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Use range to help get your game on course

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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Can you hit the ball like a pro on the practice range, yet be unable to hit the broad side of a big red barn on the course? Well, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. This happens to be a fairly common malady among golfers. The good news is, this problem is correctable. First, acknowledge the difference between the two venues. The driving range is for warming up before a round or practicing our swings or perhaps ingraining 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 over and pound away, too often without purpose or target. The golf course, by contrast, is where we play golf. Golfers also tend to go to the range when they believe it’s time to rebuild their swing and implement a few desperate tips they saw on the Golf Channel or read about 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. If the range is where you like to work on your swing, I suggest the following: n Get set up in 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 your ball’s flight. n Work on executing shots correctly, aiming at specific targets. Practice your pre-shot routines and put negative swing thoughts out of your heads. 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. When I do get the time to hit range balls I practice game situations, such as my pre-shot routines prior to executing shots. This is the way to acquire consistency on the course. On the course, your focus should be 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’re wasting your thoughts on “how to” rather than “where to,” you will 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. Shawn Kelly is a PGA professional at The Ridge Golf Club. He can be reached for questions or lessons at (530) 888-PUTT.