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Range, course are separate spheres of golf

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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Do you hit the ball like you’re on the pro tour when you’re on the practice range, but find yourself unable to hit the broad side of a big red barn when you’re on the course? Well, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. 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 reasons 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, practice our swings or perhaps 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 desperately trying to implement a few swing tips they have seen on the Golf Channel or read in their favorite magazine. I see many players on the range, trying to compensate for poor fundamentals that caused the last bad shot they hit. This, often, is a catastrophic cause of inconsistent golf shots and frustrated golfers. Focus on the fundamentals when you’re on the range because that’s the place to warm up and get some feel before your 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. When practicing at the range, work on executing golf shots correctly to specific targets. This means practicing your pre-shot routines and putting negative swing thoughts out of our heads. I don’t mean to suggest that you never work on your swing on the range. There is a time for that. However, when I 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, doing repetitions of drills in front of a line or in front of a T-square. Then, when I 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 involves practicing with my wedges for the first half of a bucket, then practicing routines with various clubs for the other half. This allows me get ready to play on the course. When you’re on the course, focus your energy 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 waste 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 Golf Course and The PGA of America are sponsoring a Free Fitting Month. Get a free evaluation of your clubs and learn what specs will allow you to make a balanced athletic swing. Call the golf shop (530) 888-7888 to reserve your time. qqq Shawn Kelly is a PGA professional at The Ridge Golf Club. He can be reached for questions or lessons at (530) 888-PUTT.