What Are Golf Driving Ranges & How They Are Used to Practice
Golf driving ranges are a simulated fairway that allows golfers the opportunity to practice driving and chipping using a variety of clubs without having to take one stroke at a time like in a normal round of golf. Most driving ranges have a putting green to practice on as well.
| Read: 5 min
While some country clubs feature a range in addition to the course itself, many around the United States (and the world) are independently run and owned. If you live in a populated area, there’s likely one within a 15-20 minute drive of your house. Your local miniature golf course might even have a range.
The time you spend at the range per individual session is truly dependent on the frequency at which you strike the balls and how large of a bucket you purchased. Amateurs and hobbyists can be out of a driving range in 30-60 minutes.
Pro and semi-pro golfers spend a life at the range, working on their short game, gaining accuracy on their drives, and preparing for tournaments. They’ll even spend the early part of a Sunday morning at the range prior to their tee time just as a warmup.
- Bring your own clubs (if you can)
- Go every other in the hitting bays
- Keep divots under control
- Keep advice and conversation to a minimum, if at all
- Don’t hit the tractor driver
What to bring to the range
Lucky for you, the driving range has a medium bucket and a ball dispenser just waiting for you to take. After you pay ... of course. So, those things, along with a tee box and some wide open target greens, are already at the range.
Here is what you need to bring.
- Golf Clubs. Bring your driver, woods, irons, and wedges to the range. Or, just bring a single club. The choice is yours, depending on what you want to work on for the day.
- Cash or Credit Card. Driving ranges were the type of business that tended to be cash only back in the day, so be wary. However, a range - especially one with a pro shop - should take your card.
- Golf Attire. But only if you want to simulate what a day on the course will be like. Almost all public driving ranges don’t possess the stuffy set of rules that one must follow at a country club.
With regard to etiquette, one thing you want to keep in mind is that a tee box is a lot like a men’s urinal in that you should always leave a space in between, should one be available.
Do not bring your own golf balls. You can use your own golf balls at the putting green, but that’s it. Driving or chipping your own balls out into the range’s fairway will result in losing them forever.
What to work on at the range?
Everyone, from amateur to pro to weekend warrior, loves going to the range. There’s very little in this world like swatting a bucket of balls for distance with your favorite driver.
Given that, most people go to the driving range for just that, working on their driver. This involves the obvious, driving for distance, but also working on control and accuracy. Upper level players can opt to practice incorporating a draw or fade into their shot.
Golfers also work on chip shots. Yes, it’s true that you can probably work on short chip shots from the comfort of your backyard. But a practice facility, as driving ranges are, offers a topography that your home (usually) cannot.
Driving ranges often place flags around the fairway to give golfers a target to shoot for. We highly recommend not trying to hit the ball collecting tractor that’s out on the range. It’s a golden rule situation. You wouldn’t want someone driving a golf ball at 100mph at you, would you?
How large is a driving range?
A good driving range is at least 300 yards long. A good range will also be at least 150 yards wide. This will account for the variety of slices and hooks that will come along those weekend warriors who are out there hacking their Saturday mornings away.
What size buckets can I buy?
Driving ranges are like your local fast food joint in that they offer small, medium and large buckets of balls. However, some ranges like to play with the names (and prices) to make you feel like you’re getting a deal, using words like jumbo instead of large.
I remember an old driving range that used to price the small bucket of balls (50) at $4.50 and a large bucket (100) at $5.00. Not sure I ever saw someone order the small. So in essence, it didn’t really exist. Not even sure they actually had a “small” bucket.
Typical Driving Range Ball Baskets
- Small (40-50)
- Medium (60-75)
- Large (100)
ParWest Turf Services, a manufacturer of Plastic Driving Range Ball Baskets, offers additional sizing options, as seen below. Jumbo @ 350 is no joke. Your arms are going to get tired.
- Warm-Up (25 Balls)
- Small (40 Balls)
- Medium (70 Balls)
- Large (100 Balls)
- Extra Large (200 Balls)
- Jumbo (350 Balls)
Can you rent clubs at a Golf Driving Range?
It all depends. Some ranges are a bit more sparse than others. These ranges tend to offer a large bucket of balls, a tee box and not much else.
Other ranges, especially ones with a Pro Shop, tend to offer rentals. There’s a two fold incentive here, the first being that it’s easier to attract more customers if you provide the equipment, and the second being a potential up-sell on equipment, as golfers can test drive better (more expensive) club models at the facility.
Do driving range golf shops offer lessons?
Some driving ranges have an on-site PGA pro. If you can find this type of range, then you’re probably in luck for setting up personal golf instruction. These ranges tend to have a clubhouse near or attached to the practice area.
What are practice balls like to hit?
Practice balls, or range balls as they’re often called, are constructed differently than the golf balls you’d use on a course. In terms of your actual swing though, nothing is different when it comes to hitting a range ball.
Some swear that range balls go further to make people feel good about their abilities and want to return. Either way, a range ball isn’t going to damage or otherwise affect your clubs, so feel free to swing as you normally would on the links.
The Driving Range tee box
Early driving ranges like Pinehurst featured grass tees when they were just getting going. Today, driving range tee boxes are made from a combination of wood and artificial turf. Divots create maintenance and maintenance costs money, driving down the profitability of the range.
Also, the wooden walls help prevent poorly struck balls from going sideways and striking other golfers. Safety is a big concern at driving ranges, considering a golf ball travels at speeds upwards of 200 mph and could quite literally kill someone if they were struck in the head or chest.
Fun Fact: The 14 acres in the middle of the Pinehurst golf campus were originally not more than an afterthought from architect Donald Ross in 1913 when he re-routed course No. 1 to the south and opened some ground for golfers for practice.
The Driving Range Clubhouse
Some driving ranges come with their own clubhouse. This is also true of entertainment centers with ranges. These clubhouses sometimes come with their own food and drink. Just something to keep in mind if you’re heading to the range on an empty stomach. Furthermore, some ranges have a bar on-site, if that’s of interest to you.
The Driving Range vs Indoor Simulators
Technology has improved so much that people can legitimately work on their golf swing indoors. And we don’t just mean better netting (though nets have come a long way). Simulators bring the practice range to the accessibility of your own basement or garage.
Certified golf instructors use golf simulators to improve the golf swing of clients without the need for grass tees. They can also work with their clients through the year since it’s indoors. It’s a win-win for all involved.
A driving range’s day is over when the last bucket of balls has been struck. That’s ok though, because golf practice resumes again tomorrow for just a small fee. And that, folks, is why driving ranges are great. You can go every day of the week for less than what it costs you to play on Sunday.
And, you get 99% of the experience, given that there is a short game area, target greens, and putting into a hole just over on the side of the range. Usually.
Just don't forget to take your Happy Gilmore hockey stick putter with you. The Range is probably the only place it is allowed.