Are you right or wrong on the practice range?

Pinehurst’s Maniac Hill. Photo from

For some of us, the idea of hitting the practice range can be soothing. Usually, it’s an opportunity to either work on your game or get some quick prep work done to warm up for the first tee of that day’s round.

But there’s a reason that “beating balls on the range” is something of a cliché in golf. Sometimes it’s hard, grueling, exasperating work as we try to refine our games for a passion that no one, it seems, can master.

Whatever your motivations for spending some time on the range, you should know that there is a right way to practice, and a wrong way.

And both ways are being done at Pinehurst.

This time, though, we’re not talking about mentality or swing plane or time management. We’re talking about what happens when you reach your club toward that shrinking pile of range balls. Those innumerable times you direct your club to position your ball for your next shot. (Let’s call this process “lie rotation.”)

You know how you always make yourself a nice lie? Well, there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way, and it can do wonders for not only your club, but your fellow golfer as well.

The USGA’s Ty McClellan recently put together a wonderful piece titled “Practice Like a Pro.” It is full of rich detail and provides plenty of science behind the proper practice techniques to limit the number of divots on a driving range. If you spend any amount of time on a practice range, go read it. Now. It will change how you practice.

McClellan writes that practicing in a linear pattern – making divots in a straight line, then leaving a line of turf in between a second line of linear pattern divots – allows for the range to readily recover much faster than leaving a large patch of voided turf from your barrage of practice shots.

The photos on McClellan’s piece illustrate the do’s and don’ts and why’s. And it all makes perfect sense.

And what’s interesting is that both ways – the right and wrong ways to practice – are being done right there on Maniac Hill.

To wit:

A recent patch of divots done in the circular, or sideways, motion.

A recent pattern of divots in the linear fashion

These photos are from last summer. They come from recent range sessions, and both photos are right there between the ropes designated as the practice tee area for that day. One leaves the large, wide patch of exposed earth from divots being made in a sideways or circular motion of lie rotation.

The other, though, comes from someone who clearly knows what he or she is doing. There are the linear paths.

So how does this hit home at Pinehurst?

Here’s the evidence:

A recovering patch from the circular divot pattern.

These photos were taken just a few steps back from Thursday’s practice area. Notice the distressed area from a past circular motion of lie rotation. It’s taking some time to recover.

A few steps to the left, right along the same line, is the linear method. It’s clear how much better and more quickly the turf is recovering.

The linear pattern of divots is recovering nicely — and quickly.

Now imagine if everyone on the range used this method.

Maniac Hill might be a little more sane.