The key to constantly improving your golf game is practice. Golf is a game of repetition and constantly doing the same action over and over again until it becomes second nature. The best golfers in the world don’t need to think about anything when playing. When they play, everything happens naturally because they practice. That is why you need to put emphasis on practicing your golf game if you ever hope to improve. For most people, the driving range is the number one way to improve at golf on a budget. But how should you practice at the driving range to improve at golf?
To get the most out of a driving range session you need to be replicating what you would do in an actual round of golf. Hitting all of your clubs, different types of shots, shooting to targets, master your pre shot routine, and much more. Driving range sessions are key to improving all aspects of your game, and building your confidence when you step onto the course.
How Do I Get Better At The Driving Range?
The most important aspect of the driving range is simulating how you would play a real round of golf. There is absolutely zero benefit to hitting 80 balls with a driver and going home. During a real round, you will only hit your driver maybe 12-13 times. Of course that is dependent on course layout and your shot shape. The point is, use your time at the driving range wisely.
Trying to hit the back net with a driver on every shot, sure it looks cool, but does not help improve your game. What improves your game is going about your practice with intent. Hit shots that you need to hit during a real round. Try and remember your last round, and shots that gave you trouble. Replicate those shots, and work on hitting those at the driving range until you hit 5 in a row. Then the next time you are there, try and hit that same shot 10 times in a row. It’s all about taking your golf game from the course, to the practice area, and improving on what you struggle with.
How Many Balls Should You Hit At The Driving Range?
Golf coaches and professionals typically advise hitting on average 50-60 balls for general practice at a driving range. Checkout this link for a more detailed analysis of this topic.
I typically like to hit around the same number of balls that I would on average hit during a round. So for example, I am a 6-7 handicap. If I am going to the driving range to work on my overall game, I will hit around 80 balls. For context, most bucket sizes are Small (44), Medium (66), Large (80), Jumbo (110). I do this so I can have the feeling of replicating roughly the same amount of shots I would hit during a round. This does depend on what your intent is of your practice on that day. There are multiple different ways to practice, which calls for a different number of balls.
Types Of Practice:
- All around general practice (amount of balls relative to your handicap).
- Wedge focused practice (less balls).
- All Irons practice (less balls).
- Driver/Hybrid practice (less balls).
My recommendation to start, is hit the number of balls that you would typically hit during a round. Do this 3 times a week, and as you improve and your score lowers, the amount of balls you’ll hit in a range session will lower. Doing this also trains your body for the grueling 4 hours that you are on the golf course. Not only does this help improve your game, but it will improve your fitness as well. Making sure your body can last a full round is very important to improving your scores.
Top 10 Ways To Practice At The Driving Range to Improve Your Golf Game:
We’ve already covered a few topics and talking points above, but there are so many more ways to improve your game at the driving range. Let’s talk about the top 10 things you need to do at the driving range to improve your golf game, in descending order.
10. Enjoy Your Practice:
This might seem like a lame point to put in a top 10 list, but I do stand by it. You can try to force yourself to go to the driving range and practice. You could go 3 times a week for a month. But if you don’t enjoy it, and have fun improving at golf, you will never stick with it. If you don’t stick with it, you will never get any better. If you need help getting the routine of practicing down, go with a friend. Go with a partner. Something at the start to make it more enjoyable. Practice because you want too, not because you know you have to.
I hope for your bodies sake that you warmup and stretch before putting it through the stress of golf. Warming your body up, and stretching before playing, is absolutely crucial. Let’s say you have a 7am tee time, the temperature is cool, you’ve just recently woke up. Do you think walking to the first tee, and swinging a golf club absolutely cold is going to workout at all? It will not. Create a warmup routine for yourself at the driving range. Make it become a habit.
- Stretch Your Shoulders – Shoulder rotations up and over your head, loosen the entire shoulder.
- Stretch Your Chest – Find a structure or something stable where you can put your arm against and stretch your chest. Your chest connects to your shoulder, so if your chest is tight your shoulders will be as well.
- Hip Rotations – Loosen your hips and warm up your pelvis. All of the power in your swing comes from weight transfer. That can’t happen effectively if they are tight.
- Stretch Your Quadriceps and Hamstrings – Your legs are the base for a golf swing.
