Driving Range Tips for Beginners – The Art of Improving Your Golf Game
We’ve all seen it when we go to the range, the first club most people take out of the bag is a driver. The guy, usually it’s a guy, stands there swinging at the ball like he’s just found out his wife is having an affair. He does this for practically the whole bucket of balls then he leaves.
What has he achieved here? He may have impressed others at the range with his display of alpha dominance. He may have completely tired himself out and is in need of a McDonald’s on the way home.
One thing he almost certainly hasn’t achieved is making himself a better golfer. All too often people go to the driving range and practice poorly, they have no goal in mind for that session and it can be largely a waste of time.
Today, I’m going to take you through some things you can do when you get to the range to help you develop as a golfer. Some drills you can work on and some little games you can play that will help improve your golfing skills. Read on to learn how to make the most of your time on the driving range.
What is the driving range and why should you go?
For many, the driving range is the first place you experienced golf. It is usually an open field dotted with targets where golf balls are mindlessly pounded as hard as possible. It is a safe place to go and hit balls without a care of losing them, something that can be very helpful for your game.
This should be where you spend time working on lessons and generally just getting more confident in hitting a golf ball. You can try things like learning to control the height you hit a ball or the shape you hit it too. Think of it as your “golfing gym”.
How often should I be going to the range?
If you want to learn how to play golf, the golf course is really the only place you can do that. Whilst you can certainly learn a lot of technique on the driving range, it is only on the course that you can apply the skills to play a round. As a new golfer, you should be looking to practice at the driving range once per week.
That doesn’t sound like a lot but if you mix that range time with at least one trip to a course each week and maybe seeing a coach once a month, you’ll be a golfer soon. The range is a great place to do your technical stuff but those thoughts need to leave your head on the course. By playing more you can better get your head used to playing.
What clubs should I take to the range?
When you are starting out, it is good to have proper focus in your practice sessions. Take only the clubs you intend on working on, this may be just three clubs but it will help. I think it is always good to have at least one wedge and a mix of irons.
I like to take my whole bag to the range but sometimes that can lead to practice sessions that lack focus. In the earlier stages of you golf journey, I would recommend five to seven clubs for a driving range trip.
Tips and drills for the driving range
The driving range can be an intimidating place, if you feel uncomfortable when you go then you won’t be the first or last person to feel that way. Learning golf is hard, that is part of the appeal of it, just stick with it and try not to worry about what people think about you when you are there. People will almost certainly not be watching you so just try to concentrate on your own game.
We’ll go into a few things you can do to make the most of your time on the range. Below are five tips and five drills that can really help you develop your game on the range when you’re just starting out in golf. Actually, most golfers could benefit from some of the things written below.
1. Have a plan
Ask most golfers at the driving range what their plan for the session is and you will get a lot of blank looks. When you show up to practice you should be going with a purpose and each shot should fit in with that plan. An example of a plan would be, “today I am going to work on my swing tempo”
This plan would mean that every shot has you focussed on getting your tempo right. You could also go with a plan to learn how to hit the ball low. Practice with a purpose.
2. Treat your shots like they count
Now, I don’t mean that you should get nervous or angry if the shot doesn’t come off as planned, but you should care. Aim the shot at a target like you would on a course and go through the mental steps you normally do before a shot on the course.
If you have a pre-shot routine then you should be going through that on the range too. It’s good to get into that habit and if you don’t have one, make one up then start using it.
3. Take dead aim
This is probably the most important tip here, aim at something very specific. Too often people go to the range and just hit out into the space, this is fairly pointless. Pick a target and focus your mind on hitting that target with the ball.
Again, this is just a way of making range practice applicable to the course. Aim for the smallest thing that you can easily see and you will be amazed at how well you can hit toward it.
4. Go with a friend
Some of my best range sessions are when I go with a friend and use the time to add some pressure to your practice. You will be amazed at how competitive a game of “closest to the pin” can get. This is a great way to work on dealing with nerves and pressure on the course.
