Don’t try to measure your distances on the range

The only way to improve your distance control is to actually play

by Mike Davies

People sometimes wonder why I don’t spend more time on the range, since I’m always talking about how I struggle to improve my game.

Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, my full swings aren’t where I need the work. Sure, I’d like to know whether or not my slice is going to spontaneously show up off the face of my driver (the only club that still seems to have it, for some reason). But overall I’m pretty happy with my game until I get to the green (see this article for my actual issue).

The second reason I don’t spend much time on the range, is because you can’t work on the area I’d like to improve on in terms of my full shots there. The thing I need to work on (the thing that all golfers need to work on if they want to get better) is distance control, and a recent experiment by Golf Digest says that you might as well not bother trying to get your distances figured out if you’re using range balls.

Golf Digest collected 20 balls from various driving ranges and sent them to the lab to test them with a swing robot. Care to guess what happened?

Yeah… swinging at 93 mph with a 7-iron, hitting each one five times, the balls flew anywhere from 165 to 215 yards.

How, exactly, is one supposed to judge which club to pull out of their bag when they’ve found out that they hit a ball somewhere between 165 and 215 yards with an 8-iron on the range?

Extrapolating (very generally) from the results, you would also find out that you hit your 8-iron between 150 and 200 yards, and your 9-iron between 140 and 190, and a pitching wedge between 125 and 175 or so.

If you were 175 yards out, you’d have three clubs (at least) to choose from, swinging at the same speed.

Golf is hard enough as it is without adding this confusion to the mix.

Warm up on the range before your round, certainly. Use it to stretch your golf muscles so you don’t pull something while you’re out on the course. But don’t bother trying to figure out how far you’re hitting each club.

The only way you can do that is to play a round, make mental notes (or even actual notes) and then play some more, until you just know how far you’re hitting each club in your bag.

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