13 Driving Range Tips For Beginners

What is the single most thing that will help you advance to the next level when it comes to your golf game?

Practice...practice...practice.

And where is the best place to practice?

The driving range.

Ben Hogan used to practice for hours a day perfecting his golf swing. So much so that it was not uncommon for him to stay on the range until his hands bled.

In this article I will outline 13 driving range tips for beginners that will help you to pinpoint specific areas that will help lower your golf score.

Ben Hogan

Ben Hogan, By Jimhealey24 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bonus: Download a free infographic which contains 4 exclusive driving range tips not found in this article. It’s perfect to take on the go with you during your next game!

In doing so, it is of equal importance to optimize the time spent on the range. I believe it is important to separate your practice into two definable types of practice:

  • Rote practice (muscle memory practice)
  • Situational practice (game management practice)

Let's address each of them. 

Driving Range
Feel

Introduction

Rote practice

This type of practice is designed to establish muscle memory. This was outlined in details in a study about Rote Learning from Concordia University.

Golf, more than any other sport, requires the participant to develop muscle memory in so many different ways. 

What I mean is that the myriad of swings required to play the game demands that we have a unique skill set when it comes to our ability to master them. The only way to do this is through repetitive practice.

Playing golf is like eating...it is something that has to come naturally.

Sam Snead                     
Top US Golfer for over 5 decades (1931-1987)

Situational practice

Situational, or game management practice, is definitely more fun than rote practice, because it involves actually playing golf matches.

Situational practice is a term I use to introduce learned skills into actual game situations, while on the driving range. This is recommended practice according to the United States Golf Teachers Association.

This type of practice is important for the simple fact that it allows you to understand what needs to be done when presented with certain situations in the course of your round. 

However, I would suggest that beginners concentrate mainly on rote practice to start with. Once you have developed a somewhat repeatable golf swing, then you can graduate to lowering your handicap through game management practice.

Golf is 20% talent and 80% management.

Ben Hogan                  
Legendary US Golf Player

In the list below, I will identify each drill or tip as either “Rote” or “Situational”.


1

TIP 1: PUTT ONE-HANDED WITH YOUR LOWER ARM

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

Rote Practice

The drill is a simple one.

Simply take your top hand off of the putter and use only your bottom hand. Start with shorter putts (5-8 feet) and gradually move out to further ones.

When attempting longer putts, concentrate more on distance control at first. Take note of how your perspective changes as you move back to having your top hand back on the club.

Although it is suggested that you have your bottom hand at the top of your putter, it can also be beneficial to try this drill with your bottom hand on the putter wherever it would normally be if you were using a standard two-handed stroke.

Even Tiger Woods practices this drill:

What am I trying to accomplish?

A good putting stroke has your hands working together to establish proper aim and distance control. This drill will help you get the feeling of exactly what the role of your bottom hand is.

Benefits

  • Develop an end over end roll
  • Stop jabbing at the ball
  • Rely on the shoulder rocking action needed to be consistent
  • Improves your follow-through
  • Keeps your head steady throughout the stroke
  • Recognize the feeling of "squaring up the putter"
  • Most importantly...trust your stroke!

2

TIP 2: DEVELOP A SOLID REPEATABLE TAKEAWAY

Tip #2: Develop a solid repeatable takeway

Rote Practice

Whenever I see the result of a bad golf swing, I try to push an imaginary rewind button so that I can revisit what may have caused this to happen...it doesn’t work.

However, it does give me a hint as to what to look for in a player’s swing that could be contributing to this calamity.

What I have found is that the takeaway of the golf club is where one should always start when trying to develop a good golf swing.

In most cases, the golf club will return on the same path it was taken away. This is to say that, if you pick the club up outside of your intended takeaway path, it will return outside in.

Conversely, if you pull it inside, it will encourage a low swooping swing that is also returns on an outside in plane. Whoa, you say...if you pull it inside, shouldn’t it return inside out (which is a desirable swing path)?

What actually happens in this case is that the pulling inside then shifts your whole axis and you end up casting outside, changing your swing plane and swooping outside in through the impact zone.

