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3 secrets for practicing off of driving range mats, per a Top 100 Teacher

Aug 28, 2023

Hitting off of a driving range mat can be tough, but these tips can help you work on your game.

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Welcome to Play Smart, a regular game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

No golfer truly enjoys hitting off of a driving range mat, as replicating the feel of actual turf is the preferred way to practice golf. Unfortunately, not all ranges offer that option, meaning we’re left with what's available to get our swings in to work on our game.

The problem with driving range mats is that they provide much more forgiveness than actual grass. So even when you chunk a shot on a mat, it can still produce a decent result — which isn't necessarily always the case when hitting off real grass.

Unfortunately, this doesn't always help a player improve, as it gives a sense of false hope in a way. This leads to a misunderstanding of club selection and distance control when out playing a round on real grass.

But just because you have to practice off of a range mat doesn't mean you can't take steps in improving your game.

In today's edition of Play Smart, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jim Murphy provides three of his favorite tips for playing off mats, which can be used to maximize your practice. Check them out below!

Driving range mats are designed to simulate the conditions on the golf course. But because it's a soft surface, hitting down too much doesn't have the same result as if you were on grass — so the club skids, and the miss is less severe.

Still, the secrets below can help you get the most out of practicing on a driving range mat, so give them a go to start seeing improvement in your game.

Since you don't get the feedback of the grass and a divot on a driving range mat, take a little longer after each shot to analyze the result. Did you catch the shot clean? Did it feel like you hit behind the ball too much? Did it jar your hands and arms like it would have had you taken too much dirt on real grass?

By stepping back and making mental notes of each shot, you can learn about what you’re doing wrong (and right) when practicing on a mat. This will add tremendous value as you work on your swing and ball contact.

When hitting off of a range mat, the lie is virtually the same every shot, so it's easy to quickly pull a ball from the basket and hit quickly. This might be a good way to just crank a bunch of balls, but it doesn't promote practicing like you play — since you would normally have a few minutes between shots.

So I recommend taking your time and really visualizing each shot on the driving range. It's not the quantity of the balls you hit, it's the quality of the swings you are making.

As mentioned before, it's OK to overlook the results of your shots when on a range mat, since it's not the surface you’ll be playing on during a normal round of golf. So this makes practicing on a mat the perfect opportunity to work on different drills — specifically ones where you’re working on your swing. This allows you to focus on the process and less on the result.

So if you’re testing out a new grip, working on your posture, looking for better rotation, or trying to find the ideal alignment for each shot, a driving range mat is a great place to try them out.

Practicing off of a driving range mat isn't my favorite condition, but it can still be helpful in improving your game. By implementing these three secrets while practicing on one, you can make the best of a less than favorable situation.

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