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From the range to the course

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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When you go to the practice range do you hit the ball like you’re on the pro tour, but when you go to course you can’t hit the broad side of a big red barn? Well don’t feel like the Lone Ranger because this happens to be a fairly common malady among many golfers. There could be many reasons why this happens, so let’s discuss a few of those and what to do to correct this problem. First, we need to acknowledge the difference between the two venues. The driving range is where we go to warm up before a round or to practice the swing or perhaps to ingrain our pre-shot routines. We may go there to simply “unwind” or even to try out some new equipment. On the range there is no pressure of a lost ball and a penalty stroke. You’ve got a pile of balls in front of you so you just drag another ball and swing away, pounding golf balls too often without purpose or target. However, the golf course is where we play the game of golf. Golfers also tend to go to the range when they believe it’s time to rebuild their swing and start trying to emulate a few desperate swing tips they have seen on Golf Channel or read in their favorite magazine. I see many players on the range, trying to make compensations for poor fundamentals that caused their last bad shot. This often is a catastrophic cause of inconsistent golf shots and frustrated golfers. We need to focus on the fundamentals because the range is the place to warm up and get some feel before our round. Get set up into a good athletic position and feel the rhythm and balance in your swing. This pre-round exercise will allow you to feel the swing and observe the shape of your ball flight du jour. When practicing at the range we need to work on executing golf shots correctly to specific targets. This means we must practice our pre-shot routines and put negative swing thoughts out of our heads. I don’t mean to suggest that you never work on your swing at the range. There is a time for that. However, when I do think of swing mechanics I don’t expect the ball to find the target. I like to work on my swing away from the ball by doing repetitions of drills in front of a T-square or using mirror. Then when I do get the time to hit range balls I practice game situations, such as my pre-shot routines prior to executing golf shots. This is the way to acquire consistency on the course. My typical practice session on the range is to practice with my wedges for the first half of a bucket and then practice routines with various clubs for the other half. This will allow me get ready to play on the course. When you’re on the course you need to expend your energy by focusing on where you want the ball to go and not how, mechanically, it is going to get there. It takes a lot of energy to play the game on the course and if you are wasting your thoughts on “how to” rather than “where to” you’re likely to be disappointed. Stay positive and have a definite plan for each practice session. Try to use your driving range time more effectively next time and see if you don’t notice improvement in both your score and your fun quotient. Ridge Notes The Ridge GC and The PGA of America are sponsoring a free fitting month in April. Get a free evaluation of your clubs and learn what specs will allow you to make a balanced athletic swing. Call the golf shop at (530) 888-7888 to reserve your time.