- Wear Proper Clothing – I note this because you should be dressed accordingly for the weather. You want your body to be warm when playing golf. If your body is cold, it will not perform or react the way you need it to. If it’s cold outside, dress with layers to ensure your body is warm enough. This alone will improve your swing at the start of a round.
8. Take Your Time, Slow It Down:
This is a straight forward one. Take your time at the driving range. No where in the building does it say you need to hit all of your balls in 30 minutes or less. Hitting a ball every 20 seconds with zero pause or recollection does absolutely no good.
Slow it down after every shot. Hit a ball, watch it’s trajectory, the ball flight, how it lands, how far it goes, and then step back. Think about the details of the shot in your head. Consider what was good about the shot, and what could be improved on with your next shot. Start your pre-shot approach again, and hit your next ball.
7. Hit The Appropriate Amount Of Balls At The Driving Range:
We talked about this above already, but you need to hit the appropriate amount of balls. If you are a good golfer with a low to average handicap, you do not need to hit 100-120 balls at the driving range. It’s not necessary, does you no added good, and wastes your valuable time. Choose the amount of balls to hit based on your handicap, and what your purpose at the driving range is on that day.
6. Different Shot Shapes:
The driving range is your opportunity to practice your swing, and work on the types of shots that give you problems. This is especially important when you consider the different types of holes on any given course. All golf courses have diverse holes, no hole is ever replicated twice on a golf course. Because of this, you need to be able to hit a wide variety of shot shapes and types of shots.
- High Normal – Your basic swing, normal ball flight.
- Low Shot – The stinger shot that stays low to ground and runs along the fairway. Good for cutting through windy days.
- Draw – If you are right handed, this is when the trajectory of your ball starts right but works its way back left. If you are a lefty, it’s the opposite. This shot is helpful for dogleg right/left holes. As well, approaching greens a certain way depending on hole location.
- Fade – If you are right handed, this is when the trajectory of your ball starts left and works its way right. It’s the opposite for left handed. This shot is helpful for dogleg right/left holes. As well, approaching the green a certain way depending on hole location.
- Low or High Draw/Fade – If it’s a windy day, you don’t want your ball flying high and being knocked down by the wind. That’s where you want to hit a low draw or fade, to eliminate the wind. If you need to hit the green, and stick your ball with either no spin or backspin, hit a high draw/fade.
- Flop Shot – This is specific to your wedges. If you are approaching the green, and need to get the ball up in a hurry and stop, hit a flop shot.
- Punch Shot – Large backswing to generate power, very short follow through. This is helpful on tricky lies or thick rough where all you need is to punch it out.
5. Hit All Of Your Clubs:
It’s very important when you are at the driving range for general practice, that you hit every club. You don’t want to miss a club, get out on the course, and be presented with a shot with that club. The shot might workout just fine. However if you haven’t practiced with it earlier, your confidence will be low with that club. There is nothing worse then grabbing a club from your bag on a shot, and not having confidence. Go into every shot with complete confidence.
Another talking point is unless you know how to hit every club in your bag, your golf game will not improve. You need to be able to pull any club out of your bag, on any given shot, and be able to execute it confidently. To get to this point, you need to put practice hours in with every club. If you want to read in more detail about how to hit all major clubs in a golf bag, you can click here for a relative post. I detail how to hit every shot in a common golf bag, and types of shots you can hit with each club.
4. Shoot To Targets:
How often when playing a round of golf can you put your head down, hit your ball blindly, and it go successful. Every golf shot is different then the last, as well as the next. On every shot, you are shooting to an exact location. You might not hit that exact spot, your ball might land somewhere near, but the goal on the shot is to hit an exact spot. Why would you practice at the driving range any differently?
All driving ranges have flags and distance markers in the field. Aim to those, try and hit the signs or hit the flag pole with your ball. The only way to really develop a solid golf game is to look at a shot, think about how you need to hit it, and executing. If you can learn how to do that, your golf game will improve majorly. However, that does not happen by hitting to nothing at the driving range.
Grab a club, pick a distance or flag marker, and hit balls at that spot until you nail it every time. Move onto a different club and different marker, do the same thing. Practice with intent.
