Do you go out on the practice range and hit a bucket of balls and then wonder why you don’t get better at golf? I would guess it is because you are whacking those balls without thinking through why you are doing it.
All you golfers out there will be amazed at how much more quickly you improve if you get a driving range practice plan. A few simple drills beat hitting buckets full of balls any day. And you will even save money, those practice balls do not come cheap
Everything you need to know about the driving range
Before we let you into the secrets of building a practice routine, let’s talk about what you need to know about the driving range.
- You don’t need to worry about what you are wearing, unlike on the golf course there is no dress code.
- You purchase a bucket of balls with which to practice and book a hitting bay. (If you are new try to get a hitting bay at the far end of the range, you are less likely to annoy anyone else if your shots go awry.)
- Pay attention and respect the divot patterns which the range has set up. They are there to help everyone.
- Then get ready to hit the balls down the range.
Etiquette on the driving range
If you read much about golf, then you will have come across some horror stories about lousy range behavior. Shouting into cellphones, swinging the driver near fellow golfers, or standing in front of others are all severely frowned upon. The list of bad behavior is endless. I have to say that it does exist, but in my experience, it is quite rare. If you are concerned about what to do when you go to the range, I would say use common-sense and politeness, and you will be fine. Here are our three golden rules.
- Treat staff with respect, don’t drive balls where they are clearing up the range.
- Be respectful of another golfer’s space, don’t swing your club too near them.
- Be quiet! Turn your cellphone on silent and do not make calls. And whisper the curse words when you mess up.
The three basics: Grip, alignment and hitting the sweet spot
Your grip and your alignment as you swing are absolute basics, as is hitting the sweet spot on the face of your golf club. If you do not get this right a lot of the time, you will not improve your game.
Your golf experience will be frustrating and no fun. If you want to enjoy your golf game, it’s worth practicing these three things until you feel confident.
Gripping the golf club: Get your grip correct
Is your grip too tight?
Spend fifteen minutes on your grip in every practice session until you are happy. It is that fundamental to your game. The first mistake amateurs make is to grip too hard. Often this is because of tension, so the more crucial the shot, the more likely it is you will grip too hard and make a bad shot.
Here is a way to ensure you have a firm but gentle grip every time.
Start with a neutral grip. You can refine this as you get comfortable and familiar with this, but if you start your golfing practice here, you can be sure that you will not fall into bad habits.
This two-minute video explains it simply and quickly.
Run through this and practice. Here is a golf checklist of the main things you need to remember.
Top hand: keep two knuckles in your view
The line of your thumb and hand towards your right shoulder
Bottom hand: Line of thumb and hand towards your right shoulder.
Keeping it all in line: your alignment when you hit the ball
You see your target, that flag over there in the distance, marking where the hole is. You have a ball and a golf club near your feet. Alignment is about matching these things up.
It is the skill of getting your ball, your feet and your club in the right place to give you the best chance of getting the ball as near as possible to that flag.
Why you need to get your alignment correct
If you do not get your alignment right, your ball will veer off to the left or the right, and you will spend most of your time in the rough. That’s no fun. Get your alignment correct, and you will enjoy your golf more.
Getting your alignment perfect for your game is not easy, as it is not always intuitive. Here are some things to try which will get it right for you.
Remember the face of your golf club must aim at the target. That is the first thing to get right. Then line up your feet, so they are parallel to the club face.
Here is a trick of the trade, which is used by many experienced golfers. It can feel challenging, even impossible to align your ball to a distant target. So, make it easier for yourself. Select an object, a clump of grass or a dry patch on the way to the flag and align to that.
Our three-step alignment drill
Start off your alignment practice with this routine:
Lay two golf clubs on the ground, one slightly to the left of your target and one slightly to the right. Make sure they are parallel to each other. (If you want you can get brightly colored, alignment sticks). Some golfers find these a significant advantage as they are so easy to see.
- Put a golf ball at a point just in front of you where you want to aim the shot. Put a golf club or an alignment stick alongside it.
- Stand where you would naturally be to hit the ball. Put another stick down, make sure it is parallel to the first.
- Hit the ball.
Notice how this feels to you. This drill is a great chance to build up your muscle memory. If you get this right, you will hit the sweet spot on the clubface much more often, and your enjoyment and confidence will soar.
Here is a nice little video which shows you two different ways to use alignment sticks to help you hit the ball straight.
The clubface: hitting the sweet spot
Hitting the sweet spot is the holy grail of golf. No-one gets it right all the time, but the more you practice, the better you will get.
The ‘build up slowly’ drill
(Do not go for speed, accuracy is what counts in this practice routine)
- Tee the ball. Take the golf club back to your waist height. Swing through to impact
- If you are still missing the sweet spot, slow things down. Let the club come up to just below waist height. Adjust until you are regularly hitting the sweet spot.
- Once you can do that most times you hit the golf ball, then you can add some speed and some power. Raise the club to a little above your waist. If you are hitting well, keep raising the club, increasing your backswing. Eventually, you will be hitting the sweet spot with a full swing.
Targeted practice routines
I have given you some pointers on working with your grip, your alignment and hitting the sweet spot first here. This is because these skills are so crucial to the game.
