A lot of golfers automatically revert to the driving range for the majority of their practice, but it is easy to end up just hitting shots without much intent and simply going through the motions. In my opinion, the cause of this behavior can be attributed to boredom and a lack of ideas to keep things interesting.
A lack of focus or real intent during your range session will cause you to lose the idea of what you are actually doing, leading to the development of bad habits which will stay around far longer than just this session…trust me!
This article will give you 10 drills which you could incorporate into your driving range sessions to get more value and improve your skills.
1. Use Alignment Sticks
This is such a simple one but it is so important to allow your game to develop. Just by checking your alignment for the first five minutes (or even just five to ten balls to get yourself calibrated) of each session you will keep on top of that one fundamental golf skill.
You can put a stick down between your feet and the ball to check your foot alignment and also give you a visual aid to look down at once you have addressed the ball. You can also hold the stick up across your shoulders and get a feel for where your shoulders are aiming, same for the hips. If you have a friend with you, then ask them to hold the stick and tell you how your alignment looks. If you have two alignment sticks, you can also keep an eye on your ball position by placing the stick through your legs at the point where the ball should be for that club.
2. Glove Under the Armpit
This drill requires that you place a golf glove under the armpit of your lead arm. The aim is to make a three-quarter swing without the glove falling out. Some people can manage to make full swings like this, but that is a very advanced level of connection and isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone. If you are successful in doing the three-quarter swing then you have a solid connection between your arm and torso rotation. A lot of amateurs do not use their body enough in the rotation, so the glove would fall as they have to separate their arms from their body in order to complete their backswing.
If you do struggle with this connection, then trying out this drill will be a bit of an eye opener for you. When you first make a swing (I would recommend slowly to start with!) where you are really trying to keep the glove up, you will realise just how much your upper body should be turning during your backswing. The beauty of this is that you have a stronger connection between arms and body, which is easier to time consistently, but you might also be able to create more power with this position as your shoulder turn will be far more substantial.
3. The club-sandwich takeaway drill
I really enjoy this drill as it is so visual and easy to transfer the feeling onto the course as well. All you have to do is place a golf ball right behind your club at address. So effectively your clubhead is sandwiched between two balls. Now you just do your takeaway while trying to push the ball away for as long as possible (note: not as far as possible, but for as long as possible). This is a great drill to encourage a wider takeaway and keep the club ‘in front’ of you.
4. Head cover club path drill
This drill will be particularly useful for you if you struggle with putting too much curve on your ball. A lot of amateurs struggle with a slice (left-to-right for right handers), but this drill is totally applicable to a hook problem as well. The first thing to understand is that an exaggerated side spin is most commonly created by the club path. This means the angle that your club is moving as it makes impact with the ball. An ‘out-to-in’ club path creates a slice and it means that the club is further away from your body as it reaches the ball, and moves towards you as you make impact. An ‘in-to-out’ club path means the club is moving away from as you go through impact. The greater the angle of these moves, the greater amount of side-spin you will put on the ball.
To complete this drill you simply place one of your head covers (soft please!) on the side of the ball which suits your game (inside for a slice, outside for a hook). If you struggle with a slice then I would recommend that the head cover be placed behind the ball slightly so that you get the visual aid, but you don’t whack it on the way through! Once you have things set up, just swing with the only thought of missing the head cover. Let your body react to your new goal and you will begin to understand what it feels like to swing like this. To begin with I wouldn’t worry about the ball flight, but after you have managed to avoid hitting the head cover while also striking the ball decently, then start to check out how much of a difference it has made to the shape of your shots!
The reason that this drill can be so helpful is because it simplifies matters for the amateur golfer. It is not easy to understand the cause and effect of a golf swing, but by placing a head cover on either side of your ball, you allow your body to react to a visual aid. You will find that you are more adept at changing your swing path now because your body wants to avoid the head cover.
5. The Impact Ball
The Impact Ball is my favourite golf training aid. I’m not a big one for training aids, but this one has helped me a lot with my pitching in particular. You may have seen people on the range with a ball placed between their forearms, some use an inflatable ball hanging from a lanyard, some just use a tennis ball, but I have found the Impact Ball to be the most effective. It is a blue and yellow ball with indentations which fit your forearms and it is bigger than these other options. This gives me more feedback for how it should feel when I get this drill right.
The drill encourages you to maintain the angle between your forearms as you make your swing. Doing it for a full swing is not really necessary, to be honest I think it would make things a little too rigid, but it works brilliantly for anything between a 30 yard chip shot and a three-quarter wedge shot. By maintaining this angle between your forearms, you create a much more consistent impact position which will improve your strike consistency considerably. It is also a good way to teach yourself how your body should be rotating in the downswing and through impact. In order to keep the ball between your forearms, you realise that you need to rotate through the shot quite forcefully. Learning to use your body like this will help you to control your spin and flight the ball on a lower trajectory.
If you feel that your wedge shots just pop up in the sky and don’t have much backspin on them, then I would strongly recommend doing a drill like this with an object between your forearms.