Below are two drills that I believe will help you to develop a takeaway that is repeatable and starts you on the right track...I mean plane.

Drill: Bench Drill

Bench Drill

This drill is one that will not actually have you hitting balls.

It is designed to help you feel what a proper takeaway should feel and look like. If there is a regular bench on your driving range, such as the one pictured above, use it for this drill. If there is not, there are usually benches like this on every tee box.

This drill is best done with a five or six iron.

The reason for this is that it is easier to see the orientation of the toe of the club with a mid iron than any other in your bag.

Begin by standing with both shins almost touching the bench as you get into your address stance. Slowly take the club back as you start your backswing, letting the shaft ride along the edge of the bench.

As the head of the club gets to the point where it is no longer in contact with the bench, stop your swing and take note of both the shaft angle and the club head orientation.

The shaft angle should be pointing directly away from your target line. The club head orientation should have the toe pointing skyward.

Drill: Mop Drill

Mop Drill

This is another drill that doesn’t have to be done at the range, although it will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows if you do.

Mop

Take a simple floor mop, such as pictured here.

Simply swing it as you would a golf club. The concept here being that the increased weight of the head of the mop will encourage a low and slow takeaway.

This is a drill first suggested to me by Wally Armstrong, a renowned PGA teacher I ran into at a golf clinic in Calgary many years ago.

Some people will simply use a weight on the end of their club to do this sort of exercise, but I find that a mop is best suited to instill the feeling of “Low and Slow”.

Many pros use these drills, or variations of these drills, to check their takeaway position. If it is important to them, shouldn’t it be to you as well.

What am I trying to accomplish?

The main thing you want to see here is your takeaway being the fuel that drives the engine which is your golf swing.

Benefits

  • Start your swing on the right track
  • Stay away from an outside-in swing path
  • Slow down your swing
  • Various check points along your takeaway
  • Initialize a proper shifting of your weight to your back foot

3

TIP 3: CHANGE YOUR TARGET FROM TIME TO TIME

Tip #3: Change your target from time to time

Situational Practice

This is not so much a drill but rather a way to keep your practice routine from becoming mundane.

It is important to find ways to keep your practice from being a chore. I can honestly say that, even after 45 years, I truly enjoy my practice time.

Whether it is the driving range, short game practice area or the chipping and putting green, if you find ways to have fun while you are practicing, you will do it more often.

While it is nice to just get out and “bang balls” every now and then, I also enjoy finding ways to have some fun while pushing myself to perform on the range.

This drill will do exactly that, as you will have to simulate situations that may arise during the course of a round.

Drill: 21 And Done

21 and done Drill

Start the drill with your driver.

Give yourself a target that is reasonable, both from a distance and direction standpoint. I like to pick a flag as my aim spot that is not out of range. Take your swing.

Now it is time for you to be brutally honest with yourself.

If the drive is more than 10 yards on either side of the target flag or is 10 yards short of the target, deduct 1 point. However, if it is within your acceptable 10 yard convergence, add 1 point.

Take 5 shots with every club in your bag and see how fast you can get to 21.

As you near your wedge, shrink your target are to a 5 yard area on all sides of the target. It is not as easy as it seems. If you get proficient enough that you are consistently getting to 21 before you get through your bag, shrink the area to make it even more difficult.

What am I trying to accomplish?

The more fun you can make your practice time, the more practice time you shall have. At the same time, this drill will help simulate situations that arise endlessly on the course. Becoming a master of 21 and done will sharpen your game exponentially.

Benefits

  • Bring fun to the range
  • Develop an eye for distances and terrain change
  • Keep you from getting in a range rut when you are hitting the same club over and over
  • Push yourself to succeed
  • Starts you thinking about course management

4

TIP 4: NO MORE OUTSIDE-IN SWINGS

Tip #4: No more outside-in swings

Rote Practice

If there is one thing that you should try to instill in your golf swing from the moment you first start the game, it is to develop a swing that is anything but outside-in.

The worst thing about an outside-in swing path is that it can result in so many different bad shots.

