Driving Range All-American, or how to take driving range performance to the course

Okay, so I am struggling. As the title suggests, I feel like a driving range all-american (for me). I have been working on swing tweaks and can swing it so well on the range. See the ball, hit the ball while thinking about one mechanical thing. I hit nice controlled draws, take perfect dollar sized divots and feel really comfortable.

But as soon as I step on the course, it’s like I just kind of lock-up. Balls start going all over the place. It’s like I get amnesia and don’t know what to do. Has anyone else experienced this issue? And have any tips on how to make this better?

One thing @holeout suggested to me is a consistent pre-shot routine. This is something I do lack and something I’m going to look to incorporate.

I’m lost on the course. Help me!

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What helped me at least…

play simulated holes. Pick fairways, pick distances, etc… Play shots differently after warming up.

If I hit 20 stock 7 irons in a row, I better be flushing 12 of them. Its the same swing and same lie back to back. That doesn’t ever happen on the course.

Driver, knock down 7. 3w 9i. That would be more like what the first 4 strokes look like vs 5 swings in a row with the same club.

I try to simulate what I see on the course vs just an open field.

Now if you’re working on a mechanical change, that’s different.

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I think expectation setting has helped me transition from the range to the course more effectively. In particular, understanding that:

  1. I always have a good lie on the range, which will only happen sometimes on the course. That immediately drops the % of range quality shots I’ll have on the course
  2. I actually hit a lot of mediocre shots on the range. Even during sessions that I feel like I’m striping it, I still hit several shots off the toe or miss my target. But I’m good at purging those from my memory, so it’s easy to trick myself into thinking I was hitting everything great. And a shot that seemed meh on the range can look horrible on the course when it ends up in a bunker instead of falling harmlessly near the wrong range flag.
  3. I try to take my process from the range to the course. You can’t control the results on either, but you can control the steps you take before hitting the ball (echoing holeout). That frees me up considerably.
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The first few chapters of Be a Player talk about this. Basically the authors say golfers want consistency on the range when golf is a game of variability. Any way you can introduce variability into your practice sessions will help. Changing clubs, shot type, time between shots, etc. Also just playing rounds and treating them like a practice session will be beneficial.

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So, here’s the thing. I don’t know if I’m focusing too much on my target on the course. Because on the range, I have a general shot window and then just swing. But on the course, I’m finding myself checking the target a few times before pulling the trigger. I am wondering if this is having an impact on my swing.

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What has helped me in the last couple of years is limiting my swing thoughts/feel to one thing and having a simple pre shot routine to a) focus on only the shot front of me and b) make sure I am aimed where i want to start the ball. Still a work in progress, but in theory when I limit myself to one swing thought/feel, the body naturally takes over and repeats what I have been working on at the range. That being said, after a series of lessons with a new teacher I drastically changed the way I practiced, hitting far fewer balls, frequently changing shots/clubs, and really trying to give each swing on the range a purpose/target.

Strongly agree with @inchmarlo first two points…you tend to forget the less than stellar shots on the range where there are no consequences, and having a flat lie greatly increases the consistency of good shots.

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Everything I’ve ever heard of from a mental standpoint: aim small- miss small.

Sometimes rather than taking an aggressive attacking type swing, I try to guide the ball and get all tight and the ball flight is ass.

On the course, you probably have (1) a more specific shot window (2) a more specific yardage window (2b) that often isn’t exactly the same as your full swing (3) a “miss” or something else you are aiming away from (a penalty area, etc).

“Oh cool, I crushed that 8 iron” on the range doesn’t translate well to “OK, my stock 8 iron is 160 with a small draw, but, there’s trouble right and long, and I want to hit this shot 153.”

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Eh, maybe. I pick pretty specific shot windows on the range. But how do I solve the issue of freezing up on the course and hitting all kinds of doinkers/josels/etc. etc. etc.

That’s the question.

What sort of penalties / etc do you imagine for yourself on the range? As in, if you were trying to hit that 8i 155, but you hit it 160? Or 150? Or L/R, etc? You know what I mean?

I think the only real answer here is to play more and put more emphasis on the course than the range. The range is great, and you need it to improve. But nothing counts on the range, so if you’re hitting it good on the range and it’s not translating then you need to be on the course more and the range less.

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I think I’ve played 20 rounds in the last 30 days or something. So it’s not like I’m not playing enough and just hitting the range. (In fact, our range just opened back up) It’s that it’s not translating from the range to the course.

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I am … not doing any of that.

You should do that, because it exists on the course.

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Yeah, I’d say 20 rounds in 30 days is pretty awesome! I’m now jealous.

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@Flopasaurus, @iacas book has some fantastic drills that you can use to take your practice to the next level. Not sure if this drill is in his book, but, here are two of my favorites (at least to think about because fuq, my driving accuracy sucks) -

Drive 2 balls off each tee. Pick the worst - if it’s in the fairway (or a target zone), move up 10 yards. If it’s not in the fairway, move back 20 yards.

Every second putt, move back 3 feet (away from the hole).

Yes, these are on-course drills (and you could use them), but there are also similar drills for the range. These are just to provide an example of how to add pressure to practice.

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Yes, this is something I’ve battled with for a long time (and more so for me putting…all-american on the practice green (helps when you get 3-4 tries each time) and just AWFUL on the course)

A lot of it for me was being too obsessed with the result…like the end result doesn’t really truly matter on the range, right?

I think you even kind of touched on it above…you are hitting little baby draws, with nice divots, etc…but you didn’t mention “oh nice draw, nice divot, that one finished 8’ right of that pin I was aiming at…”

Then you get on the course, you’re worried about hitting the fairway, and hitting the green…you’re kind of forced to be too concerned with the result out there

Also, I absolutely see what @nandersen is saying and it kind of echoes what I’m saying above…you’re freed up on the range…you don’t have to worry about hitting it an exact # with trouble lurking…

Slide in the DMs or shoot me a text to dive in more, if you’d like

On the range, every pin is a center pin with no danger lurking anywhere, left right short or long.

Instead of bringing the range to the course, bring the course to the range!

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Yup, and when one is 5 yards short and spins back in to the front bunker on the range…you just reload and try again…you aren’t forced to go get that thing up and down.

On the course, you are, and then when you don’t…the round goes on

To the point about being overly obsessed with target, I definitely am aware that when I’m on the course, I hit a preposterously high percentage of really good shots when I’m totally blind (given that I’m a relatively poor iron player to begin with).

Something about just picking a general line in the distance or the sky and then thinking swing (like on the range) may translate to making a better swing? But I find it hard to take the same attitude when the flagstick is in full view and I have tried.

Of course there’s no doubt also some selection bias here in (a) being forgiving of poor blind shots (eh, it was blind and I was in a bad spot anyway and (b) possibly having lower standards for what I consider a “good” shot when it’s from a blind position.