Driving Range vs Golf Course (Why You Are Better At The Range)

There are key differences between the driving range and the golf course. Many players use the range to sharpen their game and prepare for rounds on the course.

In this article, we’ll outline realistic goals for the driving range vs. a golf course and explain how to make your range sessions more effective for course play.

Key Differences Between Practicing At the Golf Range And Playing at a Golf Course

Reasons People Are Better At a Driving Range Instead of the Golf Course

  • There isn’t as much pressure on the range

Stepping up to the tee, whether it be in a money game, tournament, or a round where you want to shoot your personal best, increases the pressure.

In a range hitting bay, you know you’re practicing, and a bad shot won’t make or break you. On the course, a long iron onto the 18th green (example) poses much more pressure since it’s only one shot.

There won’t be as many nerves hitting shots at the range, and as hard as you’ll try to simulate being on the course, it just isn’t the same. 

📋 Keep in mind: Pressure and overthinking easily lead to swing flaws.

  • Not everyone practices their short game on the range

Unless the range you attend has a short game area and putting green, you’re probably not working on your chips and putts.

Most golfers take full swings on the range, and most targets are over 50 yards away. There isn’t always an opportunity to practice short-game scenarios.

Even if the range has putting greens. Most of them won’t be as fast or similar to the greens you’ll be playing on during a round.

  • There aren’t hazards on the range

Ranges don’t have bunkers, out-of-bounds stakes, or water on them. Golfers who hook or slice the ball will face more pressure when playing a hole on the course with a pond on either side.

It’s hard to execute that perfect shot, so on the links, there’s a higher likelihood a player will aim far to one side to avoid the hazard or line up toward the target and mishit the ball into trouble.

  • You don’t take your practice swings or shots as seriously on the range

It’s vital to use a preshot routine and take practice swings seriously when practicing. 

Psychologically, golfers know at the range, they don’t need to do any of the three things at the range since there isn’t an end result.

Partaking in any or all of these bad habits hinders your ability to do well the next time you play on a real course.

  • You hit the driver or your favorite club more than the others at the range

Many golfers enjoy “hitting bombs” and great shots they’re comfortable with. These can be done with the driver and with the club they hit best.

If you were to prop up a chair and just watch everyone hit at the range, you’d definitely see players making these two mistakes.

📋 Keep in mind: It’s important to hit every club in your bag and distribute your practice shots more evenly. This enables players to be able to hit different clubs successfully when it counts the most on a course.

How To Make Driving Range Practice More Helpful For Course Play

  • Grab any club after warming up with a few balls and simulate playing a real hole. To define a fairway, select two targets in the practice area
  • You can choose whether to hit an iron or wedge into a range marker playing as a par 4, for example, if your driver hits the “fairway.” 
  • In the event of a miss, play a punch or shaped shot out before grabbing a short iron or wedge for your last approach shot.
  • Play par 3s through 5s in your head or, if you are familiar with a course well enough, act like you’re playing a certain stretch of it. 
  • In this technique, you can hit a variety of clubs and use an actual target to judge your range misses.

Cost and Accessibility of Driving Range Vs Golf Course

A hitting range is going to be a lot cheaper to hit balls on and easier to access. 

Pricing for range balls versus green fees

You can just show up and buy a large bucket (for about $12) at the range. There will more than likely be a spot to hit on.

At a course, you’ll have to pay a much higher green fee to play either nine or 18 holes, depending on the quality of it. 

📢 Need To Know: To play, you’ll have to either call in or book a tee time online rather than going whenever as you would at a range.

Cart Rentals

You won’t need to pay for a cart at a range since the hitting area will usually be right next to where you purchase balls.

At a course, if you wish to use a cart, you’ll probably pay between $15-$30 to ride during a round. 

Accessibility of a driving range versus a golf course

Some golf courses require monthly or yearly membership fees just to play.

Golf training centers don’t make memberships mandatory. Some will offer it for members to receive discounts on range balls or drinks if sold there.

Summary of Benefits and Drawbacks of Driving Range


  • A training range allows golfers to practice their swings in a controlled environment and not feel as much pressure. They’ll be able to feel calmer and more relaxed.
  • Playing at a range is often less expensive than golf courses, making them more accessible to any level or age of player.
  • Because golf practice facilities don’t require you to play 9 or 18 holes, they can be a suitable option for individuals who are short on time.
  • Ranges typically include a variety of targets with various distances to hit at, allowing golfers to concentrate on different aspects of their game.


  • Playing on a golf course can be crucial for improving certain skills like putting or course management. Golf ranges don’t offer the full experience.
  • Some golfers can find playing a complete game of golf more fun than just hitting at the range.

Summary of Benefits and Drawbacks of Golf Course


  • Playing a round provides the full golfing experience, including trying to beat par and hitting a multitude of different types of shots on different styles of holes.
  • Golf courses are a great way to challenge your friends or bond with family members. The unique challenges allow people to help each other navigate the challenges they bring.
  • Playing a golf course will allow people to enjoy more scenic views. This makes it a more memorable experience rather than seeing the same thing when hitting balls over and over at the range. 
  • Golf course amenities will also be better, with restaurants and pro shops often on-site.
  • Whether someone walks or rides, playing a course provides more exercise than staying in the same spot as you would at the practice swing facility.


  • Golf courses for play are usually more expensive than ranges, especially for high-end ones in fabulous condition or in scenic locations.
  • Playing a full round of golf can take three to four hours, which can be time-consuming and less accessible if you’re short on time.
  • Playing a round can be hard, which can be discouraging for players who are just starting out or are less experienced. Skill level for golf play will depend on the course rating.
  • If there are thunderstorms or if it’s rainy, golfers won’t be able to play at all or have a miserable experience. The same goes for cold or extremely hot weather. 
  • Some ranges have covered areas, protecting players from the rain or sun.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a driving range and golf course balls?

The difference between practice range and golf course balls is the quality and usage. Range balls will usually be cheap two-piece balls that don’t offer much performance (spin/distance), and they’ve been hit countless times. Balls purchased at a course are brand new or in mint condition, and there is more of a variety from high-end to low-end.

How many balls should you hit at a driving range for practice?

If you’re warming up for a round, you should usually hit around 30 balls and mix them up with different clubs. If you’re just on the range hitting, it’s okay to hit 40-50 balls, but just make sure you’re practicing a preshot routine and not launching them one by one quickly.

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Lawrence Smelser has been part of the Golfible writing staff since 2019 and is a freelance golf journalist. Smelser has covered the PGA Tour including the U.S. Masters with Augusta.com. He holds a journalism Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and a Master’s journalism degree from the University of North Texas. Learn more about our team at Golfible on our About Us page.

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