How to get the most out of your range visit
By GolfingNewEngland.com Staff

The arrival of spring; the flowers and leaves start to bloom, the Red Sox are back in town, the last of the snow piles are finally melting and oh yes, thousands of golfers flock to the driving range at the first sign of a nice day. Too often, however, people waste valuable time hitting a countless number of balls over and over again with no purpose at all, other than to finish their bucket and to try and hit one over the fence. Here are 9 tips to help you improve your game at the range

Stretch out
Most people grab their bucket, take a few practice swings with the driver, and then start to try and boom shots down the range. It's important that you stretch out your entire body, especially in the early spring months. It may feel warm out compared to those 20 degree days we had a few months ago, but just because it is 58 degrees out and feels "warm", its still important to stretch out your muscles. A good idea after you get your balls is to find someone who is almost done and put your bucket near their teeing area, this will allow you some time to stretch out on the side before it is your turn to hit and you will not spend 10 minutes stretching in a space that someone else could be using to hit balls that was ready.

Start out short and slow
Many times people immediately pull out the driver and try to start killing shots down the range. This can be especially unproductive after a long winter layoff. You should start by hitting light wedge shots so your body gets used the process of swinging a golf club again and your "swinging" muscles have a chance to get stretched out a little more. Did you also know that 65% of all golf shots take place within 100 yards of the green?

Aim for particular targets
Most ranges in your area should have some type of targets, such as signs, flags or temporary greens. Its important that you find a target that is in range with the current club you are hitting and you try to actually hit your target. If your range has no such targets, look for a section of grass that may be a different color or a ball that may be in a space all by itself, or as a last resort, pick a distant tree or post and try to hit your shots in line with that.

Avoid typical range distractions
The local driving range can often be a hectic place with young children trying to hit balls with their father, groups of older kids who are just there to whack balls and make noise or people who swear and curse at every shot they make. It's important to survey who is hitting where and try to find a spot where you can hit balls with little or no distraction. If you have to wait a little longer for a teeing area so be it. Hitting golf balls peacefully will be worth the 10 or 15 extra minutes you will have to wait for a driving bay that has less distractions around it.

Find a range with decent balls
There are some ranges out there that use balls that you swear were 30 years old or made of one solid piece of plastic. Its important that you are hitting decent balls because they will give you an more accurate picture of just how you are hitting and striking the ball. We all have seen the bucket with one or two balls with a great big cut in them and that's expected, but if your range has poor quality golf balls, you may not really be helping yourself that much. One thing you can do is dump your balls out into the catch basin (if your range has one) and take a look at your balls, if you notice some are better than others, hit the worse balls first with your wedge or short irons as their flight will not be affected as much with shorter irons and save the better balls for your longer irons and woods.

Hit all your clubs at the range
Some people like to just bring 2 or 3 clubs to the range and hit those. Its important that you hit all your clubs at the range because each club is a different length and a different loft. If you just hit your 5 iron and your driver all day, you may be great at hitting your 5 iron and your driver, but your 3 iron or pitching wedge shots may suffer some, especially when you get out on the course.

Switch clubs often
Many people hit a bunch of 9 irons, then a bunch of 5 irons, then a bunch of 3 woods and finally a bunch of drives. While this is better than just hitting maybe one or two clubs, the repetition involved in this may hurt your game. Because you rarely hit the same club twice in a row while golfing, it is important to switch clubs often at the range, sometimes after every shot. It is much easier to hit 15 drives in a row at the range because you can get a rhythm going, but next time you are at the range pretend you are playing your home course and maybe start with your driver for a shot then go to the next club that you might hit after your drive. Try this for a while and I bet you will see how much harder this is than just hitting 20 shots in a row with one club. Plus, this method will keep you more focused as you have to change mind sets for each shot as opposed to just standing there making the same swing 20 times in a row. You may also have some fun with this method as it makes hitting balls at the range a little more challenging.

Seek outside help for fix prolonged periods of bad shots
If you are constantly hooking the ball or slicing the ball and you just keep hitting more golf balls at the range hoping your problem will go away, it may be time for a lesson or two. Many people spend upwards of a $1,000 for clubs, then take an afternoon off, pay 50 bucks to play golf or 8 bucks to hit a bucket of balls, and spend the day slicing and hooking shots over and over again. If you are going to make an investment in golf, it is important that you make an investment in yourself. This does not mean that you have to sign up for 20 lessons, but you may want to look into taking 3 or 4 lessons to learn the basics and to learn what you are doing wrong and to learn how to correct what you are doing wrong. You would be surprised how a few minor adjustments to your grip or stance can instantly correct your bad slice or hook. And ultimately you will be able to enjoy the game more if you are able to hit better shots.

Know when to say when...
Hitting golf balls on a hot summer day can be more exhausting than you think and since you may have thought that $15 jumbo bucket was a good idea when you showed up, you may be wondering if you will be alive to finish it. Most people don't like to waste balls at the range and will keep hitting until they are all gone, often resulting in poor swings as you get more tired. Finishing a bucket for the sake of finishing a bucket may be counter-productive to your golf swing. As an alternative, you could hit some short wedge or sandwedge shots with your remaining balls or offer them to someone else.

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