13 Driving Range Tips For Beginners

Dan Gold
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Rote practice

Does that sound familiar? “Oh just hit down and through, not up, your swing will take care of the rest”. If that’s all you ever hear, it’s a good bet you’re going to get frustrated.

Once you understand the swing sequence, you have an idea of what you’re aiming to do and feel comfortable with a driver or other long iron, it’s time to hit some balls.

Where? At your golf course, during practice time at your club, or even at the driving range.

Here’s what you should do (and what you shouldn’t):

{1}. Start by hitting some seven iron shots and get a feel for your swing.
{2}. Start hitting some balls with varying iron lengths—ten, nine, eight, seven.
{3}. Swing your iron freely and hit it with confidence. Once you have some confidence, mix in some practice swings and chip shots.
{4}. Try to hit a shot that is slightly away from your target to learn how to shape your shot with your iron.
{5}. Hit some balls with a wedge.
{6}. Practice hitting a few short putts.

Situational practice

Beginners, for the most part, don’t have an adequate bag of tricks from which to select, so a lot of their practice will be situational and shot-dependent. This means stroke practice is pushed into a lower priority.

However, it is important to keep the stroke in mind when practicing. That’s why it’s imperative for beginners to practice all situations.

When you’re working on your strategy, you should envision the different situations that could present themselves and come up with a plan for each of them. Most beginners don’t do this as they have too many other things they’re thinking about.

Pick four or five different shots to work on and practice them in different situations until you have them down. If you’re able to establish your basic game plan early, you can spend more time in the future working on your game plan.

This will establish a solid foundation and will avoid you from having to pick everything up as you go. While you’ll never be a good golfer without a good set of fundamentals, you’ll be an infinitely worse player with poor fundamentals.

Set a series of goals for yourself. Once you reach a goal, figure out a new way to challenge yourself and then repeat the process.

Tip #1: Putt one-handed with your lower arm

Relaxed and your forearm perpendicular to your upper arm to create a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Most amateurs have a gaping cup at the top of the backswing on their driver—or rarely get there, for that matter.

Tip #2: Develop a solid repeatable takeway

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is having too much clubhead speed on the downswing. This is typical of most short game shots. It becomes a major problem on your short game as well.

What happens is when you try to attain a high swing speed you will “load up” your wrists and forearm at the top of the swing. This will result in a very weak take away.

Your takeaway should be under control. Hit several balls and you will feel your take away improve.

Eventually you will start to feel a smooth flow of energy from your setup through your backswing and into the take away. It should feel like you are pushing the ground away from you.

This feeling indicates a good solid take away. Most amateur players try to swing the club back too fast. They then try to make up for the lack of speed on the downswing via wrist action.

To develop a solid repeatable take away – you’ll use a drill to help with this. Hit several balls while concentrating on your setup position. Concentrate on being so still at the top of the swing you feel glued to the ground.

The second the ball leaves the tee, fire the club straight at the target. “Fire” the club straight at the target, not at the ball.

Drill: Bench Drill

Setup: Simple lie using pro taper drivers. Pro Taper Epoxies and Leopolds should be the focus. This is a good drill if you don’t have a large variety of clubs.

Progression: After 5 minutes of grip and tempo exercises, this will be a good drill for you to practice the fundamentals of the short game. Start with 100-yard distances and shallow pitch shots. Make sure you are creating good contact. When you make contact, you want to make sure contact is made between sole and turf.

Drill: Mop Drill

The Mop drill is a great drill for teaching players how to approach the ball properly. It is also great for activating the right muscles. To start the Mop drill take the grip in one hand and push down on the top of the club.

On the ground should be a towel, which mimics the patch of grass the golfer wants to tackle. On the towel, place a ping pong ball. The ball represents the pin and the goal is to get the ball in the pocket of the towel with the club.

The ball cannot hit the ground or any part of the towel. In order to do this properly, you will need to get under the ball and make a proper swing to reach the ball. When the golfer is in the correct position, they will be ready to make contact with the ball. If all goes well, the ball should make it to the pocket of the towel. This drill helps with the swing plane and an overall stance of the player.

Tip #3: Change your target from time to time

On one hand, you can continue throwing at a target you are familiar with. On the other hand, if you can see the water sprinklers from your distance, try hitting those.

It is perfectly fine to do either, but if you want to keep improving your game, you’ve got to change your target from time to time. Your goal should be hitting those sprinklers, even if it doesn’t happen today.