You should try to always practice these before doing anything else because they are so vital to the game. Once you are happy with these necessary skills, you can then happily move on to more general practice.
Let’s be clear here. Do not worry, I want you to enjoy your game, you do not need to be perfect at your grip, your alignment and hitting the sweet spot.
The truth is, like everyone else, even the top professionals, you will be working on these basics for as long as you play golf. There is always room to get even better. We are talking about building golf skills, getting to a skill level with which you feel comfortable at the moment. If you feel confident, you can move on to more targeted practice. This is what we are going to talk about now.
My ‘two types of practice’ routine
When you are on the driving range, I recommend that you concentrate on two types of practice.
- Practice to improve one fault in your game
- Practice to improve your overall game
Before you begin each session, choose which type of practice you are going to do today.
You should be aiming to do both on a regular basis, but I would recommend that you do not do both at once. My advice would be to do just one type in each practice session. Set yourself targets and record your results, then you will know how you are doing, and that will motivate you.
Let’s look at each separately.
Practice to improve one fault in your game
I think the best way to explain this is by giving you an example. I have picked a widespread error, a case where you are slicing the ball.
The first step is to prepare before you even leave the house by watching videos such as this.
Then make a checklist of the main points covered in the video. For our example, here is your list:
- Shoulder alignment (stop opening shoulders)
- Straighten club
- Clubhead behind your stance
(Notice how Kendra in this video has a whole bunch of balls at her feet. This is fine when you are practicing just one thing, as she is here). Just hitting shots for the sake of it is not going to improve your game but using lots of balls to work and work on one thing will. Picking one thing and focusing will get that handicap down faster than you would believe, and you need a whole lot of golf balls to do that.
I hope that example has shown you how focusing on one problem in your game can pay off. Whether it is slicing, chunking, hitting the ball fat or any of the other mistakes we all make, you can put them right.
Here are our four steps for success
- Focus on one fault in your game which you know you need to improve. (If you are not sure ask your golfing buddies or book a lesson with a coach to sort this out).
- Do some research before you even leave the house, so you see the experts doing what you aim to do. Watch videos like the one above.
- After watching the video, make a checklist of what you need to do once you are out on the practice range. Write this down as numbered points, so you don’t miss anything out when you are practicing.
- Set yourself a realistic goal for each practice session. This could be getting the ball nearer the green with every shot or hitting the ball straighter by fifty per cent. Spend some time working this out. You need a goal which is achievable but challenging. Revise the target once you are meeting it every time.
Practice to improve your overall game
This is the second sort of practice and is equally important. What you will be doing here is simulating different aspects of a real round of golf. You will be using various shots, just as you will when you play out on a golf course. You will also want to recreate the tension and the ups and downs of the game.
Here are some drills which will raise your game and which you can fit into a busy schedule.
- Using your seven irons
Your seven iron is one of the clubs you will use all the time, so get to use it well. Run through this every time you do your ‘overall practice’ routine.
Tee up, using a long-drive tee
Swing paying attention to your alignment and your grip.
If the ball flies too high or veers off to the left or right, adjust your alignment.
- Same club different distances
Another good general practice is to use the same club to hit different distances. This gives you a much better feel for the club and will improve that essential skill of knowing what club to choose when you are out on the course. Take a five iron and hit two hundred, one hundred and fifty, one hundred and twenty-five and then one hundred yards. Then work up again, with longer distances every time.
- Different clubs same distance
Next, try using different clubs to hit the same target. For example, take a five iron and try to hit the fifty, the hundred and the one hundred and fifty markers. Then repeat using a three iron. This will give you an excellent feel for the different qualities of each of your clubs.
Which club you use for different shots is a central skill in the game of golf. This choice is a very personal thing, which depends on the style of your individual game. If you watch the low handicappers who play near you, notice how confident they are when they pick their clubs.
You can get that certainty for yourself. You can build up the complete confidence to use the perfect club at the correct time if your practice until you know your clubs, as well as you, know your children.
- Vary the speed of your swing
Often when we are starting out, we just hit the ball as hard as we can. Then we learn this is not always the best idea, and we carry on doing it. It feels like fun, but it often doesn’t get you to where you want to be. Controlling the speed of your swing is a skill you will need to acquire if you are ever to become a low handicapper. Try this on as part of your driving range practice:
- Take a driver or a long iron
- Hit a series of shots at a quarter, a half, three quarters and your average speed.
- Repeat over different distances.
- Repeat using different clubs
- Note which works for which clubs
- Try the shots next time you play on the course
- Assess your success
- Refine your practice
- Taking time between your shots
While we are on the subject golf speed, the practice range is a perfect place to get used to taking time between your shots.
Practice taking time between your shots. Get a routine. This is the only way you will stand up to the pressure when you are playing a competitive round. Develop a mental checklist for yourself. My list goes like this:
- Choose your club
- Get your alignment correct
- Target the ball
- Run through your shot in your head
- Take the shot
Driving range practice plan
We hope this golf guide has helped you get the most out of your practice on the driving range. Use your time well by focusing on one of the routines we have talked about here. Keep a record of your practice so you can see how you are improving.
Enjoy your golfing!