A closed face will have you hitting a straight pull. A square face will end up being a weak fade. An open face will result in an all out slice. None of these are in any way acceptable.

This drill is a driver only drill that will help you have a swing that is square to your intended target.

Drill: Open Your Mind To A Closed Stance

Open your Mind to a closed stance

With your driver, take your normal stance.

Simply step back with your back foot 2-3 inches. Do not widen your stance, just move your foot back closing your stance somewhat. Swing the club. Be patient if it doesn’t work at first.

If after 10 tries, you are still coming outside-in, move your foot back more. If you are still slicing the ball, check whether or not your club face is open at impact.

If it is, close it a bit to help get it square at impact.

When you have developed a proper swing path, monitor your dispersion with your driver.

If, after a while, you are straying left, this may mean that you have over corrected and are now able to swing down the correct path without the closed stance.

Gradually move your back foot back to where you originally started out.

Remember, your golf swing is anything but static. It will change and evolve somewhat. The goal is to keep it as consistent as you possibly can.

What am I trying to accomplish?

If you can eliminate the dreaded outside-in swing path, you will improve driver performance. Consistency with your driver will make you a more confident player and lower your scores.

Benefits

  • No more outside-in swing path
  • More powerful ball flight
  • Keep the ball in play off the tee
  • Become more consistent

5

TIP 5: PLAY NO FAVORITES WHEN CHIPPING

Tip #5: Play no favorites when chipping

Situational Practice

When the misfortune of missing the green befalls you, as it does to every golfer on the planet, your goal should be to get up and down every time.

Yes I said every time.

Most players I know will readily admit that if they were a better chipper they could save 3-5 strokes per round.

On the PGA tour they track the amount of times a player makes par when he misses the green. This includes all sorts of situations such as sand saves, pitching and chipping. We will talk only about chipping in this section. If you'd like to learn more about how to stop missing par-3 greens, this resource should help you out.

Different terrains will present themselves around most greens as well as some intermediate obstacles. These factors dictate which club you should be using to optimize your performance.

Drill: Use Them All

Use them all

When on the practice green work your way through every club in your bag.

Start with a relatively easy, flat shot. Start with your wedges and work all the way up to your longest club that you might use to chip with (probably a hybrid).

Hit 4-5 shots with each club. Move to different spots on the chipping green that present random situations that might dictate using a different club (downhill/uphill, sloping shot, undulation).

Again, move through all of your clubs. By doing this you will develop differing approaches to all of these situations.

What am I trying to accomplish?

Again, the goal here is to get up and down EVERY time. I know this sounds daunting, but, believe me, it is attainable.

Develop a rapport with your chipping clubs and they will be your friends. You may become so proficient at chipping that you will prefer chipping to a long putt.

Benefits

  • Get a feel for shots that are outside your comfort zone
  • Expanding that comfort zone
  • Become more confident when you miss the green
  • Managing your approach shots so that your missing are "good misses"
  • Lowering your handicap

6

TIP 6: LEARN TO LET GO

Tip #6: Learn to let go

Rote Practice

There is a term that is being used more and more by golf instructors these days. It is “releasing the lag”. First I will explain what the lag is and then we’ll discuss why it is so important to release it.

When you start your backswing there is a point (usually when you get the club to about waist height), that you should cock your wrists. The wrists should remain in this cocked position throughout the rest of your backswing and held there until just before impact. This is called the lag. It makes sense.

The “lagged” position of your wrists keeps your hands behind the ball as opposed to unhinged or unlagged (is there such a word) wrists which would have your club head out in front of the shaft at impact.

By holding the lag and releasing it at the right time, two things are accomplished.

  • The club head is allowed to square up and control the direction that the ball travels.
  • It increases club head speed, which translates into increased ball speed, which leads to more distance.

Drill: Baby Steps To Letting Go

Baby steps to letting go

Using a mid iron, swing the club with your feet almost together. Take the club back just past parallel (hip height) until the back of your left hand is facing away from you.

Make sure you cock your wrists!

As you swing at the ball, release the lag through impact and follow through to parallel and hold your position.

