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Driving range mats - good for absolutely nothing?

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Lairdy
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Post by theeldestboy Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:35 am

I played well last weekend. After many long year of battling with my middle irons, i finally saw the results of many lessons and much practice come to fruition. I struck the ball really nicely, with fizz off the face, great flight and an extra 10-15 yards on my normal distances. I was in the zone, and loving it.

So last night, i decided to go to the range to hit a few irons, keep the momentum going, see if i could replicate the form of last weekend and maybe start to shape a few shots. Golf is built upon confidence, right...so i thought i'd go an give myself a boost. I went to Emirates Golf Club, where in the evenings you have to use the driving range mats. Now the mats at Emirates are good quality...not bare and thin like at many ranges, they're not in bad nick i suppose.

However, I realised last night that there’s absolutely zero value in trying to practice on those mats. I couldn’t hit a thing. Everything felt fat, the impact jarred my wrists. I couldn’t get the ball off the ground and most shots had a horrible late fade. So i tried choking down on the club a little, taking 1/2 swings to play a few clipped draws. While i did manage to get a few away, it still felt horrible in my hands. No matter what i tried, i just couldn't find a decent strike of any sort. Slightly disillusioned, I threw a couple of balls down on the grass behind the mats and tried again, first using my 7 iron. Boom…flush…a perfect strike. So then my PW, again from the grass. Boom…flush…perfect strike. Straight as an arrow, good height, soft feel at impact and the shape i was looking for.

I think it’s almost impossible to hit a genuine flush shot on the mats. You need the softness of the grass, the club needs to dig in and compact the ball, whereas the mats just bounce the club and lead to all manner of fats and thins. The club head grips the surface too much, turning the club head in your hand and making it difficult to play any kind of shape. Ironically, I think the better the impact you make on those mats, the worse the result will be. Even getting a good solid footing on those mats is very hard, if not impossible. Cleats are designed to nestle into and grip the grass, whereas they sit on top of the mats and you effectively slide across the surface. My front foot (which i have turned out slightly) kept sliding at impact, making it very hard to keep balanced.

What are your views on the benefits (or otherwise) of practicing on mats? What are the mats at your club like? Do you share my views or are you able to get the same results on the mats as you do on the grass? Any tips for shots i should and shouldn't be playing on the artificial surface?
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Post by Diggers Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:47 am

Totally the other way for me, can hit good shots all day at a range, sadly not on the course.
Mind you I don't take much of a divot so think that may be why the mats don't hinder me, also of course I'm on more of a rhythm at the range. But mainly when I started I hit a lot of balls on the range but didn't play much on a course so I tend to feel relaxed and comfortable on a range and sadly rarely feel that way on a course.
Would love it to be the other way round mind you.

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Post by Davie Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:52 am

Driving range mats are by far the biggest reason I don't practice as much as I should do. I just can't get the feel off them at all and find that it seems to do me more harm than good.

The only time I really practice anything other than putting is in the summer when the range is on grass. Mats leave me stone cold

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Post by ScottieD18 Tue Nov 29, 2011 8:31 am

Completely agree. Our club has a driving range so only use it to warm up before a round or to practice the driver.

There is one range a few miles away which has mats with a section for irons. Much more like grass and perfectly usable. Not sure of the technical term. I would have expected others to follow but they haven't. I guess the cost is greater.

I carry a bag of balls and during summer months much prefer hitting balls of grass. There used to be several usable locations round the city but the Council have stopped cutting the grass on most of them so now limited to the football pitches. Don't worry, I hit balls off the trips of grass round the pitch. For a one off purchase for the balls you get to practice for free so ends up much cheaper as well.

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Post by twoeightnine Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:55 am

I guess it depends on whether you are a player who takes a divot or not. My local range is one where they have a hopper that you pour your balls into, they are then pushed out on a tee. In common with others like this the astro grass around it is about 1-2cm deep so when you hit it off this stuff you get a much better feel.

I would guess that you would find that players who spend more time hitting off mats don't take big divots. Maybe just try using fairways woods/hybrids and your driver as there should be no divot then.

I actually find playing off the harder mats when chipping pretty good practice as then when I get a bare lie I know that I can play from there.

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Post by navyblueshorts Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:45 am

Never had a problem off mats, even those old, black rubber ones. I don't hit huge divots but I do hit reasonable ones, especially with the 8-iron down. The mat shouldn't have anything to do with hitting it thin or fat.

