Where to Play & Practice GolfPublished on 09/09/2023 · 10 min readNo matter where you are in your golf journey, the right balance of practice and play is key! Learn where to practice and when to hit the course!
Photo by Joy Brown
I’ve had the honor of introducing dozens of friends and acquaintances to golf over three decades. It’s always a joy to watch them grow from a driving range golfer to a competitive mid or low-handicap amateur. In this post, I share my roadmap for where to play and practice golf.
You’ll learn that there are multiple ways to work on your swing without stepping foot onto an 18-hole golf course. I’ll also reveal how to divide your practice time and when to consider stepping onto the course for the first time. Most importantly, I’ll share the cost difference between a driving range, a par 3 course, and a regulation golf course.
Where Can You Play and Practice Golf?
You can play golf on a standard 18-hole golf course, at a driving range, par 3 course, or a pitch and putt layout. Technology products like golf simulators also enable golfers to enjoy the game from the comfort of their homes.
How Much to Practice vs. Playing Golf?
The table below displays the estimated prices for practicing and playing golf. The table confirms that practicing golf at a driving range is the most affordable option, followed by pitch and putt and par 3 golf courses. A regulation 18-hole round and two hours at TopGolf are the most expensive forms of golf.
A driving range typically asks for $5 to $12 for a bucket of 100 balls, enough for you to work on your long, medium, and short game. At the higher end, you can fit in a round of 18 holes at a public golf course from $40 to $70.
TopGolf has grown in popularity and welcomes experienced and beginner golfers to have fun. Although it's a relaxed approach to working on your swing, it is costly compared to the driving range.
|Golf Activity||Estimated Price|
|Driving range (bucket of balls)||$5 - $12|
|TopGolf (2 hours)||$45 - $113|
|Pitch and putt course (9 holes)||$8 - $20|
|Par 3 golf course||$15 - $25|
|9-hold golf course||$20 - $45|
|18 holes (public course)||$40 - $70|
How to Split Out Your Practice Sessions?
Dividing your time between each facet of your game is essential for developing a well-rounded performance from tee to green. In the below section, I explain what I do at the range to ensure I dedicate sufficient time to my long, middle, and short game. You’ll notice how much of your game you can work on at the driving range for minimal cost.
Before I swing my club, I stretch my upper and lower body to loosen my arms, shoulders, and hips. Once the body is loose, I pull out a pitching wedge, place a ball down, take a quarter backswing, and strike the ball. The objective is to get my eye in and promote clean contact between the clubface and the ball.
I execute five shots with my quarter backswing, then switch to a full swing for an additional five pitching wedge shots. With ten balls struck, I have 90 remaining for my short, middle, and long game.
I work my way up the bag to my 8 and 9-iron next, focusing on hitting ten straight shots with each golf ball. The goal is to improve my accuracy and generate greater shot-stopping power for the ball to sit quickly on the green. I hit a total of 20 balls in this set, leaving me with 70 from the bucket.
I turn to my mid irons next and hone my skills with a 6 and 7-iron in hand, striking ten balls with each club. The objective of my mid-iron practice is to help me improve my ability to reach the green in regulation on medium-length shots. Once my mid-iron practice is complete, I have 50 golf balls remaining.
Packaged sets for beginners tend to carry a broader selection of mid-irons over long irons. Alternatively, you could consider an a la carte setup, which allows you to include more irons in your set. I find the TaylorMade M4 irons suit higher handicappers because of their affordability, accuracy, high launch, and distance.
Hybrids or Long Irons
Most beginners tend to carry a 4 or 5-hybrid instead of long irons for their easy launching nature. These clubs help you boost your carry distance and accuracy off the tee and on approach. I like to hit 20 balls with all my hybrids and long irons before progressing to my fairway woods. At this stage, I have 30 balls left in my bucket.
Moving onto the longer clubs, I find myself hitting five golf balls for every fairway wood in my bag. If you only have a 3-wood, hit five straight flying balls and proceed to your driver practice. This leaves you with 25 golf balls to hit.
Your big stick is one of the golf clubs you’ll use the least during a round of golf, which is why I dedicate the fewest balls to it in training. I’ll hit a maximum of five shots with my driver at the range unless I dedicate that session specifically to my driver.
Packaged golf sets, popular with beginner golfers, generally incorporate a lenient, high-launching driver. Alternatively, a la carte sets allow you to select a driver better suited to your swing, like the Callaway Mavrik driver. It’s available in three lofts and carries an adjustable hosel to alter your lie, launch, and flight features.