6. The ‘Step’ drill
This drill is designed to help you get your weight moving forward through the ball. Some players have a fault where they sit back on their back leg during the downswing, which means they have to ‘flick’ at impact with their hands in order to square up the clubface. This basically means that your timing needs to be spot on, otherwise you can have some big misses. The step in drill encourages you to feel how you should be transferring your weight onto your lead leg in the downswing and then feeling in a balanced position as you follow through.
There are actually a couple of different iterations of this drill (that I know of) so I will give you both and you can figure out which feels best for you. The first would be to stand to the ball as normal, then as you make your backswing you are going to allow your lead foot to shift over to your back foot, so that your feet are basically touching. You can incorporate a little pause at the top here if you like, then you want to synchronise moving down to hit the ball while planting your front foot back to where it would normally be. Clearly this is more of a dynamic physical move than a normal golf shot, so don’t be worried if it takes some getting used to, or you’re struggling to hit the ball properly, just try to concentrate on how it feels when your weight is pushing down into that front foot as you approach the ball.
The second option is to simply start from the top of your backswing, with your feet together at your back foot position, then complete the drill in the same manner. This will feel a bit more like a baseball swing and you may find it easier to maintain your balance doing this one. It’s a great way to get your weight through the ball and should help you to finish your follow through in strong, high position.
7. Starting line alignment stick
This drill will give you a visual aid to encourage the starting line of your shots. While standing behind your ball, you should visualise the line towards your target and then place an alignment stick vertically into the ground about five yards in front of your ball (naturally this drill works best on a grass range that is not too busy!). You can then start hitting shots with the intention of missing the stick on a particular side while having the ball return to the target line.
This is an effective drill to help you with shot shaping and how you can let your body react to an obstacle in the way. You may have had a situation on the course where there was a tree between you and the hole and you had to manoeuvre the ball to reach your target. You will often find that you are perfectly capable of putting the correct spin on the ball without necessarily knowing how you did it technically, you just ‘felt’ it. Well this is a great practice drill to play those sorts of shots more often and then once you are on the course you can pretend that you have that stick in front of you and you need to miss it.
8. Pause drill
The pause drill will help you with your transition from your backswing into your downswing. A lot of players move far too quickly during this portion of their swing and make it excessively difficult to time their body and arm movements, leading to bigger mistakes. With this drill you will practice pausing for somewhere between one and three seconds at the top of your backswing, then completing the rest of your swing. The point is not to hit the ball full distance, so don’t try and lash at it because you feel like you have to create more momentum now. Just be patient, and let your body unwind to create effortless speed.
What this drill will often teach a player, is that with the pause they feel that their downswing is more connected as everything (torso, hips, arms) moves together in a balanced motion. A lot of amateurs struggle with their hips moving far too quickly and leaving their arms lagging behind, which requires an impressive level of timing to execute consistently. Or another fault is that the arms come “over the top” immediately and create a strong out-to-in path, leading to the all too familiar slice.
If you move your hips too quickly, then use the pause to allow your arms to move with your hips, rather than getting stuck behind. If you struggle with the over-the-top move, then try and get your torso and hips moving as soon as you begin your downswing. This way your arms will naturally fall into a better position and you will find that you do not need to try and do that much with your arms or hands as the bigger muscles in your legs and chest will do the work for you.
9. The 9-shot drill
This drill asks you to play nine different types of shots. You need to play a high, medium and low ball flight with a draw flight, a straight flight and a fade flight. Obviously this is aimed at the more advanced golfer, but I promise it is a good drill for a lot of golfers to try. Just because you try to hit all nine shots on the range does not have to mean you are actually able to take them all on the course, but I think it is a fantastic way to tap into the creative part of your golfing ability.
You can complete this drill with any club, also switching up the club is recommended. I like to move around, for example from a high fade to a medium draw and then a low fade, just keeping it quite random.
The most beneficial time to do this drill would be at the end of your session as it will get you in the mindset of playing shots rather than hitting the same shot again and again. As I say, it is for the more advanced golfer if you are really trying to master your skills, but I think this drill is applicable to anyone trying to get around the course with more options.
10. Wedge ladder
If you want to improve your wedges, then you need to improve your distance control. While on the range, you can use the ladder drill to check your carry distances and try to get comfortable from a wider range of yardages. You might have two, three, or even four wedges, but you should also have at least two different swings with those clubs (ie. 75% and full, ideally maybe a half shot and shoulder shot as well). When you develop these options you will hopefully be able to hit your wedges in five to ten yard increments, which you can test on the range by looking at the gap between your landing spots.
Maybe you work with ten yard increments, so you should set aside 15 to 20 balls, and start from maybe 50 yards, then start trying to land the ball at 60, then 70 yards and so on. If you can get better at judging the distance with your wedges then you will definitely start lowering your scores.
It doesn’t have to be super exact but just to develop a better understanding of which club and which length swing will hit the ball 80 yards is a good place to start. It will simplify things for you on the course and give you more confidence as well.
I hope you can find a few drills from this list that would work for you. What I like the most about a lot of these drills is that they are feel based. It is not too technical and you can get some instant gains from a few of them.
When we get these instant gains, it gives us more motivation to continue with a drill and understand what the feeling is, then we are more likely to successfully transfer that to the golf course.
Try not to get bogged down with too many technical thoughts, see if you can find two or three drills which you enjoy doing and then stick with them for a while and see how it impacts your on-course play!