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I have worked with many different types of students and they all ask the same question: “Why do I hit the ball better at the driving range than on the course?” How many times do we hit a bad shot on the golf course, drop another ball and then hit the shot of the day. Another comment I recently heard at one of our Florida Golf Schools was: “I wish I could take a second shot all the time. My second shots are always much better.” There is in fact a reason why we always seem to improve when we take that mulligan.
The reason is that many of us do not practice with a purpose. Every time I go to the local driving range to work on my game, I see someone hitting driver after driver trying to hit the ball farther and straighter. When I surveyed some of the customers hitting balls at the range at one of our Orlando Golf School locations, many of them said they were working on their driving swing. In golf it is important to remember that we have the same swing with every club, unless were working on our short game. We need to keep in mind that the only thing we need to change when hitting different clubs is our ball position. We need to practice how we play and have a good pre-shot routine.
It doesn’t help our game if we are focused on the course and have a great pre-shot routine but then go to the driving range and hit 100 drives without having any focus, pre-shot routine or target in mind. I discussed with many of my students how often they practice before they play and it was a split. Some of my students hit around 30 balls before they go to the course and some hit none. I recommend for the player who gets to practice before they play to start with some stretching and then work with a wedge and progress to a driver to get warmed up. The player who does not practice before they play should start with some stretching and then warm up with a few drives.
If the driver is the first club you hit at the course it should be the club you start your practice session with. The whole theory behind practicing with a purpose is to make the time we have to work on our game valuable and more similar to the time we spend on the course. A great way to work on our game at the range is to have a great pre-shot routine.
The next and last important piece to practicing with a purpose is to simulate golf on the range. Take a score card from a course that you have played and play the course while you’re practicing. Example; the first hole on your home course is a par 4, Hit your driver for your first shot, (remember have a fairway, green or target in mind for each and every shot.) On your next shot, hit one of your irons. The next hole might be a par 5: For your first shot hit your driver, next shot hit a 3 wood and then a pitch shot with your wedge.
By practicing with a purpose you will start shaving shots off your game and understand why you hit the ball better at the range than at the course.
PGA Award Winning Teaching Professional
VP, National Golf Schools