When Ben Hogan was asked for the secret of his success, he used to say, "It's in the dirt." Hogan meant the dirt under the grass on the practice range. Hogan and other pros spend countless hours on the range honing their game. But mindlessly belting out balls can be counterproductive and boring. There are ways to liven up your time on the practice range and improve your game at the same time.
Vary the Club
Instead of bashing driver after driver on the range, simulate real course conditions. As noted golf teacher Mark Rummings writes at the STACK website, this can help cure the problem of many golfers -- the inability to take your game from the driving range to the course. Since you rarely use a club, other than a putter, twice in a row during a round, treat the driving range the same way. Hit a driver, then an 8-iron, then a wedge, then another driver, then a hybrid, and so on. If the terrain on the driving range varies, hit from different types of lies. You'll build real confidence from this range drill.
Play the Course
Another range drill that helps you transfer your driving range practice to the golf course is to imagine playing a specific course. Imagine being on your home course or a course you play often. Tee it up on the first hole with the same club you normally use and then continue "playing the course." You can even find a yardage book or illustrations of holes of a famous course, such as Pebble Beach or Bandon Dunes, and simulate a round without paying for either greens fees or transportation expenses.
Work on Your Pre-Shot Routine
The pre-shot routine for a pro is sacrosanct. You'll see them line up behind the ball and visualize the shot, align their feet and body precisely to the target, and use a movement such as a waggle of the club or a forward press with their hands to start the back swing smoothly. If you haven't developed a pre-shot routine, the range is the place to do it. Everyone has their own version of a pre-shot routine -- the most important thing is to be consistent and use it for every shot.
A good short game is a key to scoring well. Phil Mickelson has a short-game drill that can help every golfer. Mickelson places towels at 10-yard intervals from 40 to 140 yards from the green. The object is to hit shots that drop directly onto the towels. This enables you to feel how hard you need to hit shots at various distances. Find a range that will allow you to drop towels or an empty football field and start honing your approach shots to the green.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.