Advantages of a practice ground
During my 25 years as a member of the Ladies European Tour competing world- wide one of the most important aspect was the skill transfer of technical and soft skills from the practice ground to the golf course. The “art” of practice is a completely different topic but the location where this occurs can have a bearing on this transfer of skills which requires discipline. I would like to share with you my views in which I believe are a few advantages of the practice ground compared to the traditional covered driving range.
I started my golf at a course with a grassed non covered area which looking back was hugely advantageous, there were certainly fewer driving ranges back in the 1980s compared to the many accessible ranges nowadays so I had little choice! The covered driving range certainly has its place in the development of golf and the player, however I am a fan of the practice bag armed with the commitment and desire to improve, replicating many more of the conditions faced on the actual golf course.
What exactly do I mean? Firstly I see all too often new player’s purchasing 100 golf balls possibly due to a current special offer. PGA Professionals know this is not necessarily the key to success, the effectiveness of the session is one key factor.
There is nothing better than the quality strike from a grassed area with that perfectly positioned divot, providing instant feedback. Many of my clients comment on a central strike “I did not feel as if I even hit that” The mats at a range can disguise that as the club bounces on the mat with the ball still being propelled down the range, which can lift confidence momentarily for that practice duration. The outdoor space provides room for the golfer to work on their routine with little external distraction and plenty of opportunity to change the club selection target and lie of the ball which can sometimes be tricky at a range. When was the last time you encountered a perfectly flat lie each time on your round of golf? Try to build these awkward lies into your database of new knowledge and self learning whilst practicing.
As a youngster I used to hit balls in all weathers which at the time I did not realise the importance, I just loved to be out there! This helped me to develop as a player so when the conditions were poor in an event I was already prepared, which has a profound effect on the mental aspect too. I am not suggesting everyone rushes out to practice in a howling gale accompanied with torrential rain as we all have our own personal goals for playing this wonderful game. This is where the range comes into its own during our seemingly wetter winters, so I would definitely utilise driving ranges for shorter more frequent winter practice sessions which will be based upon technical swing improvements ready for the Spring Swing.
I have no idea how many millions of golf balls I have collected in my time, but many of my clients ask me “Do you have a tractor to collect the balls?” to this I reply ME!! This has taught me my greatest skill which I believe has been lost over the years…Distance control. I used to know to the last yard my club distances especially pitching due to endless counting and pacing of the landing distances of my shots. Now a high percentage of golfers use Distance measuring devices but the problem is they do not necessarily know how far they carry their average shot which can be tricky to work out at a range depending upon the type of golf balls but also to estimate the landing spot due to
I would suggest you head out to a grassed range on a still day placing an identification mark on 5 balls with each of your clubs, discarding any mis strikes whilst finding the average landing area. This is important to reassess each year especially if having purchased any new equipment or making any swing adjustments which results in additional length. These yardages can then be tested at the driving range with the numerous targets on offer which is not always possible on a practice range.
Whichever is your personal preference there is nothing better than a quality practice session in the sun followed by a round of golf on a Summers day on your own or with a friend for company followed by a nice refreshing drink.