Are Driving Ranges Built To Improve Swings and Skills?

Yes, yes, yes, I know, driving ranges have been long associated as a place where golfers go to improve their swing and ball control skills.  But just because they have been associated with that, it doesn't mean that they are built to help golfers.  Especially since they don't provide feedback necessary to improve.  I believe ranges are more built to warm up prior to a round then to help facilitate learning.    So, do you believe driving ranges are REALLY built to help golfers improve their swings and skills?  Why do you think that?  What ways to they help you learn and improve?  Ball flight?  That's it?  Got you thinking didn't I?  Continue to read and remember, be opened minded.  It could just be the thing you need to free yourself up and finally start playing the constant level of golf we all want.

Let's start with some fundamental or shall I say essential golf requirements first.

  1. Hit the golf ball solid (Low Point Control)
  2. Control the starting direction of golf ball
  3. Control the amount of curve on golf ball
  4. Control the distance of golf ball

Let's look at how driving ranges truly lack the resources needed to achieve those pieces.  

  1. Let's use working on a simple concept of Low Point Control as our example.  This can somewhat easily monitored at a range.  Golfers can simply achieve this by utilizing some basic feedback tools such as towels, painted line etc to see where the club is entering the ground.  But, this is an outcome.  The process is how one thinks, then applies concepts to the technique needed to control mechanism within the stroke pattern.  But, some ways of controlling low point create more advantageous relationships to ball flight prediction.  So your coach may want you to work on it in a specific manor but without their guidance or the help of feedback, how does one know whether or not they are diligently working according to the blueprint provided?  Well, having a blueprint is entirely another conversation so we are going to assume that player does have one set.  So this is where the golfer is left to fend for themselves and to do their best continue to work it out.  Then when they return to lesson, get videoed, they see NO PROGRESS at all.  IMO, golfers are not purposefully going to range to work on things incorrectly.  They are doing the best the can with what they have.  The lack of feedback is what keeps them exactly where they are.  They then get discouraged because they see no progress from the time spent practicing.  Especially since effective use of practice time is critical component of accelerating the learning curve?  Here are some questions to think about.  How do you monitor the concepts/thoughts to improve the technique? How do you know if technique is improving between coaching sessions?  Especially if no tools are being utilized as feedback, to help achieve greater low point control within the blueprint?   So feedback is what majority of golfers need so they can use feedforward to evolve.  But how many ranges actually provide those components?  I still have not seen or heard of one that does (more coming to that down below).  
  2. FACT, range balls do fly different the game day golf balls.  Since this is a truth, why do ranges provide golf balls that fly so differently?  Simple, they are not truly interested in helping golfers improve their games.  If they did, they would provide a better golf ball to practice with.  Those are simply the facts as it relates to golf balls. That is also why they probably don't have enough targets for golfers to hit at either?  Well that is my opinion which makes logical sense if you think about it. If golf balls don't fly like real balls, why place enough targets for golfers to hit at?  With that logic, the lack of a quality golf ball, lack of appropriate targets, it makes improving start direction, the amount of curve and the total distance extremely difficult for golfers to calculate and improve upon now isn't it?  So what is truly the point of a range?  Isn't a range a place where golfers are suppose to go to work on their games?  But if ranges are not built to provide the keys to improvement, maybe that is one of the main reasons why golfers don't improve.  It certainly isn't from lack of practice.   I'm sure those of you reading this, do spend the time practicing and thinking that you will in time improve you game.  

TrackMan Range

Some facilities see those issues and are making strides to provide better support to golfers.  Rather then going into full detail, you can click on below links to read the story.

So before I go on, I want to be CLEAR. I am not entirely saying that ranges are bad, lots of golfers have improved their games in that method.  I did with my game and I have helped lots of golfers improve that way also.  I do believe a nice blend is needed based on where the golfer is in their developmental process.  That leads me to my next point.  Facts are, golfers need feedback and tools provide that feedback.  Wouldn't they then be able to learn more effectively?  Wouldn't they then improve the consistency they seek?  I think we all would agree to that one.  Since we are on same page, a better way for golfers to improve their games is to provide a better environment that supplies them with the tools needed to become successful.  I believe many facilities have seen the light and have started to do exactly that.  

Let's look at some requirements to learning.

Technique Trumps Skill

What?  Yup, developing better technique creates the opportunity to create skill.  Example to this:  Low Point Control is priority number 1!!!! This essential component to building a swing pattern.  Low point basically is a measured component on TrackMan that indicates where the swing bottom occurs.  For the best players, it happens in front of the golf ball.  For the poorest of players, it happens behind the golf ball.  

The best golfers display the proper technique that allows them to create a high skill level of low point control.  Now just trying to do some of the skill drills seen on social media or on Youtube without building the proper framework of the swing structure to create an advantageous swing to enhance low point control is silly.  

FEEL isn't REAL!  

So to work on improving technical components, one requires feedback on whether or not motion is improving.  This is where majority of golfers really struggle. Don't believe me?  How many times have you done something in your swing in a lesson that felt horrible but it achieved the desired result when verifying it against video?  I am willing to bet lots of time.  See what I mean?  How many golfers are going to be able to continue to do that on their own?  Especially without the tools to produce the feedback necessary to learn something new.  So golfers typically end up staying exactly where they are with their swing and so their skills remain the same.  

Accurate Feedback 

The timing of feedback during he learning process is vital.  When and how much will vary based on player.  But feedback is a necessity during practice.  It really helps golfers dial in their feels. IMO, golfers who practice with feedback, actually become more self sufficient and are able to adjust better during a round of golf.  This leads to better scores and more enjoyment while playing golf.  

Providing a high level of feedback during training and minimizing the constant variables during the learning curve is needed.  Minimizing variables?  What?  Simple, can you imagine trying to improve your technique and skills when a crosswind is blowing at 20-30 mph per hour?  That would make it extremely difficult to work on foundational skills now wouldn't it?  That is one of the many advantages of indoor training!  The environment remains constant, the feedback remains constant, which then allows the player to develop the necessary technique to further their skill development.  Don't believe me?  Image below shows what I mean and I have experienced the same pieces with my students.  Not only mine, but lots of other coaches I know doing the same stuff.  

 Indoor feedback learning methods applied.

Indoor feedback learning methods applied.

 Traditional range learning methods applied.

Traditional range learning methods applied.

Quick overview of The Players Services study.  They believed that training in a weekly group setting with feedback would show greater improvements then learning via the traditional range only method.  Considering that since 2010, their indoor training model has produced over 60 junior golfers on scholarship to Division 1 programs.  Their players have also received All-American honors, at collegiate and AJGA levels along with 500 tournament wins, it works.  Want to read full story? Use the link below.  

Like I said, it is just not their students who have seen results, other coaches with indoor training facilities have student training more effectively and improving.  The same goes for our students who have committed themselves to executing their blueprints.  

Want to experience what TrackMan purposeful practice with feedback can do for your game?  Take the time to look at our King of the Hill TrackMan program for more details.