Range performance vs on course

I’m really struggling at present. I’m a high handicapper in the high 20s and have been having lessons for a few months now.

I have a lesson a week and don’t get a chance to practice much more than that. I try and get on the course when I can (probably once a week/every other week) but working long hours mon-fri means weekends are much more for spending time with my 4yr old son.

Anyway, the crux of my question, I am hitting the ball really well at the range, going to small targets and generally happy, however I step in the course and it goes to shit. I completely fall to bits. To the point I’m topping and taking air shots…

Any suggestions? I know at least a bit of it will be comfort zones but the different is HUGE!

Being on the range is the thing that makes me happiest in the world (family aside obviously) but the course really isn’t at the minute…

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One of the things that I noticed as I improved from a high-handicapper to a mid-handicapper is that it was much easier for me to find the low point without a range session.

I think it’s a combination of technique improvement and skill improvement.

Technique: Mechanics that make your low point more controlled and predictable (e.g. https://golfsmartacademy.com/golf-instruction/exploring-como-flat-spot/)

Skills: Just the skill you develop over time of finding the golf ball at the bottom of the arc.

When you’re on the range, you can groove your swing and find your low point. When you’re on the golf course, with long pauses and frequently switching between long clubs, short clubs, putter, it’s just harder to find that rhythm.

I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong really, it’s just the nature of it. Keep working on those mechanical changes and keep playing golf and building skill over time and the combination of the 2 will help.

Anways, that’s just my POV as an 11 handicap chop that used to be a 22 handicap chop.


Thanks for the reply - that makes a lot of sense. I walked off on the second yesterday (the SECOND!!) and went to the range. I “refound” my swing after 5/6 balls so what you’ve said would definitely figure re: momentum and time to get in to the groove of things.

Golf is Such a cruel mistress!

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The question I want to ask you upon reading this is, “What is a ‘good’ round to you” in your mind? You’re a high handicapper going through some swing changes and those don’t often pay quick dividends on the course. I think the thought you should perhaps have in your mind on every tee box during a round is, “How do I make a stress-free bogey on this hole and give myself a chance for better?”

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I don’t remember where I heard this talked about - Mike Malaska maybe? - but he was saying how most amateur golfers, myself included, go to the range and beat balls one after the other without much time in between swings. So like you said it’s easy to find a groove.

He suggested making range sessions simulate the course as much as possible and not just hitting different clubs to different targets. If you have the time or patience, hit a shot, try to ingrain the feel, take a minute or two break, then hit another. You may get more out of hitting 30 balls in an hour that way than you would hitting 60.

That’s not “practice.”

You’re doing it wrong. I typically don’t want to see students more than every several weeks. Some go months. It takes time to actually make changes - if you’re doing lessons without any practice in between, you’re wasting your time and money. Not 100%, but you’re close to 90% wasteful.


I’m sure you’re absolutely right of course but the lesson a week is a very deliberate move.

I was struggling with my mental health and needed something to focus on so in February I decided to do a lesson a week for a year ‘just to see what happens’ with the only goal being ‘to be better than I was’ and the difference in my well-being is huge.

I definitely feel better for it. On the range (which is where it matters least I know) I’m swinging a club better than I ever have, it just doesn’t transmit to the course.

Away from golf, I dread to think where I’d be without these weekly lessons in all honesty…


Good for me is simply that I’ve played at or around my ability, even if my ability is shite.

It’s not that I’m poor that is concerning me, it’s that I’m so below standard compared to the synthetic world of the range.

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Quick question - At the range are you hitting off turf or off mats? Playing from mats can mask bad fat strikes as you can get a generous bounce off the astroturf into contact, whereas off grass the club will just dig into the turf.

Echo the sentiment of others above, need to get reps up between lessons to implement changes.

Other big tips for higher handicaps (having myself dropped from a 24 to a 14 in the last twelve months):

  • Work on developing a safe lower chip and run approach for around the greens.
  • Never pin seek on approach - play to either the centre of the green or away from any danger. Minimising the number of times you are short sided / in bunkers should shave a few shots off a round.
  • Invest time working on a consistent putting stroke that gives you confidence controlling your distance on the greens (minimising 3 putts is key)
  • When putting on the green before a round, concentrate on 3/4 footers. Seeing a bunch of these putts drop should help build confidence so that when you have a nervy 4 footer on the first green you’ve just seen 10 of these drop on the practice green.

