Admit it: You'd rather go play golf than beat balls at the range. That's OK. Most of us would. But practice is the only way you're going to get significantly better. If you have to put in the time, you might as well get something out of it.
Here are some of my favorite range drills you can do with a few simple props—a range bucket, a headcover and a towel. You don't even have to hit a million balls to get some serious benefit. Cycle through these drills during your next session, and you'll be amazed at the difference in your shots when you get back on the course. You'll start looking forward to your trips to the range. —With Matthew Rudy
1.) SWING RHYTHM
Squish the headcover
Hitting balls barefoot is nothing new. Sam Snead did it in the 1950s. You can do it, too, and get some of that terrific tempo and timing Snead was famous for.
Put a headcover on the ground and cover it with the middle of your front foot. Make your backswing, and when your hands get to chest high, make sure you're squishing the headcover (above). Your hands and arms will respond by following your body into the downswing. Pushing into the ground at half-way back will help you add speed later in the swing.
2.) CLUBHEAD PATH
Miss the buckets
The path of the swing is a big deal: It influences ball flight in tons of ways. But it's hard to see and feel when you're going full speed. With a couple of buckets as guides, you'll learn where to go.
If you slice, create a swing path by putting a bucket upside down to the inside of the target line, in front of the ball, and a bucket right side up to the outside, just behind the ball (below). Hooking it? Reverse the buckets so the front one is outside, back one inside.
To fix a slice, don't dump the balls on the backswing.
4.) BACKSWING ARC
Going back, let the headcover fall
When I walk the range, I often see golfers swinging with a headcover under one arm to stay "connected." That might be a good drill for a tour player who already produces a lot of speed, but it's too restricting for most golfers.
I'd bet you need more width on the backswing—and more speed at impact—so try this drill instead. Put a headcover under your right arm and swing so that the headcover drops behind you when your arms get waist high. This will promote a wider arc and set up the correct downswing sequence.
Clean up impact with a towel
Good ball-strikers get it done their own way, but one thing they all do is hit the ball before they hit the ground. To get that clean, pure contact, give yourself a reference point on the ground.
Set a small towel down and make some practice swings with your 8-iron where you hit the turf in front of the towel. Once you do this three or four times, place a ball two inches in front of the towel and hit a shot (below). If you try to lift the ball into the air, you'll catch the towel before you strike the ball, which means you need to make a more descending strike.
Don't worry about precise distances when hitting range balls. They're all different, so distance can vary by 10 or 15 yards.
Devan Bonebrake, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, runs the Southern California Golf Academy at Carlsbad Golf Center.