I’ve seen a lot of pure golf swings on the driving range over the years, and on many occasions have thought, ‘How is this guy not out on tour?’ Well, most of the time the answer is they’re a driving range player, not a golf course player. Meaning that they flush it on the range but struggle to take that swing onto the course and produce a score with it.
Trust me, you don’t want to be known as a range player. There is so much more to this game than having a pretty swing. The range is for finding something reliable to take onto the golf course – and that’s where the real talent to this game comes into play.
Don’t get me wrong; the golf swing is certainly an integral piece of the puzzle. However, other vital areas that help a player score on the golf course are:
• Course management
What’s the best way to play each hole? Take in factors such as hole location, correct angle of approach, course conditions, where is the most favourable place to miss, etc.
• Variety in your game
Can you work the ball different ways? Higher, lower, left-to-right, right-to-left, with more or less spin, etc. I find a lot of up-and-coming players are too one-dimensional. They have only one speed: flat out. Which is fine in perfect conditions, but how often does that happen in golf?
• Having variety opens up shot selection, which dictates club selection
A particular shot on the course could be played three different ways with three different clubs. To have those options is invaluable.
• Wedges and putter
Being handy with your shorter clubs and getting up and down to save pars to keep your score going is what all course players are good at.
• A solid mental game
The ability to think clearly, be fully present and commit to each shot is more valuable than the talent to hit great shots on the range. It’s amazing what happens to range players when that same white ball is on the golf course rather than the practice area.
I’m sure at most local clubs across Australia there’s a player or two that don’t look like much when they hit balls on the range, yet they have one of the lowest handicaps in the club. The younger, more polished-looking players probably dread going against them in club championships and big events. It’s because these players don’t care what their game looks like on the course, all that matters is what number they write down at the end of each hole.
My coach said to me early on: “Don’t be a range player. The range is full of golfers with pretty swings who can’t compete out on the course.” If you’re able to improve in the areas above, you’ll get the most out of the talent you have. Every time I set foot on the links, the goal is to manage my way around and write down the lowest score possible. As my caddie always said, “You don’t have to draw pictures on the scorecard as to how you did it.”