Way too many golfers go to the driving range and just mindlessly hit balls. Ball after ball. Out into the range. No purpose. Truthfully, they're kind of wasting their time. While repetition can be helpful to ingrain changes to a swing, not focusing on what you're doing means you're accomplishing very little and the time you're putting in on the range is doing little to help you play better golf on the course.
So, do you want to get the most out of your range time? We have five things you can do on the driving range that will help you actually improve on the golf course.
- Simulate a round of golf: If you're preparing for a round on a specific course -- your home course or somewhere else for an event or competition -- then you can use your range time wisely by playing a simulated round of golf. Start with your tee shot on the first hole, imagining how you would hit the shot to find the ideal spot on the fairway. Then, hit your ideal second shot to that green. Do it again for that hole or move on to the second hole of the course. Play as many simulated holes as you would like. This will help build that mental confidence that you can take the game you need from the range to the first tee. It also helps put you in the right frame of mind for competition.
- Try the 9 Shots with a particular club: Tiger Woods was so successful because not only was he more talented than everyone else, but he also prepared better than anyone else. That included working on hitting the 9 Shots with Hank Haney. If you don't know what those are, imagine a Tic-Tac-Toe board of shots. Starting from the bottom row, you have a low, medium and high shot. Starting from the left, you have a draw, a straight shot and a fade. Practice hitting as many of those shots as you can in a session, focusing on one club at a time. Start with, say, a 7-iron, and try to do it. Over time, you'll develop confidence hitting each of those shots, making you a more dynamic player and preparing you better for anything that comes your way.
- Compete against someone else: If you have a practice partner or someone who's willing to go to the range with you, why not turn range time into a mini-competition? Pick a target and hit toward it. Make it best of three or five or seven, and see who hits the ball closest. Not only does this help executing specific shots -- often less-than-full shots -- but it also simulates the pressure to perform in a round of golf. Learning to cope with that pressure, even with just a drink on the line, is important.
- Go through your pre-shot routine on each shot: When you're on the golf course, you don't just hit ball after ball without going through some kind of routine. You figure out how far you want to hit the ball, you might take a practice swing or two, maybe a waggle, and then you pull the trigger. Why aren't you doing that on the range? After all, you're practicing your whole swing routine, not just the back-and-through portion. So, go ahead and do that routine before each shot. Take a breath. You'll save energy and get more out of each shot.
- Hit less balls before a round: If you're a better player, plowing through a jumbo bucket of balls before your round may not be in your best interest. Instead, go through your warm-up focusing on the clubs you're going to hit on the first hole. Not only will you get warmed up with these swings, but you're focusing energy on a good first-hole performance. Once you feel comfortable with each of those clubs -- maybe 5-7 swings each -- walk away and get to the chipping and putting greens.
The driving range can be a great asset for golfers to improve their games. However, if you're going on the range and hitting balls without a purpose, then you're just wasting time.