If there's one constant about golf then that is practice. All shots must be practiced time and time again in order to truly master your distances.
However since the easiest way to practice is by far at driving range an important question does raise up: How do range balls perform compared to new and premium balls?
It's not uncommon for golfers to base their distances on the results they get at the driving range and in fact that's the intent of a range. But between the quality and texture of the ball, the build of the range and beyond it's important to know how accurate the results you get in a range really are.
You might just discover that the feeling your distances aren't quite measuring to the shots you make in the range are more than just a nagging feeling.
Today we'll take a look at all the aspects that affect performance in a driving range: The build of range balls and their effects in shots, the distance differences we can expect on average, and even how distances are measured in driving ranges.
So let's get started and learn everything we can about range balls and how they can be affecting your game.
Do range balls spin more?
A common belief when it comes to range balls is that they have more side spin. The reasoning for this is rather simple too: Good balls are meant t have lower spin and once players start noticing that their range and course shots vary they assume it's due to the ball being of lower quality.
While range balls ultimately do behave differently from pro balls they don't spin more. In fact they tend to consistently have less spin than most balls.
The exact numbers will vary from ball to ball and based on the club used; but something consistent in all tests is that range balls will spin less. When using a driver the difference will be rather small with an average difference of 30 rpm.
This means there's roughly a spin decrease of 2% with range balls. When using an iron the difference starts becoming more notorious with a difference of 550 rpm meaning there's 10% change in the spin.
However a wedge provided the most impressive results with the range ball having less than half the spin of the pro ball. So regardless of the variation you'll find personally you can always expect a range ball to spin less.
Ultimately this is something that comes down to the build of range balls. Range balls tend to be 2-piece and considerably harder than the balls you'd use on a court. On top of that the constant use means they can be worn or even uneven at times.
Due to being harder and potentially worn range balls have less friction and consequently will spin less.
So while a range ball will undoubtedly affect your shot it's not due to them spinning more. It's also important to take into account that while many people relate less spin with a ball being better ; range balls still differ from pro balls in more than spin.
Speed and distance will also vary and this will affect your calculations, so there's more to consider with them.
How much further do golf balls go than range balls?
While spin differences on range balls is largely an unintended side effect of their build the same can't be said for how range balls perform for distance.
If you've ever felt that your shots at the range fall short of the numbers you know you can make then rest assured that it's more than just a hunch.Most range balls are designed to fly shorter distances than regular balls and the difference will be enough to change your performance.
Once again with all the different brands in the market it can be hard to offer exact estimates, but in general new range balls will cover 80% the distance of a regular ball.Similarly worn balls or those that are designed to be even more flight resistant can fall as low as 60% the distance of regular balls.
These numbers are undoubtedly much shorter than a performance ball and make a large impact in how you'd guess your shots, but perhaps the most interesting part is the reasoning for this change.
Range balls tend to cover much shorter distances to avoid unwanted accidents. It's not uncommon for ranges to be below the recommended lenght and in this case the shorter distance makes lost balls or broken windows less likely.
The reasoning might be a little disappointing but the distance reduction is really something that is fully in service of the range and not of your practice.
Of course not all ranges fall below the estimated distance, but flight reduction balls are so common that chances are your range uses them by default.
Coupled with the accumulated use and worn texture of the ball you should always assume you are losing 20% of the distance with a range ball. You can use this information to try and measure how much farther your shots will go, but nothing will beat making a shot with a regular golf ball
Are driving range distances accurate?
As we mentioned above some ranges in fact do not have the recommended distance for golf shots, so you'd be forgiven for wondering just how much you can trust the numbers in a driving range.
While there are many rumors and myth around driving ranges there are certain things that tend to be true for all ranges.
The first thing to take into account is that the distances that are shown in the range are measured from the center lane. While this doesn't sound like a major deal it's something that can stack up in certain cases.
Many driving ranges have their lanes at a slight arc which means that the further you are from the center lane the more inaccurate the distances will be. As a result of this method of measuring it's possible for your starting distance to be up to 20 yards closer to the markers.
Usually if you want the most accurate distances you want to be as close as possible to the center, but that of course won't be always possible. You should expect the yards listed to not fully represent the actual flight distance, but the exact variation is hard to pin down.
Another factor that will affect your distances is the way ranges measure distance. Generally for the purposes of construction distance is measured from the back wall to the range markers.
This means that shots aren't being measured from the starting point and this will be present even in the center lanes. On the other hand this is a much smaller variation on most courts so it won't affect your calculations as much.
Of course since we mentioned that not all ranges fit the recommended distance for golf the very idea of distance markers can become easy to doubt. Many people swear that ranges have reduced distance markers to account for the shorter distance of range balls, but we have no way to prove this short of using a laser to measure.
Driving ranges should be expected to have some variance when it comes to distance regardless of the ball you are using, but there's no way to know how severe this is without checking each range individually.
As it stands we have learnt quite a few things about the way driving ranges perform compared to a real court. Range balls themselves are the largest difference and there's no way to get the same results with one as you would get with your regular balls.
On top of that we have raised a few concerns about the accuracy of driving ranges and both of these factors might discourage you a bit.
The simple fact is that driving ranges aren't really intended to give you accurate distances you can replicate while playing. The main purpose of a driving range is really for golfers to practice their swing and when it comes to that there's no real issue.
The final shot won't really be accurate at all, but that's not the intent. Driving ranges are a place to practice how to do a shoot, not to calculate distances for the court.
That said there are certain things you can do if you still want to find the most accurate numbers possible during your next trip to a range. A laser is your best friend if you have doubts about the distance markers in your local range.
A rangefinder is a really useful tool for any golfer and having one at hand will let you have accurate distance readings regardless of the location you practice. Additionally you can try with a few balls of your own once you are certain you've mastered the shot you want to make.
This will give you an accurate distance for your real game later down the road. Driving ranges are not perfect when it comes to distance, but nonetheless they still are an useful training tool.