By spending time in this zone of practice you can hone your competitive skills. It is also really useful to do this kind of session with someone who is better than you.
5. Play the course
This one is maybe a little more advanced but it is one that can be great for your game. When you get to the range, imagine playing a course you have played a lot. Hit tee shots and second shots in order of what you would need on that course. This is a great way to vary your practice shot by shot which make you focus.
Can you see a theme here? We are using the range to make us better players on the course. This drill is exactly applicable to that way of thinking.
6. The Alignment Drill
There are some absolute fundamentals in golf that you must devote time to learning. Alignment, where you are aiming, is an essential thing to learn and this goes for all golfers not just beginners. To learn this, just pick a target and lay a club on the floor so that it lines your feet up to the target.
This club will give you a guide so you can line your feet, knees, hips and shoulders up. With everything in line you should start hitting it on your target line more often. Hit ten shots in a row with the guide club then take it away and try to hit a few without it.
7. Swing Speed Drill
One bad habit that many new golfers fall into is that they try to hit the ball too hard. By learning what swing speed feels like very early it can help you avoid this habit. Take your 7-iron and hit a normal shot at a target that is suitably far away.
Next shot, I want you to swing it at just 75% of that normal swing and see what happens. If you do it right, the ball may even go around the same distance because you will hit it better more often. Top golfers often don’t actually hit it as hard as they can, there is more control in less effort.
8. Going Down Drill
This one isn’t easy, but when you are just starting to play, it can really help get your game going quickly. Take your club to the top of the swing and stop, from here you want to pause and then you will swing at the ball. It is almost like the golfing version of a baseball swing.
This move here gets your lower-body working harder to swing the club and that is important. This is a slightly more advanced drill but when you’re getting good at hitting the ball this is one to try. As always, make sure you are aiming at something and don’t expect to be able to hit the ball like this straight away, this is a challenge.
9. The 10-point Drill
This is as simple as it gets and will give you feedback on the development of your skills. This drill is particularly effective if you go to the same range often. You can’t stop this drill until you get ten points and you have to be honest with yourself.
Pick a target, preferably a flag on a green, you get a point for hitting the ball on the green. If you don’t have a green then pick something of that size. You hit as many balls as it takes to get ten points and note down how many shots it took. You should take fewer shots as you improve.
10. The Advanced 10-point Drill
When you’ve mastered the 10-point drill, this would be if you’re taking fewer than twenty balls to complete it, it’s time for the advanced drill. This is the same game except you will move your targets so you will hit to multiple greens.
Same rules apply, hit until you get your ten points and your score is how many balls you hit. Don’t hit to the same green twice in a row, we’re trying to test your ability to change aim now.
Are driving range balls different?
Yes, very, they are mass made golf balls that prioritise durability over anything else. These balls are made to be pounded thousands of times and this means that they don’t perform like “proper” golf balls. They often have very worn dimples which messes up how they fly through the air.
Range balls do their job and can help you see how you are hitting the ball but don’t expect them to be a precise reflection. For your stage in golf they are great, just get some better ones for when you’re out on the course.
Do range balls travel less distance than other balls?
This is a complicated one and I don’t want to get technical, however, yes on some shots and no on others. Range balls spin a lot less than many golf balls on the market, mainly because they are made to last so long. This means that shorter shots hit with range balls will often go further.
When you start to hit longer clubs, especially with the driver, the range ball will lose distance because the ball doesn’t retain as much energy. Range balls are so inconsistent, even in a single bucket, that the distance they go isn’t something to focus on. You also get range balls that are specifically designed to travel 80% or 90% of a real ball so be careful.
How many balls should I hit at the driving range?
This is an important question because far too many people assume that the more balls you hit at the range the better. This isn’t the case and that’s why sometimes hitting just fifty balls is a great session. If you mindlessly hit one hundred balls then you may as well have not bothered.