The back of your right hand should be facing away from you. Repeat this drill with all of your irons.

What am I trying to accomplish?

Although this drill has many things that result from doing it properly, the main thing I would like you to focus on is: 

  • Cocking your wrists at the right time
  • Releasing the lag when the time is right.

Benefits

  • Understanding the importance of lag and releasing the club
  • Taking advantage of physics to increase clubhead speed
  • Improved balance throughout the swing
  • Keep your swing on plane

7

TIP 7: HIT IT WHERE YOU ARE AIMED

Tip #7: Hit it where you are aimed

Rote Practice

I know this sounds like it should be common sense, but, believe me, most golfers do not hit it where they are aimed.

For instance, if someone misses their drive to the right, what is the first thing they do to compensate?

Aim further left.

That is the worst thing to do!

Wouldn’t it make more sense to fix the problem than to compensate in this way?

Understand what the relation is between aim, intended path and end result, and it will go a long way to you playing from the short grass.

Drill: Control Your Arm

Control your aim

Let’s start by standing behind the ball looking down your “target line”.

Pick an intermediate target no more than 10 feet in front along the target line. The reason for this is it is much easier to reference this intermediate target while you are standing over your shot and allow for correction if need be.

Address the ball and place the sole of the club perpendicular to your target line right behind your ball.

Now you can place your feet in place and create a “body line”.

Your “target line” and “body line” should be parallel to each other. Keep in mind that when you actually place your hands on the club, it shifts your shoulders so that they are pointed 10-15 degrees left of your target (for a right handed golfer).

What am I trying to accomplish?

Practicing and perfecting your aim on the range will help it become something that you don’t have to think about during the course of your round.

Benefits

  • Improved direction with your shots
  • Visualizing the shot will instill confidence
  • Not having to think about aiming will allow you to "free up" your swing
  • Improved ball flight
  • Better posture

8

TIP 8: SAND CAN BE YOUR FRIEND

Tip #8: Sand can be your friend

Situational Practice

Unless you are a mid handicap player or better, bunker shots of any kind probably frighten you.

You are not alone.

Being confident in the sand is without a doubt the toughest thing for golfers to accomplish. Time to be honest with yourself.

How much time do you spend practicing sand shots? If you are like most golfers, not much I would guess.

The only way to get confident out of the sand is to practice...practice...practice.

The drill below is a simple one that will help keep you from the embarrassing result of leaving it in the sand.

After that maybe you will be able to change your goal to getting it on the green. Hopefully you will graduate to having your goal be 75% sand saves!!

Drill: Dollar Up, Dollar On, Dollar In

Dollar up

The first thing you should do before you even hit a shot is get comfortable with the consistency of the sand you are playing out of.

All bunkers are somewhat different in the depth and type of sand. Take a few swings skimming the sand as you would if there was a ball there. This will help in knowing what to expect when you actually hit some shots.

Take a dollar bill and lay it in the sand right next to your ball with the ball being just slightly back of center in regards to the bill. Take a shot and then look at the result in the sand. What I would like to see is the sand removed being almost the same size as the dollar bill.

If this is the cast, and the removal is not too deep, the ball should have ridden the magic carpet of sand and landed on the green.

If your sand divot was deep, chances are you came down too steep and the result was short. If the divot is too small, you probably thinned your shot over the green.

To make this drill situational, give yourself points as follows; +1 for getting it out, +2 for getting it on the green, +3 for getting it to within 5 feet.

Penalize yourself -1 if you leave it in the bunker. Take 10 shots and try to get to 15 points.

What am I trying to accomplish?

The most obvious thing is to gain confidence out of the sand. In doing this, it will expand your comfort zone when it comes to your approach shots. Remember, they make a sand wedge, but they don’t make a water wedge.

Benefits

  • Never leave it in the sand
  • Eliminate being afraid of going in the sand
  • Take advantage of consistent sand versus gnarly greenside rough
  • Lower your score

9

TIP 9: HOLD YOUR HORSES

Tip #9: Hold your horses

Rote Practice

When you watch a PGA Tour event, why is it that the pros make it look so effortless? Do you want to know why?

