Motor Learning

6 Reasons You’re Wasting Time on the Driving Range.

Let’s get down to it. Most people don’t improve after going to the driving range.

Why else would we call the walk from the range to the golf course is called the “longest walk in golf”. That’s why we need to work on making your practice on the driving range transfer to the golf course.

Let’s get to it. Here are the 6 reasons your practice isn’t working (more details below)…

  • Hitting the same club again and again
  • Aiming at the same target
  • Not going through your pre shot routine
  • Thinking about how to change your body movements
  • Doing what’s easy
  • Actually being on the driving range

#1 – Hitting the same club again and again

When you stand on the range and attempt to hit the perfect 7 iron over and over and over and over… You’re not setting yourself up for better performance on the golf course.

What do I mean?

There have been a number of studies talking about the difference between blocked and random practice.

If you’re not familiar with the concepts… Blocked practice being when you do the same action over and over and random being where you intermix tasks. For instance hitting your 7 iron at the same target in the same way is blocked practice. Random practice would be hitting a 7 iron then a driver then a 3 iron and so on.

Blocked practice helps you get better for immediate performance.
Random practice helps you retain your learning.

So if you’re practicing to play better golf in the future start adding random practice into your practice routine.

#2 – Aiming at the same target

Do you ever hit the same golf shot at the same target in the same lie twice in a row on the golf course? Well maybe you do but that’s only after blasting your first tee shot out of bounds and standing there trying not to repeat it.

So if it’s not something we do on the course why do you hit the same shot to the same target on range?

“The implication of the research is that every effort ought to be made to encourage the golfer to maximize the planning of each shot during practice.

Selecting different targets for each practice shot, choosing a different club, or even keeping the same club and attempting a different flight path (e.g., fade or draw) or type of shot (e.g., full or partial swing), would encourage the learner to abandon the plan developed for the previous shot and plan differently for the “new,” and upcoming shot.”

Take the time to change your target and simulate what you would be doing on the golf course.

golf green target

#3 – Not going through your pre shot routine

From the above quote in #2 it mentions that each golfer should maximize the planning of each shot during practice.

Why? Because each shot on the golf course is a new problem with new solutions. On the golf course you go through a planning process for each shot.

Maybe it’s something like…

There’s water short, bunker front left, so I need to hit this middle of the green with a fade so if I miss it’s going long right. I should play one club more and hit it high with a fade. You visualize the shot, take some practice swings and hit the shot.

On the course there is a lot you go through… Which should be a part of your practice as well.

So start going through a preshot routine.

Don’t just stand on the range hitting shots pulling over another ball and hitting it again.

#4 – Thinking about how to change your body movements

golf analysisWhen you’re on the range trying to make a swing change you’re probably thinking how your wrists should be over here, maybe you’re knee should bend a little differently.

However…

Focusing internally forces you to consciously try to control your movements. This causes you to constrain your motor system, which disrupts overall fluidity.

On the other hand, external focus allows you to take advantage of your body’s unconscious automatic control processes, which lead to movements that are more efficient, fluid, and accurate.

Another one of the key reasons why external focus may be so effective is that it directs your attention away from your body, and reduces distracting self-conscious feelings. As a result, learning and performance are both sped up.

Focusing internally forces you to consciously try to control your movements.

#5 – Doing what’s easy

Performance during practice doesn’t mean better learning. Challenge and struggle is actually a good thing if you’re trying to play your best golf ON THE COURSE.

“Conditions that induce the most errors during acquisition are often the very conditions that lead to the most learning!

Furthermore, that performance is often fleeting and, consequently, a highly imperfect index of learning does not appear to be appreciated by learners or instructors who frequently misinterpret short-term performance as a guide to long-term learning.”

From “LEARNING VERSUS PERFORMANCE “ by Nicholas C. Soderstrom and Robert A. Bjork

Stop practicing what’s easy and set up challenging scenarios. You’re success or lack of during practice is not an indicator if you’re learning or not.

#6 – Actually being on the driving range

That’s right… you should get off the driving range.

On the golf course each shot you face is a new problem. Most likely it’s one that unlike anything else you’ve ever faced. This is completely different from what you’re doing on the range.

Driving range = flat lies on the fairway.

Get real… How often does that happen on the golf course?

This quote from an very good paper PaR (Plan-act-Review) Golf: Motor Learning Research and Improving Golf Skills Timothy D. Lee McMaster University Richard A. Schmidt Human Performance Research sums this up best

“The concept of practice specificity is that what you learn tends to be what you practice.

In our view, an “optimal” driving range would have a number of deliberately nonflat lies, with varying turf, with targets on the range that mimic both greens and nongreen targets (for playing lay-up shots), with objects placed in front of the golfer to encourage shots to be played over, under, and around them, and so on.

The idea is to make the driving range as similar to the actual play-on-course as possible.”

Previous ArticleNext Article
Founder and chief curator of the Golf Science Lab. Documenting what's going on in the world of research and beyond that can help you play your best golf on the golf course (when it counts). Join the movement of researched based coaching over trusting beliefs and what worked for one person a few decades ago. Follow on Twitter