How to Build a Golf Practice Station and Improve Your Golf (The Ultimate Guide)
What is it I did, that you and most likely other golfers are doing? Practicing golf wrong!
With everything that’s going on in ‘modern life’. It’s hard to get time away to focus on your passions. So when you want to practice your golf, it makes sense to make the most of your time.
Whether on the driving range, in the garden or indoors during the winter season. The best way to improve your golf is to practice effectively. And to do that you need to use a practice station. Once you set up a golf practice station and start practicing like a golf professional; You will dramatically improve your game. And if you’re concerned that you have to spend hours on the range to get results, don’t be. Trust me, even an hour a week, spent practicing the right way, saw me yield tangiable results. So let’s get started.
What is a golf practice station?
A golf practice station provides a controlled environment for you to learn, and repeat specific movements within the golf swing. It gives you instant feedback during your practice, helping you become more consistent.
Why are Pro Golfers Better?
Like you, I used to see the difference between professional golfers and myself as purely talent and natural ability. I assumed it was their physical stature, the length of their arms and legs, and their flexibility that meant they were just better at swinging a club.
It sucks, I know. Yet there is a whole other side to being a great golfer. A side that can dramatically help you to improve your golf now. And that hinges on how a professional golfer practices. Simply put, the professional golfer not only works harder and for longer on the driving range and course; Yet they also ‘practice better’ than others, and adapt their golf practice routine according to their strengths and weaknesses.
And the way they do this, is by using a golf practice station.
I’ve played golf for years and like many golfers, never thought of using a golf practice station. Knowing what I know now, I can say that not using a golf practice station was the single thing that most hindered my progress to becoming a better player.
In the past, I’d go to the driving range and spend my hard earned cash on a bucket, or 3, of range balls. And spend hours hitting them in no real direction. I was waiting for that miracle epiphany moment. You know the one, where all of a sudden the clouds would part, I would be drenched in a beam of sunlight and I could instantly strike the ball like a PGA Golf Professional.
Yeah, that never happened.
So when I consciously decided to improve my game, I knew I had to improve the way I practiced.
Why using a practice station will dramatically improve your golf.
When you learn to drive, like in the golf swing, there are many different movements needing to be performed. However, in a vehicle, your steering wheel, gear lever, foot pedals and seat are all in a set place. They don’t periodically move as you’re driving along. This gives you a constant environment within which you can learn. Leaving you to concentrate on how to drive the vehicle.
A golf practice station gives you that constant environment for your practice. Allowing you to focus on being square to your target line, making a proper hip turn whilst maintaining your stance, or returning the club face to the desired position through impact.
Depending on how you set it up, a golf practice station can help you focus on anything from ball position, stance, body alignment, takeaway, shoulder turn and balance, to any aspect of the golf swing.
Plus depending on how you use other golf practice aids it also helps with club path, club face control and attack angles.
If you’re not using a golf practice station on the driving range, then right about now you should be realising why your game isn’t improving on the course.
If you don’t have a controlled environment within which to practice, then you are basically trying to learn to drive the vehicle with the pedals constantly changing around each day.
How To Set Up A Golf Practice Station (The Ultimate Guide)
A lot of how you set up your practice station, will be determined by what it is that you want to improve in your swing. So to help you get started, I’ll take you through the elements that addressed the most common issues I found during my learning curve.
Target line & Start Line
Target Line – An imaginary line running through the centre of the ball, continuing to an object or point, at which you are aiming.
The most basic of practice stations focus on the target line. What’s the target line? If you were aiming down the sights of a rifle, then the target line would be along the top of the barrel.
It’s always important to pick out a target on the driving range. Otherwise your ball could be 20m left or right of where you’re aiming, and you wouldn’t know. This lack of awareness of your aim, could be the reason you’re missing fairways. In fact most golfers aim improperly and this causes serious compensations in their swing, robbing them of consistency and power.
To create the representation of your target line, you need something physical.
If you have ever watched a professional golfer practice, you will have probably noticed they almost always have an alignment aid on the ground. This helps them practice more efficiently and gain consistency by making sure their feet, hips and shoulders are properly aligned with the target. All of which should be parallel to your target line.
Many golfers use a golf club. Whilst this works it’s not ideal. My clubs are forged items with custom fitted shafts. So at a cost of £180 each, I don’t fancy smashing one! Not to mention the damage caused to the club head of the one I’m swinging. So I always carry a couple of Alignment Sticks. They’re only about $10 for 2 and are light enough to slip into my golf bag.
Simply lay the alignment stick on the ground, ensuring that it points directly at your intended target. Now throughout your golf practice session, you can be confident that you’re aiming at the same position each and every time.
In addition to alignment sticks I also use the TeeClaw Artificial Turf Tee system. This is another training aid that works indoors too.
You will quickly discover if you are more prone to missing left or right of your intended target. You can start to understand if it is your stance that is too open or closed, or something else causing the misses.
Start Line – An imaginary line running through the centre of the ball, continuing in the direction upon which you intend to send/start the ball.
Do you start the ball left or right? Have been playing with a ‘hook’ or a ‘slice’?
Having a start line identified gives you even more feedback during your practice session.