Very few of them ever swing the club to 100% of their power.

So why is it that a scrawny little Ricky Fowler (who is all of 160 pounds soaking wet) can drive the ball so far if he only uses 80-85% of his power?

Two things: rhythm...and flexibility.

I like to tell people…

”If you want to take a big swing, expect to make a big mistake every so often”.

And the worst time to take a big swing is into the wind. Yet most amateurs make that mistake.

Remember…

”When it’s breezy, swing easy”.

Myself, I like to throttle down even when hitting downwind. I find that when the wind is blowing hard, it will flatten out your trajectory as it nears its apex making the descent angle hard to control.

Drill: Say No To Parallel

Say No To Parallel

This is not so much a drill as it is a swing thought, but it is best practiced on the range prior to implementation.

Regardless of how perfect the yardage is for a full club, make an effort to swing less than full and perhaps take one more club.

It may take a while to get used to your new yardages, but, in the long run, you will be more consistent.

As an added benefit, you will always have that yardage in reserve if the situation really calls for it.

What am I trying to accomplish?

I can sum it up in two words...

Consistency and Confidence. 

Benefits

  • Eliminate your big mistakes
  • Become more consistent with both distance and direction
  • Control your trajectory, especially in the wind
  • Keep your driver on the short grass

10

TIP 10: PUTT FOR PERFECTION

Tip #10: Putt for perfection

Situational Practice

How many putts do you take in a typical round? 30? 32?

Most good putters will take around 30 putts per round.

Of course, that is counting every stroke taken with the putter. The stat that the PGA Tour uses is putts per greens in regulation.

That stat is not of much use to a player who only hits 4-6 greens in regulation in any given round. If you get down to around 25 putts it means you are either a low handicap player or are very proficient with your short game.

Of course, the symptom that destroys most amateurs is the dreaded three putt. Talk to most players and they will confess to three putting once or twice a round.

Combine this with your infrequent makes from 10-15 feet and it’s easy to why your putting game needs work.

The most important thing I believe you need to master when putting is distance control. If you can get the distance right, you will rarely three putt.

Drill: Go The Distance

Go The Distance

Pick a spot on your putting green that is as flat as possible. It is best if you do not even putt to a hole.

Put down 12 balls.

Take three more balls and walk a straight line out.

Drop a ball at 8, 12 and 16 paces.

Go back to your starting point and concentrate on putting a ball 4 times to first the ball at 8 paces, then to the one at 12 paces and finally to the one at 16 paces.

Concentrate solely on getting your putts to stop as close as possible to the distance of each of the target balls.

Challenge yourself and make it more fun.

Count +1 for anything within 18 inches of the distance and -1 for anything outside of 18 inches.

Set a reasonable goal and then keep track of your all time best and try to beat it.

As you get better on a flat surface, try the same drill on downhill and uphill surfaces.

I would stay away from surfaces with too much side slope. This drill is mainly to dial in your distance control.

What am I trying to accomplish?

The main objective here is to totally eliminate three putting. If you make the odd one, that is a bonus.

Benefits

  • Master your distance control
  • Lower your putts per round
  • Become the Boss Of The Moss

11

TIP 11: DARE TO FLARE FOR ADDED DISTANCE

Tip #11: Dare to flare for added distance

Rote Practice

Years ago, while watching a Masters tournament broadcast, I heard Ken Venturi say, “I can tell a good golfer by the way he walks. If he has duck feet, he is probably a good ball striker”.

Common belief has it that your feet must be square at address.

I suggest that, especially with your driver, fairway woods, hybrids and even your long irons, perhaps you should try walking with “duckfeet”.

Quite often, the desired hip turn is hard to do because of physical limitations. Flaring your feet will ease the stress on both your hip joints and knee joints.

What Venturi meant was that a good ball striker would walk with “duckfeet” because of his/her tendency to flare their feet for added distance with their longer clubs.

Greg Norman was also a proponent of this technique, especially with his driver. He believed that it is possible to add as much as 10% extra yardage to these clubs.

