during practice, while the vast majority of single-digit handicappers to professionals make alignment a top priority. Using a couple clubs is perfectly fine, but I suggest reflector rods which can be purchased at a hardware store for a couple bucks each.
No matter what, it’s best to use two points of reference, and here’s why: It’s natural for us to want to aim directly at the target with our bodies, but the optimal setup in golf is to set up parallel. This can be difficult to achieve, especially for those who are new to figuring out their alignment. Here are the steps you can take to ensure near-perfect alignment once you’ve selected a target.
- Take two reflector rods and hold them together. Lay them on the ground directly at, or slightly right (left for you lefties) of your target. Once they are on the ground, step a couple yards back and check their direction, adjusting them as needed.
- Take your stance, then lean forward and roll back the closer of the two alignment rods until it’s at your feet. Then, step away and check it again, adjusting the rod by your feet to ensure that it is as close to parallel as you can get it.
Address the ball, and swivel your head to the target. Chances are, if you’ve never worried too much about alignment, you’ll be surprised how different your eyes will see the target. When you’re just starting out with using alignment tools, it is best to keep one target, and simply adjust the clubs you use, moving the second alignment rod to compensate for the length in clubs.
As you get more comfortable with aiming parallel, you can remove one of the rods, depending on which one is easier to aim correctly without the use of an aid. If you ever feel like your aim is getting sloppy, go back to the two-rod alignment system.
3. Hit More Irons Than Woods
The following is typical of most golfers on the range:
- Drop 75-100 balls on the hitting deck
- Hit 3-5 wedges
- Hit 5-10 8-irons
- Hit a few hybrids
- Hit the driver with the remaining range balls
The driver is an important club, but it makes up a small percentage of shots during a round of golf. It’s much more effective to spread out your range balls thusly (assuming you have 75-100 balls):
- 10-15 wedges
- 10-15 8-irons
- 10-15 4-iron or shortest hybrid
- 5-10 3-woods
- 5-10 drivers
- 7-10 8-irons
- 7-10 wedges
- Use the remaining range balls to play the first three holes at your course on the range, going through your full pre-shot routine, defining targets similar to what you’ll find on the course
If you follow a practice regimen similar to this, you’ll find your mind is more mentally engaged, which is what practice should be about.
4. Keep it Simple
When you take time to work on your game, it’s not time that should be spent thinking about 5 swing keys, filming your swing, and constantly reviewing video, and otherwise over-analyzing your swing.
Find one thing to focus on: Your grip, your posture, your takeaway, your tempo, holding your finish, anything that requires a single-minded focus, and make that your only priority for the entire session. If you bounce back from one thought to another, it will only hurt your progression in the long-run.
5. If You’re Struggling on the Range, do Something Else
Frustration followed by repetition will only compound frustration. If you are trying steps 1-4 and you keep hitting poor shots, there’s no rule that says you must stick with it. This isn’t high school.
Go chip and putt for a few minutes, or take a break entirely. Play a game on your phone for a few minutes. Once you feel less frustrated, give it another try, still focusing on your one key for the remainder of your practice session. And, if you hit a good one, take a moment to enjoy how it feels before reaching for the next ball.
6. Treat the Hitting Deck Like it’s Your Own
Few things are more irritating than walking down a driving range, looking for an open spot, only to see section after section littered with individual divots. If this range were your backyard, would you take extra precaution to minimize the amount of turf used? Hopefully so.
You have two simple options: To take your divots behind one another, which only uses (ideally) a small chunk of turf. This will create more of a straight-line trough. If you don’t have the space for a trough, then use a square that is no more than 3-4 clubheads wide, and slowly work your way back. Either way, don’t leave a minefield of divots on the hitting deck. The other patrons and the maintenance staff will thank you.
7. Don’t be a Range Rat
All the practice in the world means nothing if you don’t apply it on the golf course. Practice sessions should take no longer than 90 minutes. Any time after that should be spent on the course putting what you’ve worked on to the test.
8.Throughout Your Practice Session, Keep Your Grooves Clean!
After 2-3 shots, or anytime, the grooves get clogged up - clean them out with a tee or give them a quick scrub with a brush. Dirty grooves won’t give you accurate feedback about your flight or distance control.
9. Take Notes
Before and after every practice session, write down what you worked on, and how you felt afterwards. Also take note of your flight patterns, and if any club deviated from the norm. Keeping records will help you remember what works and what doesn’t when you practice, and you can apply that knowledge on the golf course.
The Final Word
Even if you apply these principles to one session a week, you will see a dramatic improvement in your scores out on the golf course. Hone in your focus at the driving range and shoot lower scores!