Do you ever practice on the driving range and feel like the golf ball is not going anywhere? Even on your good shots the ball seems to only fly a fraction of the normal distance?
Don’t worry, you’re not losing your sanity. Range balls definitely don’t fly like normal golf balls, well at least with some clubs. But they might perform similarly with others.
Plus, there are a ton of other factors which we’ll cover today. Keep reading to learn more about driving range balls to maximize each practice session.
Do Range Balls Go Shorter?
The question every golfer has wondered… Do range balls go the same distance as a normal golf ball?
Sadly, no, range balls are not as good as premium golf balls but are closer than you think with some clubs. Most studies have found that range balls are roughly 6-10% shorter than regular balls.
You will notice this loss of distance in shorter clubs and irons more than you will with woods and drivers. Expect it most with wedges and short irons specifically, while the driver will be very similar to regular golf balls.
Each range has different balls though so it’s not easy to give a one size fits all answer. Some ranges might replace their balls often and use premium golf balls like Titleist or Callaway. If this is the case, expect about a 6% decline in distance with your driving range ball.
While others might use cheaper balls, x-outs, used balls and/or not replace as often. This might lead to a huge difference between range balls with 10% loss of distance and could alter your ball flight as well (since the dimples are worn down).
In a perfect world, all ranges would use premium balls and our practice sessions would be amazing. But that’s not the case as a premium golf ball has a very different construction than regular golf balls.
Range Ball Construction
So, how are these golf balls designed?
Most range balls are 2-piece golf balls and available in yellow or white. Some might even be a one-piece design as well. If you play a 3-piece or 4-piece premium ball, this is a big difference in terms of distance and flight.
According to the website Golf Balls, “A 2-Piece golf ball consists of a solid rubber core and a firm outer layer. These balls are designed to fly straighter and spin less than multi-layer balls. Further, these tend to offer maximum distance off the tee and great short game spin control; hence their nickname “the distance balls.”
Two-piece balls are designed to fly straighter, are more durable, and ideal for beginners and high handicappers. Needless to say, if you’re a scratch golfer who plays a Titleist Pro V1X (a 4-piece multi layer ball), you will notice a difference in distance and flight.
The same article pointed out the difference between the two types of balls. “A multi-layer ball, like a 4- or a 5-piece item, features a thin outer layer that is typically made of urethane.
This soft material provides ample short-game spin by allowing the clubface to “grab” the ball, while the intermediate layer(s) between the core and exterior allow more spin and control on well-struck iron shots.”
Ultimately, range balls spin less thanks to a cheaper design and they get worn down over time.
Limited Flight Range Ball
While normal range balls don’t act like a typical ball, there are different versions that limit the distance even more. These are known as Cayman style golf balls and only travel roughly 50% of the distance.
According to the Golf Balls article above, “It can be played on specially designed short courses, par 3, executive courses, and practice ranges. The Cayman rewards the player for a well hit ball. It is designed to groove your swing while developing timing and tempo.”
These are ideal for practicing in a restricted area without a ton of space. A lot of shorter driving ranges use these types of balls to ensure players don’t hit through it and on the golf course.
Another great alternative is the BirdieBall which you can use in a parking lot or any open space. They only go 30-40 yards total but provide a great hitting experience.
Hitting the Right Number of Range Balls
One of the biggest mistakes that most people make in practice is hitting too many range balls. Most people think that more practice is better practice… but that’s not always the case.
In general, always think about quality of practice vs. quantity of practice! Less is more sometimes when it comes to making the most of your practice time.
Hitting more range balls doesn’t get you extra credit from the Golf Gods. In fact, hitting too many range balls can actually negatively impact your game (and wallet). Not only do large and jumbo buckets cost more, they make it easy to ingrain bad habits.
Most golfers rapidly fire golf balls one after the other at the driving range. This gives your mind little time to assess and learn the mistakes and instead, keep compounding the error. Repetition is the mother of mastery and unfortunately, you can master bad habits on the range.
This is why it’s so important to take regular breaks between golf balls. Not only will this simulate an actual round of golf better, it’ll give your mind and body time to relax. You need to step away sometimes to learn about your shots and figure out what you need to do to improve your swing.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a jumbo bucket a day is how you shoot in the 70s! Less is more when it comes to hitting golf balls.
Hit Range Before and After the Round
The driving range is a great way to get warmed up before the round. If you’re teeing off right after work you might not always have time but if so, we always suggest it.
But when you hit balls before the round, you only need 20-30 balls (at most). The goal isn’t to revamp your swing or work on technical swing changes. Instead, your goal is to get your body loose and warmed up for the round.
Additionally, one of the best things you can do for your game is hit balls after the round. Since your body is already loose and you saw your shots, you can work on your weaknesses. This is a common habit among professional golfers but very rare with amateur players.
Like hitting balls before the round, less is more. You don’t need a large or jumbo bucket as your body is likely tired from the round.
