When it comes to playing golf, many people find that what they practice on the range does not translate onto the course very well. Some people can look like professionals when they are hitting balls on the range, but when they get onto the course they are hooking and slicing the ball every other shot.
It has been a question that has pestered thousands, if not millions, of golfers over the years: why can’t I hit the ball on the course the way I hit it on the driving range?
This can be a frustrating area for a lot of people and they will search high and low for the answers. While there is no clear-cut solution, there are is a combination of different variables that contribute to this issue that so many golfers struggle with.
What is the difference between the driving range and course golf?
The predominant reason that people are able to perform better on the driving range as opposed to the golf course is because of their mental state. If they are hitting the ball well on the range, they clearly are perfectly able to execute their swing well and achieve great shots. This ability does not just magically disappear when they get out onto the course.
When you are on the driving range, you know that every shot does not count. If you hit a poor shot, you do not have to deal with the consequences. You simply get another ball and hit the shot again. This is not something you can do out on the course unless you hit it out of bounds and have to hit a provisional ball. On the course, when you are about to hit a shot, you will be thinking of areas you should be avoiding, such as the water hazard on the right side of the green or the bunker at the front of it.
You are not focusing on a specific target; you are focusing on where you do not want to go. This often leads to a jittery and nervous swing, which often sees the ball traveling in the very direction that you did not want it to go.
Here are three things you can practice on the course to resolve this:
1. Focus on a small and specific targets
Your mind cannot think in negatives. If you are told to not think about an elephant in a tutu, your mind will invariably think of an elephant in a tutu. The same goes for when you are lining up to take a shot. If you are thinking about not hitting the ball in the water hazard, you inevitably imagine your ball sailing towards the water as you watch on nervously.
This is one of the reasons why you should pick out as small of a target as possible and focus solely on hitting the ball towards it. Anything in the distance that is in line with your ideal shot trajectory is a good target, whether it is a specific tree branch, chimney or pole. When you are lining up to your shot, think about nothing else.
2. Play two balls
If the course is not overly busy, a great way to practice is to play two balls. This is something a lot of the top tour professionals do when practicing on the course.
Hit two balls off the tee. Then, hit two balls from wherever is the worst position and so on until the ball is in the hole. This makes you more comfortable with hitting shots from bad positions and difficult lies, something which cannot be practiced on the range.
3. Practice under pressure
When hitting shots on the range, there is little to no pressure on you. When you are out on the golf course for real, you are going to be faced with different pressures constantly, so you need to practice under these types of conditions.
If you are just playing a friendly game, strike up a wager with your playing partners for each hole. This puts some pressure on you, as there is an incentive for you to do well. You can even compete with yourself. For example, for every shot over 80, you have to give $10 to your preferred charity. This will help you get used to playing under pressure the next time you are playing in a tournament or the monthly medal.
— Andrew O’Malley