This article first appeared on Golfshake.com in Dec 2020.
THOUSANDS of us go to the driving range to pound golf balls. We all do so for different reasons. In theory, it is a place where you go to improve your game, but things have changed and you will now see many different types of golfer at the driving range – using it for all sorts of reasons. Here we look at just some of the characters you might stumble across on your next visit. We should embrace and celebrate them all.
We all have to start somewhere and for those who are brand new to the game, what better place to start than with a few sessions at the driving range? You will recognise them or, more likely, you will hear them as their golf balls crash off the side of the bays, hit the roof or trickle a few feet in front of them. You might be tempted to wander over and give them some advice. Perhaps they are holding the club incorrectly or maybe their stance is all wrong. They probably bend their elbow at the top of the backswing. But do you know what? It really doesn’t matter. At some point they will connect properly, watch a ball soaring into the air in the direction in which they intended it to fly – and they will be hooked for life.
There are all sorts of couples now going to driving ranges. And we should rejoice in their presence. They might just have stumbled across it for something to do for an hour or so before heading indoors for a drink and a bite to eat. Perhaps one of them is already a half-competent golfer who wants to introduce a girlfriend or boyfriend to the game. The one thing that will strike you about the couples who turn up at the range is that they always have fun. The better golfer will help their partner, encourage him or her and give them some pointers. They will talk, they will laugh and they won’t take any of it too seriously. In other words, the way golf should be played.
The Fair-Weather Golfer
It is cold, wet and windy. Many of us are undaunted by the weather and head out to the golf course regardless. But there are some who have rather more sense than that. They have looked outside and decided that four hours in the rain is not for them. But they still feel the urge to go and hit a few golf balls so they head to the driving range knowing that the bays are covered and that they can bang away to his heart’s content in the knowledge that when they are finished they will still be warm and dry. You, meanwhile, will have played six or seven holes, will have trouble keeping hold of your clubs with their wet grips and will be trying to convince yourself that you are having fun!
You are hitting golf balls in comparative peace and quiet – and suddenly it is shattered. It’s “the lads”. Usually a group of twentysomethings who have been out the previous night and one of their number has had the bright idea that they all head up to the driving range the following day and hit some balls, just to see what it feels like. Sometimes they might even have turned up at the range straight from having had a few pints at the pub. They are always in high spirits and, shock, horror, they will all be wearing….JEANS. And they will all have….MOBILE PHONES. The whole thing is a joke to them. They laugh and joke. It’s all about the banter. These people are having….FUN! And it usually turns out that one or two of them actually have an idea of what they are doing. And they will always spend money in the bar or cafe afterwards. “The lads” are to be encouraged. Who knows? Some of them may even decide that golf is not an old man’s game after all.
The Low Handicapper
This is the guy who turns up with alignment sticks, takes all his clubs out of his bag and has a routine. Most of us go to the range to smash our drivers as hard and as far as we possibly can. Not the low handicapper. He starts off with the wedge and works his way through the golf bag, checking his alignment, checking his grip, checking his address position. He will also check out his takeaway and his position at the top of his backswing. His balance will be perfect after he has hit the ball. And most of his shots are arrow straight. There will be the occasional sigh of exasperation when the ball doesn’t go precisely where it is meant to – he will step away, check the alignment sticks and go again. And his shots sounds rather different to the rest of us. That’s because he hits the ball properly and is at the range with a purpose in his mind. When he has finished hitting his 100 golf balls, he will ensure all his clubs are clean before putting them back in his bag. And he will then head for the short-game area, where he will work on his bunker play, pitching, chipping and putting.
The High Handicapper
Ah yes, the high handicapper. This is the golfer who goes to the range because he believes it is the right thing to do. He or she wants to practice and wants to become better and knows that the only way to do it is by hitting lots of golf balls. The balls are purchased, the bag is placed by the bay – and the driver is pulled out. And often without any form of warm-up, the high handicapper starts trying to knock the cover off the ball. Usually the ball disappears from left to right as he or she perfects the action that ensures almost every shot struck with the driver will be a slice. But here’s the thing, this golfer always aims for the middle of both the range and the fairway – areas they almost never actually visit. And while the low handicapper spends much of his or her time working on the short game, the high handicapper seldom does.
So you have had your golf lesson and your pro has changed your grip, your stance, your takeaway and your position at the top of your backswing. And he has told you that you need to practice what he has told you – and that should do it at the driving range, not on the golf course. Everything he has taught you feels utterly alien. He knows what he’s talking about, right? So why is it with all this new, correct technique that you suddenly cannot hit a golf ball to save my life? He tells you that this is the correct way to hold the club so why do you feel so awkward? You hit a few shots and nothing is going where you want it to. It feels simply awful. But you have paid good money and you tell yourself once again that he DOES know what he’s talking about. And one of two things will happen. You will either stuck with it until you have that “Eureka” moment where it all begin to click into place, or you will think, “Sod it” and abandon everything he has told you and revert to the way you had been doing it before. And then head back the following week for another lesson, where you will tell the pro that you have spent seven days perfecting your new technique (with your fingers crossed)…
On The Clock
Pace of play exercises our minds like no other issue. And when you head to the range you will get an idea of what to expect on the course. There are generally two types of regulars. There is the individual who takes four or five practice swings between each and every shot and that person gets over the ball and he or she seems to freeze (think Kevin Na or Keegan Bradley) before finally pulling the trigger. This is NOT a golfer you want to be stuck behind on the course. Type two buys 100 golf balls and then appears to be on a mission to hit them all as quickly as possible, applying no thought to any shot – it’s like he or she is late for an appointment with the bank manager. This is NOT a golfer you want to be playing in front of!