Drill: 21 And Done

I cannot think of a more annoying word or phrase associated with golf than Driver-Hook-Swing-Putter. This is for three reasons. First, golfers who try to grab contact with long irons are missing a huge opportunity to achieve greater distance with their irons. Second, the most common way this sequence is used is off short par 3s, where the golfer is trying to reach the green in two shots. For most novice and even intermediate golfers the tee shot has a strong tendency to leave the targeted landing area. Third, the connection between the drill and the desired outcome is usually missing.

The purpose of the drill is to give the player a chance to practice the correct progression, the sequence of events that leads to a laser shot and a way to spot any leaks. The user of the drill needs to have faith that it can work, i.e. that the knowledge from the drill can lead to a better result. It is important that the performer of the drill is able to see the flight of his or her shots, and get instant feedback on distance and accuracy.

It is generally not as easy as it sounds. To be good at this you need to be accurate on the shorter distances. A big mistake is not to shoot enough balls, meaning you don’t get enough chances to practice.

Tip #4: No more outside-in swings

Inside-out balls.

Many golfers in average, especially new golfers, swing the club from outside to inside. The outside-to-inside intention has its foundation in a very significant swing flaw that is often seen in beginner golfers. As you pull the club back, you start by going away from the ball.

After a few backloops, you begin to swing the club towards the ball.

In our previous example, if you are a beginner golfer with an outside-to-inside takeback swing, you may have fallen into the trap of swinging the club towards the target from outside-in.

When you swing from the outside, the club will be turned such that the toe (bottom part of your club) points to either left or right when you have reached the top of the swing.

For the drive and the most powerful shot in golf, the backswing must remain inside-to-outside.

Another problem in swinging from outside-in is the limbers of the club swing such that the low point of your swing is out to the direction of your toes instead to the left.

Again in order to swing the club from the inside, your backstroke must be inside-to-outside.

Drill: Open Your Mind To A Closed Stance

It is often said that the best prediction of how a golfer will play is to watch him practice. This is especially true when you are struggling to break 80 and your drives are still flying left and right. Each time you go to to tee off your first thought might be, “please steer left, please steer left, please steer left.”

It doesn’t work that way.

For the beginning golfer the best way to break 80 is to practice to see your drives hit the fairway. The more you see, the more you’ll believe and eventually start hitting straight drives. But the most important part of this drill is to understand that you need to adjust your golf stance.

If you’re a beginner looking to improve your golf game, take the time to learn a new and easy way to hit great drives then make sure you see it in action at the driving range.

Photo Credit: Steve Collicott

Tip #5: Play no favorites when chipping

If you want to know the secret to hitting the greens in the world’s toughest courses, then you should start chipping and pitching.

Chipping and pitching allow you to hit the green from places where others usually just chip out and pitch out. The main advantage of this is that it’ll allow you to use yet another green in each hole!

This is where the secret lies. Chipping and pitching not only help you use another green, but they also increase your range of play, which results in a higher birdie percentage.

You should not play favorites when chipping. Just because you love a certain club it doesn’t mean that you’ll master the skill of chipping with it.

That’s a surefire way of missing the green. Try chipping with all of your clubs until you find which club is best for chipping.

Drill: Use Them All

For most golfers, the driver is the ultimate weapon. It is the club that will get them to reach that coveted green in regulation. And this is where things tend to go downhill for average golfers. After some of the greatest success in their golf game, they begin to focus too much on the driver. They invest in their driver’s power, and if they are able to hit it a great distance, they begin to lock the clubface and over-swing, losing all the control that they previously possessed.

One secret that all great players hold in common is that they use all of their clubs to their fullest extent. They are proficient with their wedge, and they are able to enjoy the control and accuracy that it provides them. They are able to work the ball with their irons.

They understand that if they hit every club poorly, they are breaking the scoring code. They are hitting one poor shot that is essentially, denying their team. By using your entire bag, you will have a better understanding of your game and overall greater control.

Tip #6: Learn to let go

One thing that most surprised me was that there were no golfers who were visually aligned in the same manner. I thought an expert would have great visual alignment, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, when I compared alignment visual charts of a beginner to the pros, they were basically opposites. Why is that?

Conventional wisdom says that your eyes should focus at the spot where the ball is going to land. If you’re concerned about specifics like club face angle or grip, you can line them up behind the ball.