3. Perfect Your Pre-Shot Approach:
Tell me if you’ve had this happen before. You shoot to the green, everything felt good, but you miss the green 20 yards right. It doesn’t make sense, everything about your swing felt good, how did it go wrong? Then your friend tells you your feet were pointing that direction the whole time. Or perhaps the ball wasn’t positioned in your stance properly. Your pre-shot approach will save you from so many mistakes.
Your pre-shot approach is the steps you take before your swing. Of course, your actual swing is important to execute an accurate golf shot. But all of that goes out the window if you are not aiming in the right direction, or accounting for other variables around you. Here are actions you need to incorporate into your pre-shot approach for every golf shot:
- 1-2 Practice Swings – Feel the grass with your club. Envision the shot you are about to hit.
- Check The Grade – Look at your ball from multiple angles. Are you on a hill? When you stand at your ball, is the ball above your feet or below your feet? You need to adjust where you aim considering the ball flight will change depending on if the ball is above or below your feet.
- Check The Lie – Evaluate the lie you have with your ball. The lie will determine what type of shot you need to hit, or which shot you have to hit. If the ball is is underneath thick grass, you will have to use a punch shot. If the ball is propped up on grass and visible, you have a perfect lie. Always make sure you look at how your ball is sitting on the ground before taking your shot.
- Lineup The Shot – You’ve checked everything above, now it’s time to aim. Stand a few feet behind the ball, and line your body in the direction you need to go. If you don’t do this, you might line up thinking you are aiming correctly but in fact are not. This results in a lot of missed shots.
- Check Your Feet – You’ve lined up your shot, and now are setting your feet. Make sure your feet are shoulder with the part, aimed at your target in a strong stance.
- Ball Position – Your ball position within your stance is dependent on the club you are hitting, and what type of shot you need to hit. Check out another post here for more in depth detail about ball position.
- Grip – Make sure your hands are in their proper position. Ensure you have a firm grip before starting your swing.
- One Last Look – Everything above has been done, and your body is set. Look up one last time to look at where you are going, picturing the shot you are about to hit. Back to your ball, and hit your shot.
2. Replicate Difficult Shots From Past Rounds:
When you are at the driving range practicing, you are there to work on what you struggle with. If your best club is driver, there is zero benefit to hitting an entire bucket of balls with your driver and going home. Your golf game did not get any better by doing that. You should be there to practice shots that you have difficulty with in real round scenarios.
During every practice session, think back to your last round. Think about holes that got away from you, or the holes with your highest score on the day. Remember the shot you missed that cost you a stroke or two. Put yourself back into that scenario, and work on that type of shot until you make a few in a row. You will never completely overcome a shot that gives you trouble in one practice session. The best thing you can do is understand it takes time, spend a portion of your practice time on all your difficult shots, and eventually they will improve.
The only way to get better, is to improve what you are not good at.
1. Simulate A Real Round:
This is hands down the most accurate and rewarding practice technique in my opinion. It will take you more time at the driving range, so be aware of that. Now I am not saying you should be at the driving range for 4 hours, simulating a round of golf to the exact minute. What I mean by simulate a round, is hit your clubs like you would on a real golf course. Here is an example. When do you ever play a round of golf, and hit the same club 10 times in a row? Never, not once will you ever do that. You want to put yourself into a real-time scenario.
So you are starting your range session. Hit shots like you are playing holes. Here is the process I mean:
Start out by picturing hole 1, it’s a 465 yard par 4. So your shots will go like:
- Driver – Take the distance you think your drive went off of the overall number you started with.
- Iron – However far that goes, take that off the remaining yardage.
- Wedge – Pick a type of wedge shot to hit with yardage remaining. Flop shot, punch, bump and run, etc.
You can adjust this to whatever you prefer, but the premise still stands. Do this 18 times to reflect a real round, change up the lengths of holes, envision hazards in your way, par 3’s and par 5’s, etc. Don’t just grab one club and hit 25 balls with it in a row. Simulate how you would play a real-time round of golf, and watch your game grow the more you do this.
I hope you enjoyed this article! Take what you wish from the post, and incorporate it into your own golf game. Everything I’m saying and laying out in a specific way is tailored to me in particular. What I want other people to take from it is not copying it step for step, but incorporating the premises into their own games. Adjusting it to fit their needs and goals.
Till next time, at On The Record.