Don't take it the wrong way but maybe it's in your head a bit?

twoeightnine wrote:...I actually find playing off the harder mats when chipping pretty good practice as then when I get a bare lie I know that I can play from there.
Same here. If you can chip it well from one of those hard mats with little give in them, you can do it off any bare lie.
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Post by JAS Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:55 am

Yep, I don't really have a problem with mats which is a good job as I'm committing to lots of range work over the winter. I do think there is a transition to go through when you try and take your range form to the course e.g. Ball can be ever so slighty above/below the feet causing enough of a difference to knock out a not very well grooved swing so from that perspective some people (probably big divot takers) would benefit from always being on grass and avoiding mats.

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Post by MustPuttBetter Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:08 pm

I've never had a problem with mats.
I'm not sure i quite follow the logic of why not being able to take a divot would matter. Ok it might hamper your follow through or something but the divot should come after impact. In other words, the ball's already gone so it can't affect the shot surely?

I take a fair divot on the course but have always found the mats to have enough give so that it doesn't make much difference to me
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Post by barragan Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:26 pm

Our club installs mats on each of the par 3 tees each winter, which is a necessity to maintain the tee in reasonable condition as they tend to mess up bad in the wet.
Personally I dislike them, probably because I am a bit of a digger, and I do not tee up any iron. I find that whenever I catch the ball a fraction early with mid-long irons it can considerably affect the length of the shot - far more so than when played from grass. For example - a long iron can easily lose 30 yards plus of carry, wheras the equivalent miss from grass would be more like 10-15 yards. Often this can be the difference between hitting the green (still short of the target) and ending up in a greenside bunker. Short irons are less of an issue though.

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Post by McLaren Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:28 pm

I am not sure anway can argue that a well struck shot from ideal turf feels a lot better than a shot from mats. Ball then turf is a wonderful feeling.

The reason I dont visit the range all that often is the price. 50 balls is over a fiver these days.
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Post by barragan Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:30 pm

i think kingsacre is 'only' 3.50 for 50 mac.

the only time i use the range is through the winter when its too dark to get in the odd bit of midweek practice.

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Post by super_realist Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:30 pm

Where on earth do you go Mac?

100 balls at St.Andrews is £6:20 (or £6 for a links ticket holder) and all other ranges I know are £5 for 100)

50 balls are usually around £3.


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Post by McLaren Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:34 pm

maybe it was £5 for 75, either way it is a litte over the top given that a bucket of top flights or whatever the give you would only be about a £1.

I usually go to the range at american golf braid hills. Anyone know anywhere better to go in edinburgh?


Also, does anyone find chipping pretty pointless on the ranges with mats?
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Post by super_realist Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:39 pm

What do you mean a bucket of top flights is only a pound?

I actually find chipping really good off mats, because of the way I hit the ball. Plenty targets to chip to, but its more to do with the contact than where it lands.

I'm on the lookout for a range now i'm nearly an Edinburgh resident. Perhaps Ban can recommend.

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Post by drive4show Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:42 pm

So much depends on the type of mats. There are two ranges near me, one has the dense foam 'crashmat' type and the other has the small raised metal platforms covered in carpet. The range at my club has the dense astroturf that you can compress the ball off.

The raised platform place really jars the hands and wrists so I tend to avoid that and use the other range which also has newer, better balls. Best of all though is my club astrograss mats which I use during daylight when I'm over there at weekends.

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Post by barragan Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:47 pm

i've never been to the braids range, but kingsacre is ok. i tend to just use the practice areas at duddingston.

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Post by McLaren Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:23 pm

Super

As in top flights are rubbish therefore to buy a bucket of them would only cost you a £1 because of the lack of quality. Most ranges seem to use crap balls so how can a bucket of them cost a fiver?

Ban

Yeah Kingsacre is an ok range but it is a long way out of town and you cannot get the bus there.
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Post by super_realist Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:28 pm

Mac, a driving range is not a charity, it exists to make money.

You have to pay for A) The balls, B) Washing the balls ) C Machinery to deploy balls. D) Tractor and machinery to collect balls. E) Tractor driver.
F) Electricity G) Maintenance H) Mats. I)Grass Cutting etc etc.
Hence why a bucket of balls isn't £1 a go. Rolling Eyes


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Post by McLaren Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:41 pm

Super, it was a joke based on the poor quality of balls you get at a range. Calm down.

