If you're like me, you're lucky if you can find time in your busy schedule to fit in 18 holes of golf, much less practice your swing on the driving range. It's a miraculous occurrence when I can actually be alone, practicing my game, but when I do get the chance, my soul is crushed every time I'm forced to hit off of hitting mats. Even the best hitting mat takes hours and hours of coddling and maintenance to perform anywhere near a clean patch of grass would.
At St. Mark Golf Club, we are so lucky to be able to truly practice like the pros off a flat, grass driving range 90% of the time. Assistant Professional, Kevin Piccirillo points out hitting mats' flaws as the following:
Too much forgiveness
- Raise your hand if you've had day in which could not miss on the practice range, but after your round is up, you realize you feel you “wasted all your good swings on the range.” Almost all of us have had such a confounding day. I'd be willing to bet, however, it was that darn hitting mat that set up your unrealistic expectations.
- When you are making inconsistent contact on a mat, the club will still slide or bounce to find the ball. This means that a swing leading to impact 2 inches behind the ball could result, still, in a decent golf shot. On the other hand, with that identical swing on a grass range or on the course, your club will stick right in the ground at impact, and your divot will end up flying further than your actual golf ball.
Can hurt your joints
- Underneath that old mat, that feels too close to concrete under your feet, is usually actual concrete. So don't be surprised if you end up nursing sore wrists, elbows, and/or shoulders after practicing too often on mats. Mats are forgiving because they have no "give." When you're hitting an iron properly on grass, you should be hitting down on the ball and making divots. However, if you take a divot off a range mat, it probably means someone will end up paying to replace that range mat. "Hitting down" on a range mat means at impact, the club sends an abnormally high amount of reverberation back through the rest of your upper body. This type of sensation, felt repeatedly can lead to joint irritation. Additionally, when people start to experience this, they begin to swing more shallowly into the ball, This domino effect of poor hitting surface, compensation for body aches, and subsequent swing changes can mean you lose ability to aim a golf shot, compress the ball, and score consistently.
Changes loft and lie of clubs over time
- Again, the repeated descending blow of a golf club against the hard mat will over time change the loft and lie angle of your irons and wedges. If you do most of your practicing on mat surfaces, our pros recommend getting your clubs analyzed or fit almost twice as often as normal (once per year).
- Our pros warn that hitting off of mats can inflate your distances by up to 10 yards with longer irons. So be warned when trying to nail down specific distances off of mat surfaces.
- Chances are, you won't ever be comfortable with the height or quality of the rubber tee in any particular practice mat. This issue is one you'll never have to encounter on a grass range like that at St. Mark Golf Club, as you can use a conventional tee that can be placed in the ground at the height of your liking.
Now that you realize how valuable a grass driving range is to your game and your health, let's go over how you, the golfer, can do your part to ensure they remain in tip-top shape.
1. Don't Be Selfish, Hit in a Linear Pattern
Scattering your divots across your hitting area is, unfortunately, the norm and not the exception at grass driving ranges across the golfing world. By paying attention to your divot pattern, you can save over 50% of lush, green grass in each space for the next guy.
2. Grass Range- A Privilege, Not A Right. Encourage and Educate Others
Once you start to habitually hit in a linear pattern, you’ll quickly realize how much space you are saving for yourself and for your fellow golfers. Don’t let your buddies ruin a grass-range by spraying and scattering divots wherever they please. If you took the time to read this post, we thank you. You are the advocates we need patrolling grass-ranges everywhere, ensuring everyone knows and respect the “rules of the range.”