Hitting off the mats at a golf range isn’t like hitting off grass in the fairway. Mats have their limitations when practicing—especially when it comes to hitting irons or hybrids. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your game at the range. You can. You just need to make a few changes. With help from some “swing aids,” you can ingrain the feel of a good swing that will help you put a sizeable dent in your golf handicap.
The key to improving at the range is to work on one thing at a time. For example, you can work on grooving a good swing path, stopping coming over the top, or correcting a severe hip slide, but not all three simultaneously. You must prioritize. Work on the most critical first. Work on the others another time. Below are five drills (with golf tips). we use at our golf instruction sessions designed specifically for the range:
1. Improving Your Ballstriking
Many weekend golfers don’t play—or practice—enough to improve their ballstriking. They hit fat and thin shots as well as toe and heel shots all in one round. To stop hitting bad shots line up a series of balls about 15 inches behind the ball you’re addressing and practice hitting shots with out disturbing the series of balls. To stop hitting heel and toe shots, position one ball 3 inches outside the ball you’re addressing and another ball 3 inches inside the ball you’re addressing. Try to hit the ball in the middle without touching the other two.
2. Grooving A Swing Path
Many golfers we see at our golf instruction sessions hit pulls and slices. That’s because they’re using an out-to-in swing path. To cure this fault, set up a ball bucket behind your back foot. Line it up with the heel of your back foot but three inches below the target line. Make sure the bucket is close enough to your foot so you don’t hit it on your backswing. Now hit some balls. This drill teaches you to curve the ball from right to left. If you hit the bucket when swinging, you’ve used an out-to-in swing path.
3. Visualizing Shots
Starting the ball on the correct line is vital. Unfortunately, many players don’t do this. Here’s a drill from our golf lessons that trains you to do this: Balance two buckets—one on top of another—about 5 feet in front of the mat, but directly on the target line. Using a square stance, hit some balls. Train your eyes to see the proper starting line when hitting—just to the right of the two buckets for a draw. On the downswing you should feel as if your right forearm is rotating over to touch your left forearm.
4. Maintaining Posture Through Impact
Overswinging disrupts one’s posture, causing excess body movement and throwing your timing off. To fix this fault, try this drill we use at our golf lessons: Get into your normal stance. Have a friend set up a chair behind you so that the top of the chair just touches your butt. Your goal is to make good swings without losing contact with the back of the chair. Keeping in touch with the chair helps you grove a straighter swing path.
5. Turning Your Hips Correctly
Golfers often slide their hips forward to generate more power. Your hips must turn, not slide forward. To fix this fault, take one of those metal bag stands (or a similar object) and place it touching the outside of your front heel. Now hit some balls. You should be able to make an aggressive swing without causing the metal stand to move forward significantly. It’s okay to bump it slightly when swinging. But if you move it too far forward laterally, you know you moved forward too much.
Hitting balls at the range isn’t quite the same as hitting them off the fairway. But you can still ingrain a swing at the range that delivers power and accuracy using drills (and golf tips) we described above. Developing a powerful, accurate swing will help you break 80 and chop strokes off your golf handicap.