I am sure most ranges struggle to make any money even at £5 a bucket.
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Post by super_realist Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:45 pm

Hard to tell with you Mac when you are joking or not when you think a country spending like Greece is a good idea.

The balls have to be relatively cheap and rubbish otherwise minks would nick them.

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Post by Maverick Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:44 pm

A quid for bucket of balls would never be realistic in the current economic climate plus. Fiver for a hundred balls is pretty standard.

I would consider myself a bit of a range monster, I'm there at least 3 times a week, and even in the summer I won't always use the grass range as playing off range mats can help with the feel of some of the tight lies you can get.

I would consider myself a pretty large divot taker too and have no issue with using a matt, just because you don't see turf fly doesn't mean you can't hit through the ball on a matt.

There are some seriously good ranges about now with good matts unlike the old days, I tend to use one I would call more of a practice facility than a range as it has fully floodlit practice greens, bunker areas, chipping and pitching areas and of course a driving range.

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Post by Lairdy Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:03 pm

I think a lot of people hit the range during the winter suffer from distance loss and associate it with the mats. The balls are never as good as normal ones and they probably perform even worse in the colder temperatures than normal ones, which all leads to the drop in distances.

Also a tiny bit heavy on the mats might not be as forgiving as on grass.

The important thing about going to the range should be not going with high expectations. I'm currently trying to change club path and therefore ball flight. When I'm working on I never worry too much about some poor contact or what feels like poor ball-mat interaction - the ball flight is the main thing.


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Post by McLaren Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:15 pm

Lairdy great point about the range and distance loss. Although I think we all know that distance is not important on the range and it is accuracy that really matters we still find it hard to not try and achieve distance during practice.

It can be useful inside 125 yards but for the longer clubs the only worry should be accuracy.

I think it was goldwolf who stuck to this mantra very successfully and said he just did not think about yardages while on the range. I seem to remember he said it stopped you ruining your swings rhythm by bashing away.
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Post by Lairdy Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:37 pm

I'm just coming to accept this. I realised it a while ago but acceptance is different! I think trying to match my on course yardages, or even trying to get more yardage, at the range has been detrimental to my swing in the past 2 years or so when I have taken up golf more seriously.

It was my pro who commented on how far I was hitting a 6i one lesson that I realised I had moved away from being distance obsessed at the range. The yardage he pointed out was a further than what I used to try and aim for. I was happy that I was hitting those distances but I was more unhappy it wasnt quite the shape I wanted.

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Post by Diggers Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:04 pm

Just went to the range this afternoon, first time Id swung a club for a month and that was at the range as well.
Have to say I was hitting it pretty sweetly. If nothing else its nice to go and not completely forget what it feels like to hit a golf ball if you dont have the time to actually get out on the course.

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Post by Marcus Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:42 pm

The range at Princes has just been upgraded. Callaway balls, and the best mats I've ever hit off. There's a special iron section on them where the astroturf is a bit more "grassy", and it's also positioned on top of some sort of gel insert, ensuring that it doesn't feel like you're striking down on to concrete. Feels really good, and about as close to hitting off grass as you can get. They're made by a company called TrueStrike, and cost about £600 each! Shocked

Probably too far to travel to for the Scottish 606v2 contingent though.

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Post by jeffkenna Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:16 pm

I share the views of the op in this regard. Struggle to gwt the feel of a proper strike. For me you cannot generate that same compression of the ball as would off turf. I find as well that my swing can get a bit wristy at and just after impact, this is because i am not hitting down and through the ball and turf to take a divot as per normal. A good post lots of valid points.

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Post by George1507 Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:07 pm

I've been to a driving range in Japan where the ball lands on astroturf mounds, and runs off and into something like a drain pipe. Water is being pumped into the drain pipes and the balls roll back to the middle, and then slightly downhill back to the front of the range. They drop into a hole, then along a conveyor, and up into the ball dispenser again. The place is pretty much unmanned. No grass to cut, no tokens to sell.

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Post by number1hacker Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:44 am

McLaren wrote:I am not sure anway can argue that a well struck shot from ideal turf feels a lot better than a shot from mats. Ball then turf is a wonderful feeling.

The reason I dont visit the range all that often is the price. 50 balls is over a fiver these days.

50 balls a fiver!! I wouldn't be going too. I live and started playing golf in Thailand. 50 balls 80 p, happy days........

As for mats, I don't have a problem with them but when the range is quiet I soon throw the balls out in front on-to the grass.... Nothing like seeing the grass fly!!!!

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