Lastly, keep having fun!!! It is easy to let golf and improving become all consuming which can limit the mental health benefits that 4/5 hours on the course can have.

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I’m off mats which I’m cognisant of being less than ideal.

I really struggle for the time between lessons other than drills in the house, I’ll keep plugging away at it - I’m sure it’ll come in time it’s just so frustrating.

I’ve no desire to be a single figure handicapper of anything like that, I just want golf to be fun and hopefully it’ll get there sometime soon.

Appreciate all the comments!


I’m keen to hear more about your game, what do you think you do better than most people with similar handicaps, what do you think your weaker areas are? I think we can crowd some good ideas to help you make some progress.

Also, definitely worth having a quick look at the Me and My Golf break 100 and break 90 videos. They have some good strategy tips.


My short game is definitely better than my handicap. I think I putt well, I don’t remember the last time I 3 putted, my issue is getting the ball on the green.

My driving is grim, but improving. My long irons are definitely my weakest clubs and I struggle with hitting off anything more than a slight slope which I’m sure mats aren’t helping…

Dude, you are not alone. I am a range God. I’m so good people ask me for advice! I stripe ball after ball.

On the course, I’m appalling. A shitty, inconsistent mess.

And there is a direct correlation between my range performance just before a round and how I play. If I’m hitting the ball well during practice I can gaurantee I won’t hit a donkeys arse with a banjo during the round. It’s so bad that I’ve simply stopped practicing before I play now. At least that way the possibility that I could play okay still exists in my mind!

The point is, don’t worry too much. It happens to everyone and it’ll come round eventually. Just remember that hacking a ball round a course in 130 blows is still more fun than sitting at home listening to your mother in law moan on!

I’d also try playing a few rounds on your own without keeping score, or even worrying about it. Take a couple of balls, hit one, if you hit a shit shot, just drop another ball and try again. And if you’re in the rough just kick it out into the fairway. It’ll help you relax and just enjoy hitting shots. Otherwise you’re just inflicting pain on yourself. As someone who once gave me this same advice said, you’re not learning to play golf hacking around in the rough.


I play on my own a lot - probably 90% of the time and I sometimes wonder if it holds me back, too easy to walk off when it’s going badly instead of grinding and less craic.

Yea I used to totally agree about even a bad round being more fun than being at home, that was until I had about a BILLION shite rounds ha!

And I can almost gaurantee you’re trying to wallop the shit out of it. Which won’t help.

We all do it. The worse the round gets the more we start trying to beat the ball. The more we do that the worse we get.

One thing that helps me a bit is focusing on slowing down the takeaway, because it slows the whole swing down. The added benefit is that when I focus on one simple thing it stops my mind doing somersaults stressing about everything else.

Only thing is, it’s a bad idea to take advice from idiots like me. We’re all different and what works for me might not work for you. :slight_smile:


Took the words out my mouth re slowing down backswing. Best advice for when hitting it poorly - slow it down and shorten the backswing!


As a high handicapper you must not hit off mats. I repeat you must not hit off mats. Find some grass, any grass will be better then mats.
Mats will cover up poor ball striking, chunky hits, thin hits and give you no feel as the club head makes contact with the ball.
So what I’m saying is that mats are bad, really bad and remember golf is a hard game, so focus on the good hits and forget the bad hits.


Hitting off mats is a huge issue imo. You also want to make your practice sessions as similar to course conditions as you can. Hit a driver then a 7 iron then wedge then driver then iron etc. Don’t hit the same club 2 times in a row. Some studies have shown that you can learn faster with this style of practice because it requires more active brain engagement when you’re constantly changing the shot you’re trying to hit.


I don’t think there’s a grass range anywhere near me. I’ll try and find one though :+1:

It’s easy for me to say, but don’t worry too much man, golf is the hardest game i think anyone can ever play, we just all try to enjoy the walk.

The difference in range and the course is likely due to the pressure aspect of only having one attempt, which just over time the more you play the more you learn to deal with that feeling.

Long irons are the hardest clubs in the bag, and in the high 20’s don’t worry too much about mishitting those, it happens.

The mat issue- although i agree with the guys above, being in the UK, you’ll likely not find many places with grass ranges, so don’t worry too much. If you as above are concerned about the club bouncing and hitting the ball, put a towel behind the ball on the range when hitting with irons to make sure you’re striking the back of the ball crisply. link. I wouldn’t really advocate this drill too much unless you do find you really fat it, purely because i think it can ingrain some other bad habits at times.

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