Whether you are a complete newcomer to golf or an experienced pro, one of the places you will visit often in your golf journey is the driving range. This guide contains the key driving range tips you need to know. We have included key points of driving range etiquette, some driving range practice tips and even a guide for the beginner golfer. Once you develop a solid driving range practice routine, you will be on the road to better golf.
Driving Range Etiquette
Watch Your Divots! This is probably the biggest mistake most people make on a driving range and it creates nightmares for the groundskeeper and staff! Your divots should be in a straight line. You do this by hitting your first ball near the front of your teeing area. After you hit, place your next ball right behind the divot from your last shot. When you are done with your driving range session, your divot pattern should be linear, not scattered or concentrated as shown in this great image from the USGA.
Remember - linear divots keep the range in better shape for everybody!
Watch Where You Are Walking - Never walk too close behind somebody else's hitting area! A wicked backswing could easily break your jaw. Pay close attention as you walk up to your hitting area and do not walk too close to the other golfers.
Wait patiently but don't hover - Sometimes, especially on the first nice spring day, a practice area can be packed. Try to form an orderly line so that it’s first come first served. Of course, sometimes people will start to hover over other golfers who are currently hitting. Try not to be that person.
Always use the designated hitting area. The grounds crew has marked the hitting area of the day for a reason. They need to alternate hitting areas to allow the ground time to heal. And sometimes when it’s too wet, we all have to hit off the mats.
Aim Towards the Front - Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? It never fails, however, that one guy will be trying to hit that perfect 72 yard shot to the flag that is 45 degrees to the left of his hitting area! Don’t be that guy. If you need to go for that flag, move hitting areas. Nobody wants to have balls crossing in front of them.
Don't be a Ball Hog - If people are waiting, limit your session to one bucket. Practice is all about quality, not quantity. Hitting two buckets is just going to give you blisters. Make the most out of each shot and you will make the most of your lesson. “Perfect practice makes perfect”. See below for tips on how to practice better.
Keep it Down - We all get frustrated on the range sometime. After you’ve hit the 6th worm-burner, don’t swear, yell, or raise your voice. You’re scaring the kids 3 bays down. Plus, getting frustrated never seems to improve your golf game - we have learned that lesson the hard way many times!
Don’t be a chatterbox - Once in a while you hit that perfect shot on the range. We know you want to tell the guy next to you that you just put on the flag from 150 yards. Guess what? He doesn’t care! He also can’t help you fix your massive slice. Some light banter is great. Deep conversations are meant for a different venue.
Don’t be this parent - Yes, it can be a bit boring watching your junior golfer take a lesson or hack away endlessly. Bring a book, don’t share the town gossip on your cell phone for all the range to hear.
Let the Music Play - Enjoy some tunes while you're hitting? We do too! In fact, studies show it helps keep your swing in rhythm. That said, use a headset. Nobody else wants to hear your Michael Bolton playlist.
This isn't Whack-a-Mole - Don’t aim for the poor guy picking up balls. The ball-picker is not a target! Yes, it might seem like a fun challenge to hit a moving target but that’s not golf! Go try skeet shooting. Leave the poor kid alone. He does have a cage protecting him, but let’s not put it to the test.
Don’t Ask For or Give Out Advice - The person next to you may or may not know more about a proper swing than you do. In fact, since you are reading our articles, you probably know more than they do! Of course, that doesn't mean they want you to tell them how their grip is all wrong.
Seek Professional Help - Most golf driving ranges and practice facilities will have a teaching professional available. If you are a new golfer, you should get lessons before you ingrain those bad habits. If you are struggling with a part of your game, a golf pro can give you the right advice and drills to improve. So go see your range pro. They have to make a living too!
Practice with the Rake Too - It’s a great idea to get as much practice as possible hitting out of the sand - if you play golf regularly, you will be spending a lot of time in the 'beach'. For quick guidance on how to hit a sand shot, check out this guide. And when you are done practicing, please make sure to rake the sand for the next golfer.
Mind Your Chips - Only chip in designated areas. Some practice facilities do not have a short-game area, so you will have to keep your chipping to the range. Some have practice greens that you can chip on, others ban chipping. Look for any signs - it should be well marked. If you do chip to a practice green, make sure to fix any ball marks you make.