With 20 golf balls still at my disposal, I take my bucket to the short game area. In my experience, many ranges give you the luxury of collecting your golf balls after every shot, equipping you with ample resources for your chips, pitches, and bunker shots.
I recommend hitting 20 shots out of the bunker and trying to get it as close as you can to the nearest flag. Next, set your balls up 15 to 20 yards from the green and work on your pitch shots, followed by greenside chips and flops. Finish your chipping practice with 20 bump and run shots from the side of the green. Keep the ball low and rolling for improved distance control and accuracy.
Most beginner golf sets will offer a pitching wedge and, on occasion, a sand wedge. However, if you desire a broader selection of wedge lofts, think about the Tour Edge Hot Launch Super Spin VibRCor. It’s a forgiving, high-spinning, and entry-level design for high handicappers.
Before you call it a day, stroll over to the putting green. I like to work on my alignment, stroke power, and path on all putts. I start with 20 straight-forward 3-foot putts before proceeding to 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 feet. At each distance, I work on adapting the length of my backstroke to optimize the power and distance control of the stroke.
A suitable putter for beginners to produce consistent roll and accuracy is the Odyssey DFX Rossie design. It’s affordable, contains an enlarged alignment aid, and promotes smooth roll off the putter face.
When to Move From the Driving Range to the Course?
I’ve found beginners are ready to take on the golf course after five lessons on the driving range with a coach. You’ll possess sufficient knowledge of the rules and etiquette and better understand your swing at that point. Naturally, you’ll struggle to navigate the obstacles on the links during your first few rounds, which is normal.
Key Places to Improve Your Golf Game
Driving ranges, putting greens, par 3 courses, and regulation golf courses help you improve your long, mid, and short game. Keep reading to learn which place is best to work on your drives, approach shots, chips, and putts.
The driving range is a versatile location to work on long, middle, and short approach shots. I use my time on the golf range to enhance the accuracy of my golf shots and gauge my maximum distance for every club in my bag.
As the name suggests, the putting green is reserved for flat stick practice. Use the putting green to work on reading lines, putter face alignment, and stroke consistency.
Short Game Area
The short game area is dedicated to chipping, pitch shots, bump and runs, flops, and bunker shots. Take advantage of the facilities to improve your ability to get up and down from the greenside and avoid leaking strokes during your round.
TopGolf is entertaining, and I find it fantastic for target practice and accuracy. I like to jot down my total scores after each session and try to beat them the next time out on the range. This helps me hone my accuracy on long, medium, and short shots, which goes a long way to attacking the flag on the golf course.
Pitch and Putt Golf Course
I often enjoy knocking around at a pitch and putt course to work on my scrambling game. The holes are generally shorter than 140 yards and require precise distance control, accuracy, and a smooth putting stroke. I’ve found pitch and putt golf courses have contributed significantly to my scrambling consistency.
Par 3 Golf Course
A par 3 golf course is slightly longer than a pitch and putt layout. Holes at a par 3 are as long as those on a regulation course, requiring an accurate, long, mid, and short iron game. Full shots aside, a par 3 golf course is the perfect environment to improve your chipping and putting, as you’ll need to scramble when you miss the green.
9-Hole Golf Course
A 9-hole golf course is quicker and cheaper than a regulation 18-hole course. You’ll need a full complement of clubs to get around nine holes because the holes are typically as long as you’d find at an 18-hole course.
18-Hole Golf Course
A regulation golf course features 18 holes with par 3, 4, and 5 holes. The layout requires a full set of clubs to cover every distance gap in your bag. Although challenging, I suggest playing 18 holes regularly to build up your golf course fitness and experience. It’s a different story navigating water hazards, bunkers, and out-of-bounds compared to swinging at the driving range with a wide-open landing zone.
A modern solution to playing golf is with simulators that enable you to play world-class courses or take on skills challenges from the comfort of your home. The Garmin Approach R10 is an affordable launch monitor and GPS, compatible with e6 Connect software to operate your own simulator. However, you’ll need a net and hitting mat to run the simulator indoors.
Build Up to the Golf Course
You’re taking up the game in a golden age. You have many options for places and ways to play and practice golf. Every golfer should start on the driving range with an instructor and get used to striking the ball, launching it, and producing a straight, long ball flight.
I suggest dedicating ample time to the short game area and putting green, which will optimize your scrambling game moving forward. I recommend practicing on a par 3 golf course until you build up the confidence to tackle the real deal if you’re still unsure about teeing off on a regulation golf course.
Are you unsure if you’re ready to hit the golf course with your current set of clubs? That’s why we’re here. Ask a Curated Golf Expert for assistance with your equipment to get you on the course and enjoy the game sooner rather than later.