Hit fifty to one hundred balls but make sure you have a purpose to your session and that you make each shot count. Range sessions can also be good for fitness, taking one hundred full swings is more than one round of golf.
How long does it take to hit one hundred balls at the range?
Hitting this number of balls should take you at least an hour. You never see it, but you should do a bit of a warm-up before you start and then you should take time over your shots. Each ball should be getting your concentration is if it was a shot on a course.
If you take your time at the driving range and properly work through your plan, you will develop as a golfer so much faster. To get better at anything it takes time, concentration and putting yourself to the limits of your ability. That’s what one hundred balls should be to you so it should take some time.
Are range balls bad for my clubs?
Whilst range balls don’t feel the nicest when you hit them, they won’t damage your clubs. It would take a lot of hitting to ruin your clubs at the driving range so don’t worry. Hitting too many balls can be a problem for your game though.
When you are on the range, one of the traps people fall into is to swing too hard, this won’t help you on the course. There is no better place to learn how to play golf than on the course so prioritise that for the sake of your game. The range is for working on technical issues and getting confident before stepping onto the first tee.
Is hitting off of mats bad for my game?
It can be, grass is always best but grass ranges are very rare in the UK and Ireland. If you are hitting the ball well and clipping it off of the mat then they aren’t bad, however, they let you away with things that grass wouldn’t. Your club bounces off of the synthetic surface rather than digging and it means that fat shots can be disguised.
You also get some mats that sit the ball up and don’t give you the challenge of a ball sitting slightly down in the grass. Again, the range gives you “perfect” conditions to work on technique but is no substitution for the course.
Is hitting off of mats bad for my body?
Excessive shots from a mat can be bad for your elbows and it is something you need to watch. Golfer’s elbow can be brought on faster or aggravated by mats as they are much harder to hit from than grass. This is another reason to prioritise quality over quantity of practice when you are at the driving range.
Another tip is to wear trainers rather than golf shoes on mats. I have found that the twisting action of the golf swing can get to the knees after a while because golf shoes grip mats so well. Trainers allow a little more give so your knees are under less strain.
How do I stop hitting the ground before a golf ball?
When you hit the ground before the ball in golf we call that a “fat” shot. This is one of the kind of issues you may face as a new golfer as you figure out how to get solid contact on a ball. Practice and patience is one of the best ways to avoid this kind of miss.
If you are a new golfer having this issue, try hitting your iron shots at the range from a tee. You can make the tee height smaller and smaller as you get used to it and soon your fat shots will be gone. Hitting shots from a tee can be a great way of making life a little easier when you are learning.
How do I make the ball fly higher?
When you go to the range and see people hitting towering shots, there is no doubt that it is impressive. When you are learning, it can be a challenge to get the ball into the air and this takes some practice. It is important that you don’t try to scoop the ball into the air.
This is a mistake that many learners make and one you need to avoid. The club is designed to lift the ball into the air and you need to just let it do its thing. As your swing gets better and your swing speed gets higher the ball will start to fly.
The driving range is a great place to learn how to play golf and to prepare yourself for going onto the golf course. It can be a scary place, no one likes to look bad and when you learn to play golf you are going to look bad. Just try to get past that, everyone has to start somewhere.
When you start to use the driving range more effectively, you will learn how to play faster and enjoy it more. Don’t be one of those range zombies that just mindlessly hit ball after ball, this isn’t how you become a golfer. Try to continually change what your target is with each shot so that you develop your aiming skills.
Golf takes time and the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. The sport keeps you honest, if you’re not putting the time in you will stop improving. It is also not a straight journey you will have great spells and worse spells.
Try to be strict with yourself on the range, remember why you are there and work with a plan. Speak to a coach to help you build a plan and to give you stuff to work on during your practice sessions. Most importantly, enjoy your time at the range and if you hit a bad shot, laugh it off and get ready for the next ball.