This might seem like a no-brainer. Go to the range, buy a bucket of balls, and whack away. And while this might be what you see other people on the range doing, putting some thought into the clubs you focus on and just how you practice at the range might help you improve your game.
So what should you be doing at the range? Well I think of it like this: ideally, you want to get a consistent shot that you can use while you’re on the course. So, if you’re looking to replicate your range shots out on the links, it only makes sense that you should practice like you’re on the course. Yes, this is going to slow you down, so if you’re trying to hit 200 balls in a couple hours you might not reach your goal, but practicing on the range (like almost everything in golf) is about quality over quantity.
How exactly do you do that?
Think about this, you have a target for each shot you hit when you’re playing on the course right? That means when you’re on the range you should also have a specific target in mind for your shots. Thankfully, the range wants you to do well too so they’ve likely set up pre-made targets for you. Everything from greens to yardage markers and even unintentional things like trees or hills are all things you can use as a target. This is important because if you aren’t aiming for something specifically, then how can you evaluate how well your shot went?
Jumping off of this last point, it’s easy to get caught in the trap I call “end justify the means”. What this means is you shouldn’t only be concerned with where your ball lands but also how the ball travels to that spot. This is important because golf courses contain sand traps, trees, water, and a million other things that can get in the way of your ball flight which you don’t see when you’re practicing on the range. In order to practice this at the range take a second before you hit each shot and visualize how you want the ball to travel in the air. This is an important part of my pre-shot routine and is something I would recommend every golfer implements in their own personal per-shot routine.
This takes me to an area that isn’t so cut and dry. Should you go through your entire pre-shot routine before every shot on the range (check out the Grateful Golfer’s video on YouTube for an example)? Staying consistent with what I’ve said above you would expect a yes, but this is where I make an exception to the rules. Even though I do have a pre-shot routine that I use during my rounds and on the range, there are times where I choose to skip parts of it. Here’s why:
The range is a place for me to practice, especially if there’s something that I don’t like with my swing. This is where I go to iron out all of the kinks. After a swing I almost always have thoughts about how it went, (good, bad, otherwise) and I like to use these thoughts to help me shape the small changes I make in my swing. Say I’ve been pushing the ball off of the tee lately, I might go to the range and spend some time trying to work out a solution. If I finally change something and it works, I usually try to hit a few more shots like that while the thought is still fresh in my head, just so I make sure it’s a consistent fix.
This is why I skip pre-shot routines at the range occasionally. For me, the entire point of having a pre-shot routine is to help quiet my mind and help me focus on the shot, instead of my mechanics. But if mechanics are what I really need to think about for the next shot, sometimes it’s best to skip out on my routine. Now, once I’ve corrected what I need too and it’s started to be ingrained in my memory, I’ll go back to doing my entire pre-shot routine to help simulate a shot I would have to hit during an actual round. This method is perfect for me; I don’t lose track of the mechanical fixes I’m working on, and I can continue to think without interruption from a pre-shot routine. Once I’ve decided on how to move forward, I’ll put it all together so my routine feels natural during my round.
All these tips are great but t the end of the day, how you practice on the range is up to you. I like to start with my “scoring clubs”, things like 8 irons and below first and then work my way up to longer irons and eventually woods, but your method will be unique to yourself. One thing I would recommend you consider though, is focusing on not just what you practice, but how you practice during your time at the range. You’ll get more out of your time (and your money, because you won’t hit as many balls as quickly) if you practice the way you play your rounds, no matter how you do it. And so, until next time golfers, focus in on your practice, and lets hit the range!