Again I use an alignment stick, but you could also use an old golf shaft. Simply stick this vertically into the ground along your target line, about 2m in front of your practice bay. You can also stick a foam noodle over this too, so it helps when you’re filming your practice sessions.
Either film yourself or get someone to watch you hit a few balls. You will be able to clearly see if you are starting the balls left or right of the vertical stick. This can be due to swing path or club face to mention just two causes.
It can’t be overemphasized, the importance of properly aligning your body to the target line. Poor alignment leads to poor set up positions, which in turn leads to most swing flaws.
Aligning poorly makes you miss more too. Aiming at a target 150 yards away, if you’re aiming as little as 4 degrees left or right, you will miss the target by 32 feet. That’s before combining it with wind and mi-hits etc. All of which is backed up by launch monitor manufacturers, insisting alignment sticks are used during data capture.
Your feet, more specifically your heels, along with your knees, hips, shoulders and eye line; Should all be parallel to the target line. So to achieve this use another alignment stick which is parallel to your target line.
With your ball sat a few inches inside of your target line stick, place another alignment stick so it is just in front of your toes when you’re at address. The gap between the rods will vary depending on which club you’re using. So the gap will increase from wedge to driver. Yet the two alignment sticks, the target line and the body line, will always be parallel to one another.
Before placing the body alignment stick on the ground, address the ball as you normally would, aiming along the target line. Now place a club along the back of your heels and walk away. You should be able to see if the club you have just laid down, is parallel to the target line. If it isn’t then you know if you have a tendency to set up ‘Closed’ or ‘Open’ to the target line.
Aiming “closed” to the target encourages the eyes to see the target more to the left (right-handed golfer) and causes the brain to:
- Swing to the left, creating outside to inside swing plane
- Place balance of body to the toes
- Posture at address more stooped and moves to upright as swing progresses through impact
- Body fails to turn toward target and leaves center of gravity (hips/belly button) finished right of target
Aiming “open” to the target encourages the eyes to see the target more to the right (right-handed golfer) and causes the brain to:
- Creates inside-to-out swing plane due to seeing ball to the right of center (for right-handed golfers);
- Balance tends to go toward heels at set up and remains there
- Turn can be “reverse weight shift” because club moving too far right
- Posture tends to stay down from hips to shoulders to counterbalance the heels
With a parallel stick in place, your feedback will be clear once you have addressed the ball. By looking down at the position of your feet and knees, you can see if you are parallel and ready to take your swing.
The Correct Ball Position Using a Golf Practice Station
All of the practice aids above, will help you visualise and see your target line, start line and help you stand parallel to the target line. Yet with another configuration, they can consistently place your ball in the correct position so you can work on better ball striking.
It’s not uncommon for golfers to gradually move the ball within their stance without really noticing. Until suddenly they’re not hitting the ball as crisply as they once were and think it‘s something other than simple ball position. It’s a tendency I have at times, which causes a push or straight fade when I’m playing for a slight draw.
And let’s face it, who really needs a missed fairway or 3 shots off the tee when you’re chasing that first round of 79?
Ball position is important
The path that the clubhead takes is an arc.. This arc has a low point and it also has a path. To visualise this you can use a dinner plate or Hoolahoop, and place them on their edges.
Depending where you place the ball on the arc’s path, determines how the clubface strikes with the ball. It can be;
- Descending into the ball
- Ascending into the ball
- Approaching the ball from inside the target line
- Approaching the ball from outside the target line
To visualise this more, look at some of the image here. As you can see the ‘Swing Path’ is constant and only the ball position is changed. This shows that the realtionship between the position of the golf ball along the ‘Swing Path’, dramtically affects the ‘Start Line’ of the golf ball.
It is important to note, that whilst the ‘Swing Path’ and ball position, determine the ‘Start Line’, (a sweeping statement here); It is the ‘Face Angle’ of the club at the time of impact, that determines the shape of the ball flight. You can read the article about the 9 Ball flight Laws to gather a greater insight and help yourself discover what swing changes you may need to make to improve your golf.
So it goes without saying, that ensuring your ball is always in the same position when practicing with the same club. Will aid you enormously to get better at consistent ball striking. If you’re working on a downward impact drill with your irons, getting a better launch angle on your driver, or just going through your bag, you need to ensure you have the ball in the right position for each and every swing.
Setting ball position
Again you can use a club that runs between your feet to the ball, and place the ball a few inches off the handle. Yet as before, do you really want to risk hitting your club?
Once I used another alignment stick. Resting it across another creating a cross. This allows you to work on both alignment AND ball position at the same time. Hence controlling two very important variables in my swing.
Now I use the TeeClaw Artificial turf Tee. Because this uses elasticated string, it is unobtrusive and springs back to the original position when I hit it with the club, or step on it. And due to the way the TeeClaw ‘screws’ into the practice matt, it doesn’t move.
I can now either move the golf alignment aid to each new ball position or, simply move my stance to address the ball properly.
Now, as I work upwards through the bag, ending eventually with the Driver; I can ensure that I have the ball position consistently in the correct position for each swing with each club.