Instead, hit a small bucket and see if you can improve on anything you struggled with that day. This is a good time to take notes of what went right during the round so you can replicate it in the future.
FAQs About the Driving Range
If you have more questions about hitting range balls make sure to keep reading to make the most of each practice session.
Why do range balls go shorter? Do range balls go lower?
Range balls fly shorter due to the one or two-piece design that limits ball speed. These types of balls are typically reserved for beginners and high handicappers, not single digit or scratch golfers.
They also have a different flight than a lot of other golf balls too thanks to the design. These balls tend to fly straighter and they’re harder to shape in either direction as they don’t have as much spin. Plus, the dimples get worn down since they’re hit so often.
Do range balls fly straighter?
It depends on the golf ball.
If they’re damaged at all, it can have a huge impact on the ball and cause flight issues that aren’t related to your swing. It’s always a good idea to save the best golf balls for your longer clubs when hitting range balls.
Do PGA Tour players hit range balls?
In tournaments, they do not hit normal range balls. Anytime you watch golf on TV, you won’t see them hitting range balls that the everyday golfer would. I actually know from working at a PGA Tour event in college.
As a player on the team, we got to volunteer at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. We handed players their balls at the range and got to see these guys aren’t hitting typical range balls.
Instead, they are hitting normal golf balls to get them the best warm up possible. It’s a pain for the driving range attendants as they have to sort out the balls in individual bags each night. I even got to see Tiger Woods walk by our table and grab his Nike golf balls!
Why do range balls not travel as far?
The design and cover are very different from premium balls.
These balls have a cheap rubber core and have a thicker Surlyn cover (most golf balls are made of Urethane). This makes the balls more durable but also impacts the distance and flight of the ball.
What is the right order of clubs to hit at the driving range?
The biggest mistake most golfers at the driving range make is not progressing through their set correctly. Too many golfers go straight to their long clubs without warming up. This can lead to injury and also not your best swings either.
Instead, you want to warm up slowly and work your way up to longer clubs. Don’t just grab driver after driving to the range and expect to hit bombs. Your body needs to get loosened up and ready for all the speed and twisting motion of a golf swing.
Here’s how I like to get warmed up (5-10 balls each): sand wedge, pitching wedge, 8 iron, 5 iron, 3 wood, and then driver. This gives me plenty of time to start feeling my swing, pick targets, and make the most out of my practice session.
What is a floater golf ball?
A floater ball is made an “aqua driving range.” These ranges have tons of water and the golf balls float instead of sink like a traditional golf ball.
As Golf Balls Galore said, “Increased durability, and a slightly shorter distance performance makes this ball ideal for any aqua range. Wilson dimple pattern dimple pattern is specifically designed to maintain ball flight.”
Now I want to test out an aqua driving range to see what it’s like!
Do driving range balls hurt your golf clubs?
No, they will not damage most of your clubs as they’re similar to a regular golf ball. But they can wear down the grooves faster in your wedges, especially if they’re a firmer designed ball.
If you’re someone that hits a lot of range balls, especially with wedges, it’s not a bad idea to have practice LW/SW and ones you use for playing. This way you can save the grooves of your playing wedges (as you don’t need backspin on the range) for the golf course. I know it’s not the most economical practice tip but it can help create more consistent spin on the course.
Is the driving range out of bounds?
This is a good question as so many golf courses have holes that run parallel to the driving range. So, if your ball ends up in the range, is it out of bounds or in play?
It depends on the golf course.
I’ve played some courses that allow you to find and hit your ball from the driving range. It isn’t always easy to locate the ball (especially if they’re the same color), let alone hit it while players are firing buckets of balls toward you.
While other courses have a firm out of bounds policy. This actually makes sense a lot of times as they don’t want players getting potentially injured from searching on the driving range.
The best place to see if the range is OB or not is the scorecard as they typically have local rules on the card.
For more, read our article on driving range etiquette.
Are range balls harder to hit?
Yes, there is a huge difference between a range ball and a regular golf ball.
But range balls aren’t harder to hit, they just don’t have the qualities of a brand-new premium ball that you would use. The dimples are worn down and this will affect the distance, spin, ball speed, and flight of the golf ball.
Plus, some driving ranges don’t replace new golf balls nearly as often so it can have a big impact on your overall range session. A good course should replace with new range balls at least 2-3x per year.
In general, you can still learn a lot about your game despite range balls being worn down. Try to spot tendencies in each golf shot so you can improve your golf game over time.
Final Thoughts on Driving Range Practice Balls
Hitting range balls isn’t as good as normal balls but that doesn’t mean you should skip the range all together. Expect your wedges and irons to be the most affected from range balls – they will go 6-10% less in terms of total distance.
Plus, some driving ranges have controlled golf balls that will affect the distance even more. But if they aren’t distance controlled, your woods and drivers should be about the same length.
If you’re practicing short game, ditch the range balls and practice with the balls you use on the golf course. This will make your practice sessions better and more similar to playing a round of golf.