Where do you look? Wherever you can hit the ball perfect. So, keep that in mind.

Again, anxiety can wreak havoc on what is perfect. I’ll tell you what I do before making a swing. I line up behind the ball and look at the target. If I have an image of what I want to accomplish, I’ll repeat my visualization, and then I make my swing.

The best visualization in the world is visualization. So, what you see you can hit. The better you can see the ball coming off the club face, the better you can hit it. So the image of you hitting a perfect shot, the better the shot you’ll make.

Drill: Baby Steps To Letting Go

It's easy to understand why kids take golf lessons.

They have no idea what they're supposed to do with a golf club or ball, so they make a mess of things at first. Fixing their problem is the job oftheir instructor. Taking lessons is the only way to get better.

You have no excuse not to practice your drills.

Put a club in your bag so you never waste a minute when you're on the course.

Most of all, don't fret over every little thing — a lesson teaches you to fix that. Just keep hitting and keep walking. Slowly, you will progress toward the ball.

Tip #7: Hit it where you are aimed

When you are hitting your driver it is important to hit it where you are aimed. If you don’t aim right, you are going to hit the ball off line. If you know you are hitting it off line, you should hit it softer and work on your aim. If you are hitting it off line and don’t realize it, then you should add some more power to your swing. This will help you to hit the ball straight.

But how do you get your aim right in the first place? It can be frustrating for two reasons. First, you know that you are hitting it off line, and you are trying to work out why. Second, you know that you’re not so good at aiming and so it can take a long time to really nail your aim.

So how do you get it right?

Practice.

Find your own range and practice. You may not hit the ball as far as you would like, or you may not be hitting the ball 100% of the time, but you will have honed your aim and will start to get out of your own way.

Drill: Control Your Arm

Tip #8: Sand can be your friend

Your local golf driving range is a great place to practice club selection. At first, focus on how far you hit each club within a given angle. Choose just a couple of clubs that work well. Then hit a bucket of balls with one club, then go to the next one or two when you get tired or bored. Never worry about how far you hit it. If you’re just starting out, you’ll be surprised how far you can hit the ball. Focus on the experience and specifically, how you can feel the ball come off the club face and how it sounds.

Many golfers make the mistake of keeping their clubs in the bag when they go to their local driving range. The range can be a great place to diagnose a few mistakes you’re making. Driving range balls will help you see how you’re hitting the ball, it’ll help you learn how far to hit the ball and in what direction. Some say the range is the ultimate place to get better.

When I was younger, my coach would want me to figure out wedge distances of 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards. I hated it at the time, but now I wouldn’t be without that skill.

Drill: Dollar Up, Dollar On, Dollar In

Place two vaguely cylindrical objects about 2 feet apart. Hit shots from an open stance to the right side of the objects. On shots to the right, keep your left hand on the clubface, or dollar-up. On shots to the left, keep your left hand on the grip/handle, or dollar-on. Finally, on shots to the middle, place the heel of your hand on the clubface, or dollar-in.

Tip #9: Hold your horses

When learning to hit for the first time, if you use too much power, your swing will get out of control and you’ll often over-hit the ball.

The lesson here is to take it slowly. Don’t worry about trying to hit the ball a long distance.

What’s much more important is that you understand how to control your swing, how to handle the club and how to hit a tee shot.

Drill: Say No To Parallel

I like the idea of hitting parallel balls (where one is left of target and one is right of target) to learn to hit to the correct location.

I just think it’s too much work to get my students around all the balls that need to be moved to make it happen.

Instead, I like to play a simple drill where we take a series of balls and hit down the line from left of target to right of target, and then down the line from right of target to left of target.

Instead of chipping the ball in between the clubs, I’d encourage you to hit the ball out to the side from where you stand (knowing that you are going to catch it on the fly).

This accomplishes the goal of getting you to start hitting to the proper side of your target without moving things around, and provides you with more practice hitting down the line.

Make Sure You Have At Least Three Balls

Always ensure you have a minimum of three balls in your pocket. As a beginner, three is really the bare minimum number of balls you should carry.

Trust me, it’s easy to lose a ball out there, and you will get a lot more frustrated if you lost as few as once than you would if you lose a ball when you have three in your pocket.

