It's the beginning of the golf season, and if you are like me it's the time of the year when after you play 18 you say to yourself, "You need to hit the range." I always seem to play well the first round of the year. The game is fresh, my enthusiasm, and the simple joy of playing golf again seems to eliminate the frustration that comes along with bad shots. Once the first few rounds of the year are under your belt, you will have a sense of what your weaknesses are in your game. The little mistakes, the nemesis club in your bag, or certain type of shot you hit the worst is becoming what you will blame your rounds on for the remainder of the season IF you don't take care of it fast.
Now that you know the weaknesses in your game, it is time to fix them. My golden rule for the average golfer is to fix their game at the driving range. Do not try to fix the weaknesses in your game on the course! That will lead to only more frustration. You cannot expect to change something about your golf swing on the golf course and see good lasting results. You can make minor adjustments on the course, but at no time should you ever make drastic changes.
So how do you effectively practice at the driving range? There are many different views on this answer. I have my own opinion and it might differ from other golf enthusiasts, but I have personally found success in this plan.
First things first, 70% of the average golfer's shots are considered to be in the short game category. So if you feel you are not scoring the way you feel you should be, my first recommendation is to look at the quality of your short game. Learn the different shot options for around the green and within 100 yards away. Then learn what situations call for those particular shots. Learning what shot to hit in the right situation will immediately shave strokes off your score.
When it comes to practicing effectively the first thing you want to do is establish a plan for your practice. I like to imagine I am playing my favorite course. I tee a ball up on the range as if I was teeing it up on the first hole of the course I chose. I then proceed to hit the clubs I feel that I would need to use for that particular hole. The best part about practicing like this is that you can hit each club until you feel that you have hit an almost perfect shot. After you feel you have hit a good drive. Then you pull the next club. For example, if you are usually 135 yards away after your drive, then you might want to pull an 8 or 9 iron out next. Hit a few shots with that club until you feel you have hit the type of shot you desired. Then continue to do this type of practicing until you have completed your round. This type of practice is good for visualizing your shots, and it also allows you to re-hit shots until you feel comfortable, making the execution of these shots on the actual golf course much easier.
Another good way to practice is to separate your basket of balls into groups of 10 balls. Before you begin, you should have a list of things you have been trying to focus on, or trying to get better at within your golf swing. If you are working on keeping the weight on your back foot, then for the first 10 golf balls, focus on over emphasizing the weight on your back foot. Do not worry about results as much as focusing on the particular aspect of the swing you are focusing on. Go through your groups of 10 balls, focusing on all the different things you have decided to focus on. Then when you have 10 to 20 balls left, try to put all of these different focus points together to make an all around better swing. You will automatically subconsciously do the things you have been focusing on and your swing will improve over the course of the practice session. One thing to be aware of with this type of practicing is that you don't want to over complicate your golf swing. When you are deciding what things you want to focus on, make them minor things that you can eventually subconsciously do without much thinking. That is the key to making this drill work. Practicing this way will help you develop a feel for your golf swing. You will have an easier time realizing what is going wrong on the golf course, because your swing will be broken down into different aspects that you know you have worked on during practice and you can make the minor changes needed without completely overhauling your swing on the course.
These are my two most commonly used forms of practicing. I suggest you try both of them to see what works best for you. The overall theory behind this posting is that if you go to the range, or practice area with a PLAN, and you are not just hitting balls mindlessly, then I can guarantee you that you will get better results from practicing.