No you have the target line, start line, body line and ball position consistent for each and every swing. If you are hitting the ball ‘fat’ or ‘thin’, you know you’re not controlling the low point correctly.
Controlling swing path with a golf practice station
In another article How Understanding Ball Flight can dramatically improve your game, I explained that your swing path and club face alignment were responsible for the balls starting direction AND its flight. Now this isn’t necessarily new information. I am pretty sure that you have heard, or indeed read this before. Yet what have you done about it?
Using a golf practice station can help you isolate your swing path in order to limit those unwanted wayward shots.
Another Alignment Stick and Noodle
Just inside the target line, and a little ways back from the golf ball position. Stick an alignment rod or an old golf shaft with a noodle on it into the ground. It should be angled forward and only 8 to 12 inches off the ground. Allowing enough room for the clubhead to pass under it when travelling along the desired path.
An easier method is should above. By having the noodle as shown, you are managing the ‘plane’ of your takeaway, and your club path on its return to impact.
If you attack the ball along the correct inside-to-out path. The clubhead should travel underneath the noodle. When the clubhead travels to the ball too straight or on a slight out-to-in path; it will make contact with the noodle giving you instant feedback.
Using the TeeClaw Artificial Turf Tee
Using the TeeClaw system, I can create a golf practice station that has a target line, ball position indicator and then a line to swing the club head along, into the impact area.
By using slow drills, swinging the club head along this line; I can start to ‘feel’ what it is like to have the swing path I need to get the results I want. This method is not as good as using the noodle, but better if you’re using a practice matt on the range, rather than on grass.
Controlling attack angle with a golf practice station
What is the attack angle in the golf swing?
Attack Angle – The vertical direction of the club head at the point of maximum compression of the golf ball, relative to the horizon.
There are two surfaces that are used in golf. The Tee and the ground.
Shots off the Tee with the driver are almost always performed with a ‘positive’ attack angle, i.e., the club head is on an upward path as it hits the ball.
Shots off the ground with irons and wedges are performed with a ‘negative’ attack angle, i.e., the club head is on a downward path as it hits the ball.
There are some exceptions such as when teeing up a ball to hit with an iron on, say, a short par 3. In this case, you would still hit the ball with a ‘negative’ attack angle.
A common misconception about hitting off the ground.
Playing golf I have often seen a player take a big fat divot with a wedge or shot iron, and have the ball pop only a short distance. This is then followed with a loud declaration, “Damn it! Get under the ball why don’t you!”
This is so wrong!
Shots hit off the ground should have a negative attack angle in order to optimize the ball’s trajectory and control its landing. At all times you want the club face to strike the ball cleanly, followed by the turf. Not the other way around.
What should your attack angle be in golf?
Firstly, as a mid to high handicap player. Your attack angle is not important as long as it is 0 degrees or higher for a Driver, and a negative value for the irons.
There are more important things to work on than your attack angle.
For one, as your attack angle is determined by the position of your lead shoulder (big sweeping statement here), getting a consistent swing with the correct ball position, swing path and along your target line are a must before you do anything else.
Your ability to control the ‘Low Point’ in your swing will make it easier to control your attack angle.
What is the optimal attack angle?
The optimal attack angle is determined by several important factors. These being;
- What trajectory you require from a given shot
- The club you have
- The club head speed
Yet we can say that for a mid-trajectory shot, along with a standard assumption for club speed. The attack angle for a 6 iron is -3.2 degrees, and for a wedge is -3.9 degrees.(1 – Trackman Site)
As you can see, there isn’t much difference.
How to work on your attack angle with a golf practice station.
To ensure that you are striking down on the ball, all you really need is a towel, but you can also use a pool noodle, golf glove, empty sleeve of balls or even tee pegs.
I lay the towel on the ground, roughly 1 club head length behind the golf ball. I then take my swing, ensuring that I get a nice crisp strike on the ball, without hitting the towel. It is a little unnerving at first, but as your confidence grows, you will easily find yourself performing full shots without touching the towel.
As you get more used to the towel drill, you can start to move it closer to the ball. I usually have it about 3 inches from the back of the ball.
Golf is probably the most difficult sport you can play. Hitting a small sphere with a long rod that has an odd shaped head to it, is never going to be easy. Furthermore, the target you are aiming at is several hundred yards away and is only 4” in diameter.
Combine this with the designers of the course upon which this great game is played, seeking to decrease our rate of success, by placing obstacles in our path. Bunkers, lakes, trees or indeed, all three!
Therefore to get better at this sport. You have to practice and you have to practice SMART.
As I said at the beginning, just hitting balls on the driving range isn’t going to make you better. But practicing what you need to get better at, will!
Using a golf practice station will help you isolate the areas that you need to focus on and help you produce better results over a shorter period of time.
This article has covered the golf practice station for a full swing session. I have also written articles on a Golf Practice Station for Putting, a Golf Practice Station for chipping and also how to Practice Golf at Home.
I sincerely hope that you found this article both interesting and informative. I hope you found at least one piece of information that you can use to increase your fun of the game.
If you have any questions, then please reach out to me or comment below. And if you liked what you have read, then please feel free to ‘Share’ this on your social media accounts.