Driving Range Practice Tips
Have a Plan! - As the great golfer Benjamin Franklin once said*, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail". Each and every time you go to the range, you should know what you want to work on and how you are going to go about it.
Creating the right plan requires you to know your weaknesses. Are you just learning the game? Is your short game giving you trouble? Are too many of your drives finding the rough? Are you working on some aspect of your game with an instructor? Below are some of our favorite plans of attack on getting the most out of your practice.
*As far as we know, Benjamin Franlin was not a golfer, but the quote is still important!
The Generalist Driving Range Plan (1 hour) - If your goal is overall improvement, or if you are just learning the game, you should probably work on all three aspects of the game.
- Phase 1: Chipping and Putting. Spend 20 minutes chipping and putting. Yes, everyone wants to get out to the range and swing out of their shoes with the driver. Save that for the end. Get started with the place where you can make up the most stroke - near the green! Make your practice real. Pretend you just missed the green and need to get down in two. Chip it close. Putt it in. Repeat.
- Phase 2: Wedges and Irons. Start with your highest lofted wedge. Pick a target (it doesn't have to be a flag, it can even be another ball out on the range). Hit 3 shots as close as possible. Move through your irons hitting 3 shots until complete. Do this for 20-30 minutes.
- Phase 3: Woods and Driver. Now that your body is fully warmed up, swing away! Again, don't just swing, pick some landmarks that represent the left and right edge of your favorite fairway. Strive to keep the ball in between them. Keep track of how many times you were successful.
The Putter Mastery Plan - Want to dramatically lower your score? Focus on your putting! The average PGA tour player is just under 30 putts per round. The average normal golfer is just over 40! You could bring your handicap down by a couple points by working on putting drills for a 1 hour session each week. Our favorite plan is to layout a course on the putting green. Your goal is to average no more than 2 putts per hole on the course. If you fail, repeat the course. You'd be surprised how focused you will be on that 3-foot putt if missing it means you have to do the whole thing again!
The Chipping Game - One of the best practice drills to help with your chipping is the ladder drill. Pick a whole in the middle of the practice green. Now hit a chip so that the ball stops just on the green on the line towards the selected hole. Hit your next chip so that the ball goes farther than the last. Keep hitting balls until you hit one that goes past the hole. How many chips you were able to complete is your score for that round. Give yourself a bonus point if your last chip went in the hole. Great game for two people practicing together.
The Alignment Tune-Up - Just like your car's tires, sometimes your golf game needs an alignment check. Every few practice sessions, you should focus on alignment. Take aim at a target. Hit your shot. Without moving your feet after the shot, lay the shaft of your club against the back of both heals. Step back and look where the club shaft is pointing. Were you aimed at the target? It is amazing how often even great golfers can get a bit sloppy in their alignment.
What's Your Favorite Drill? We plan to do a future article on practice drills. If you have a good one, let us know in the comments!
First Time At The Driving Range?
You can find your closest driving range by searching “driving range near me” in a search engine or by calling local public golf courses, many of which have practice facilities attached to them. You can also look for a Topgolf, which is a newer, high-tech practice area.
When you get to the range, look around. There will either be an attendant or a ball-dispensing machine. If there is an attendant, tell them that you would like to hit a bucket of balls and specify a size. Usually, buckets of balls come in small (30-50 balls), medium (50-80 balls) and large (80-150+ balls). For most beginners, a medium bucket will be plenty. If there is no attendant, look for the ball-dispensing machine. Most modern machines take a credit card, but some might still use tokens (which you would need to buy from an attendant). The number one thing to remember – PUT A BUCKET UNDER THE DISPENSER BEFORE YOU PUT IN YOUR CREDIT CARD OR TOKEN! Else, you might have a mess of balls flying everywhere.
Follow the signs to the hitting area. On rainy days, you may be required to hit off the mats only, otherwise, you hit in the designated area. Hitting bays are typically separated by markers. Please set up in your own area between markers and you are ready to begin!
Most ranges have a teaching professional on staff. Feel free to ask them for quick guidance. They’ll be happy to help get you set up, but if you want lessons you will have to pay them. They need to support themselves too!
Did we miss anything? Leave us suggestions in the comments.
Too cold to go to the range? Check out our guide to home golf simulators.