Tip #10: Putt for perfection

It’s nearly impossible to get a read on the green on a first putt, especially on a fast, undulating green. So take, one putt, then read on the green from middle green. Then go back to the pin and putt again, this time aiming for the middle of the cup. This way you will know each putt’s exact break.

When you are putting, remember to focus on the target. Look at the hole, not the ball. Use a firm stroke and feel for the back of the cup before you make your putt.

Drill: Go The Distance

For this drill, you’ll need to hit six balls. First, hit two balls with no range finder.

Second, hit two balls with the range finder set on 150 yards.

Third, hit two balls with the range finder set on 100 yards.

Fourth, hit two balls with the range finder set on 50 yards.

Fifth, hit two balls with the range finder set on 20 yards.

Lastly, hit two balls by estimating the yardage.

Service drills keep your skills sharp. However, don’t let a bad drill do more harm than good. And so, hit balls with the range finder set short to build confidence as well.

This drill is a great way to teach yardage management. You’re going to learn how to set your range finder for very specific yardages and gauge exactly how far you need to hit your ball.

Learning to really rely on your range finder takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of using the range finder to your advantage, it will be tough for the competition to take you down.

Tip #11: Dare to flare for added distance

Flaring is the act of striking your golf ball at an angle to the target line. This helps the ball move farther, i.e. longer.

When struck from a slight angle to the target line, the golf ball will roll in the direction of that angle. Since the ball will be higher and longer, it will have a much greater carry down the fairway.

The only time your ball can be struck at an angle is when you’re on one of those slight slopes on the golf course.

When you’re playing a downhill lie in golf, you want to drive the ball from a little higher, which will in turn give you more yards into the green.

Drill: Develop A Flare For The Long Ball

Most amateurs tend to hit the ball upward or straight without any doubt about where they are hitting the ball. Even though this technique might be effective in a limited range, it won’t be useful if you are playing on a longer tee box.

There are two ways you can play the ball on a long tee box.

You can either hit the ball downward, so that you can get closer to the smaller landing area below the big tee box. You can hit the ball in a sweeping manner with a slight downward angle.

Start with the tee about two inches higher. As you twist your hands back, do it in such a manner that you can make contact with the ball. Try to get the ball as low as possible so that you can play from green to fairway with ease.

Remember that when hitting the kind of shot in the step two, your arms will play a major role in developing the required momentum for you to strike the ball properly. So, try to bend your knees a little and twist your hips as you play the shot.

Tip #12: Time to dial in those wedges

Wedges are a must-have club in your golf bag if you are serious about getting better. The only problem is when you first start using them, it’s hard to trust what you see. And trying to understand how to control spin is confusing.

The good news is that the old adage, “practice makes perfect,” means that you will eventually get the hang of wedges.

One key point to remember is that you will never get yourself in trouble by topping the ball and spinning it back. You would rather lose control of it and spin it forward rather than hit it thin.

With this tip, you are going to increase the number of practice sessions hitting shots with wedges. So it is important to make sure you get a good, clean lie on your wedges when practicing.

Drill: How Many MPH Needed

To Spank A Pro?

If you’re a hacker, the question is how far and how well you can hit the ball. Scoring well before you tee off. You need to know how to hit the ball farther AND straighter than a tour-pro. Let’s take a look at arm-snapping, hip-pumping, and keeping your eyes shut.

If you are the type of person who must…all the time…shot a high score, you might just be able to smack the ball. And if you’re hitting a whole bunch of ball just to make your day complete, you’re in a good place!

If you “want to learn how to hit a great drive” on the range. The lesson you must learn is that the best practice is not the same as the best way to play. Is that you? I’m here to make you a good player who’s not a good practice player.

Tip #13: Be Confident When You Set Out To The Practice Facility

I’m a very self-doubting golfer. By the book, I ought to be a high handicapper. This year, however, I’ve managed to raise both my PGA tour and handicap index by playing as much as I can. My confidence and skill have improved too. I’m now shooting par on a regular basis, which is a remarkable improvement from my past.

The self-doubt creeps back every time I play though. I know that there’s a big difference between my game and the pros on the green and it hits me every time I walk up to the ball. I still have a long way to go, especially if I’m ever going to have any tournaments to play in.

That’s when I take a look at all my fellow players. No matter how much or how little they can hack it, they all go to the driving range with confidence. Although they differ in the skill level, they know how to deal with the club’s and ball’s weight and how to get the most out of them.