Drill: Develop A Flare For The Long Ball

Develop a flare for the long ball

When beginning this drill, start with your driver.

The longer swing arc should help in understanding what is going on with your swing.

At address, flare both feet approximately 15% outward. Obviously, your knees will follow.

Start your backswing. One thing you should notice is how much easier it is to rotate your back hip.

This should help if you have a tendency to slide your hips rather than turn them.

Continue on through your swing letting your body follow the leader. Your follow through should also be more complete as you turn towards your target instead of sliding there.

Also, when you slide your hips instead of turning them, your front knee tends to buckle under the strain of the turn. This flaring technique will help you straighten your front knee so that it will be able to accept the weight transfer more efficiently.

Another result of an incomplete hip turn is the dreaded “reverse pivot”. A “reverse pivot” is when your weight is going forward on your backswing and then falling backwards as you initiate your downswing.

I believe that this will also help control a “reverse pivot”.

What am I trying to accomplish?

While the added 10% distance is appealing in and of itself, the number of things that flaring your feet can help improve are intriguing to even the most scrutinizing of golfer. If you want to take your longer clubs to the next level, you might want to try flaring your feet.

Benefits

  • Added distance with your longer clubs
  • Make a proper hip turn and not slide them back
  • Stop a reverse pilot in its tracks
  • Less physical strain on your hips and knees

12

TIP 12: TIME TO DIAL IN THOSE WEDGES

Tip #12: Time to dial in those wedges

Situational Practice

Finally got that shot from wedge distance as your approach at birdie?

When it happens, (and it will) make the most of it.

Most players would rather have a full shot into the green with their wedges, but that rarely happens.

That is why it is so important to develop this technique.

Whether it be a half or three quarter shot, confidence that you have the right swing for the right situation is crucial to getting that tap-in birdie.

This drill will help you identify exactly what you need to do to hone your wedge game.

Keep in mind that there are other factors in addition to the most obvious (distance to the flag). Wind direction, uphill/downhill, terrain in front of the green and even direction from which is best to putt from.

Drill: How Many MPH Needed

How many MPH needed

Imagine the speedometer on your car, with 100 mph being at the exact spot where your shaft angle might be if you were swing your pitching wedge full.

If you have a full shot, this is where you would want to swing to on that speedometer to accomplish the required shot length.

If you want a half shot, that would be 50 mph on that speedometer.

A three quarter shot would be 75 mph. Do you see where I am going with this?

The key here is twofold.

First is getting to know your wedge really well in regards to how hard you need to swing to hit the yardage needed.

More importantly is implementing the exact swing time after time. This is why the time on the range is so critical.

You must be confident when presented with this situation on the course that you can see it, feel it and do it.

What am I trying to accomplish?

Develop complete confidence with your wedges. This is where you make up ground on your opponents.

Benefits

  • Get up and down for wedge distances
  • Put yourself in a position where success is inevitable
  • Confidence with your wedges will spill over to the rest of your bag

13

TIP 12: TIME TO DIAL IN THOSE WEDGES

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

Before you even get to the range, you should have an idea what you want to do.

I would suggest that you develop a routine and follow it as closely as possible.

Most pros will work their way through their bag. From the wedge up through their irons, moving to the hybrid and fairway woods. Finishing with the driver.

When done on the range, move to the chipping and putting green. It is a good idea to finish with the putting green before heading to the tee box.

This will allow you to collect yourself as you prepare for that first tee adrenaline rush.

There will be times when you go to the range with one specific thing that you want to work on. It might be your driver that is giving you trouble, or a different club. This is alright.

Working on specific problems is the next progression to take when identifying issues and implementing changes through rote practice.

What am I trying to accomplish?

Have fun...be confident...destroy your opponent.

Benefits

  • Confidence
  • Relaxation

Conclusion

Has this helped you at all?

I sincerely hope that it has.

I have played for many years and have gone through times when it was either impractical to get to the range, or the range was not worth going to. It was those times that I actually had to force myself to play.

Golf should never be something that you have to do. It should be fun, relaxing and fill a competitive void in your life. To me, quality practice is almost as important as actually playing the game...almost.

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