Practice makes perfect. It’s a maxim that can be applied to any passtime, game or endeavour. Muscle memory, fault correction, learning a new style or aspect of operation...all of these things can be achieved by practice.
For golfers, the driving range is the best place to practice and improve. A driving range offers all of the parameters you can expect from a real golf course, but without all the added drama of scoring and being watched over by your playing companions.
But for practise to be effective, you need to have a clear set of goals to achieve. There is no point endlessly practising a swing if you are not doing it correctly in the first place.
So here are a few ideas to help you set some training goals, and get the most out of your time at the driving range.
All athletes warm up. It prepares and stretches their muscles and joints for the coming activity, and focussus their minds on what they wish to achieve.
So your stint at the driving range should be treated exactly the same as an actual game.
Warm up with a few stretches and a set of deep breaths.
This will get your body into the proper state of suppleness and flexibility and ready it to cope with the coming exertion without straining anything.
It will also give you time to focus on what it is you want to attain and how you are going to do it.
Ease Into it Gently
Start off with a few short shots. Try half swings with a sand wedge or maybe a pitching wedge.
As your muscles get into the groove, and your breathing adapts to your focus, your senses will align with your body and set up the correct tempo required for a successful training session.
Before a pilot takes off, he or she will run through a routine of checks and actions. It’s exactly the same with golf.
Whether you are on the golf course or on the driving range, you should have a clearly-defined routine that you run through with every shot.
This will start with your placement of the ball on the tee, continue through your approach to the shot, your wind-up and swing, your follow-through, and your departure from the tee.
By sticking to a routine, your muscle memory will swing into action and ensure that you hit every shot in exactly the same way.
By attending a driving range with a friend you can not only challenge each other to do better. You can also assess and critique each other’s shots, stance and technique.
After a warmup and some practice shots, set up a competition with a prize for the winner. This will give your practice some focus, and give you bragging rights later on. If you win, that is!
Switch Up Your Targets
It’s easy to get to the driving range and just start banging away downrange with no particular target to aim for.
This might be a good way to work off some aggression after a hard day at work, or a crappy round on the golf course, but it won’t help your overall game.
Instead, pick a series of specific targets to aim for, and alternate them during your range time.
This will give you feedback on how accurately you are driving, and how well you are hitting your shots.
Basics First; Fancy Stuff Later
It’s great to be able to master those tricky shots that you’ve seen the pros hit. It’s also good to push your boundaries and expand your playing parameters and horizons.
But before you can master the technical stuff, you gotta be able to do the basics correctly.
The shooter’s adage “aim small, miss small” is also perfectly applicable to the driving range.
By paying close attention to your grip, posture, alignment and position over the ball (all the small things), you will be building up the muscle memory that will, ultimately, make these things automatic.
Set yourself some target lengths and different points of aim. Pro golfers set themselves a series of goals for each stint on the driving range. These might include:
- Simulating a fairway by picking a long and a short point on the range and aiming to land balls between these points.
- Setting a tally of drives and trying to hit 100% successfully.
- Hitting a few to the left, a few to the right and a few down the centre. Count how many balls land where you want them to, then try to beat your personal best.
- Play an imaginary game against yourself using all of the clubs in your bag. Pick a favourite club for your starting shot, then run through your entire set. If you mess up with one club, start again from scratch with your fave club.
Mix and Match
How many rounds of golf have you played with only one club? The answer is most likely none...unless you’re Happy Gilmore!
The driving range isn’t the place for just senselessly hitting balls with the same club. You need to mix and match your clubs to get a feel for how each one hits the ball, and the resulting flight path.
If you prefer to use a driver to tee off, try using a few different clubs to hit a specific target or point on the range first, then use your driver last.
This will give your on-course game some depth and allow you to use clubs other than drivers on difficult tees that require a different approach.
Use the Tech to Monitor Your Progress
There are plenty of apps and gadgets available these days to monitor and evaluate your swing, your flight paths and your hit/miss ratios.
These virtual tools are a great way to give you insights into how your game is progressing, and help you to make changes to your method where necessary.
The really good apps allow you to set up a virtual golf bag, customized with your own selection of favorite clubs, and then track your performance with each shot of each club. Endless hours of high-tech fun!
Drive Your Life Away
By taking a few simple steps to prepare for, and plan out your intentions, your time on the driving range can be so much more than simply hitting endless balls down random tracks.
And if you still need to work out a bit of aggression afterwards...just cry “Fore” and let slip!