The universal truth that all golfers know is that if they plan to get any better they are going to need to do some practice and that will inevitably mean more than a few trips to the driving range.
If you’re like me you will have over the course of your golfing life visited more than a few driving ranges and hit many hundreds if not many thousands of golf balls over the years.
But given that you cannot control the quality of the golf balls that you use at public driving ranges you may be wondering if they are actually bad for your golf clubs.
Even old driving range golf balls are not bad for your clubs for the simple reason that golf clubs are designed and rigorously tested for thousands of impacts at forces higher than average golfers can achieve. Your clubs will therefore not be adversely affected by range balls that provide little against the clubface.
In short, it takes a lot to damage a golf club however that does not mean that hitting thousands upon thousands of golf balls at the driving range will automatically be good for your game.
Unfortunately driving range balls do not always perform as you would expect them to and as such there are key aspects you need to be aware of when judging the health of your golf game at the driving range.
What Can Driving Range Balls Do To Your Clubs?
Driving range golf balls have very little impact on your golf clubs. Golf clubs are designed to withstand being hit by golf balls many thousands of times without it impacting the integrity of the clubface. While range balls may not react the same as regular balls they are not bad for your clubs.
Saying that hitting range balls is not bad for your clubs does not then mean straight away though that hitting loads of golf balls at the range will inevitably mean that you will improve.
One of the key things that any golfer needs when it comes to improving their golf game is good feedback on their shots to help them know what they are doing both right and wrong.
Unfortunately due to the differences in range balls vs. the golf balls you use out on the course however you are frequently not going to be get the exact feedback on your shot as you would on the course.
Golf range balls are most commonly comprised of ‘2-pieces’ – a hard cover and a material inside – and are often reduced ‘compression’ as low as 80 or even 70.
This compares to premium golf balls such as Titleist’s Pro V1 or TaylorMade’s TP5x which are 4 or even 5-piece with softer covers and higher compressions frequently measuring over 100.
As a consequence the launch angles, spin rates, ball speeds, flight and hitting distances you will get with golf range balls will differ as Today’s Golfer clearly demonstrated when they tested a TaylorMade TP5x against a range golf ball using a launch monitor.
As we can see from their results they not only found clear differences when their test pro hit both the range and premium balls but they also found different results with different clubs most notably in relation to distance and the enormous gap between spin rates when testing the different balls with a wedge.
When you also consider how much wear and tear range balls suffer by comparison to standard golf course balls and the different types of range balls that different ranges have you can clearly see how much golfers need to be wary of the accuracy of the feedback they get from all their shots at the range.
The fact therefore that golf range balls do not always react as you would expect them to does not mean that they are bad for your clubs.
In reality it makes little difference to your clubs whether you are hitting range or regular balls.
That does not mean though as we’ve shown above that they may not be bad for your game if you pay attention to the wrong items of feedback when you hit a golf ball at the range.
One final thing to keep in mind at the range also, as well as the effect that range balls have on your shots, is the effect driving range golf mats have on them.
While today’s golf mats are light years ahead in quality compared to the ones of yesteryear they can still help mask a bunch of problems and most commonly the ‘fat’ golf shot.
Because driving range mats negate the shot you hit a bit heavy they can easily make you think you are hitting the ball better than you are and lead to a big confidence shock when you next face reality on the golf course.
Also it is these fat shots that will likely cause the most damage to your clubs at the driving range and be bad for them rather than the driving range golf balls.
And this is especially relevant if you play forged irons which given they are generally made of softer steel may feel the effects a bit more and change your clubs’ lie angles over the course of hitting a few hundred balls at the range.
Can You Bring Your Own Golf Balls to a Driving Range?
As a general rule driving ranges prohibit golfers from using their own balls as a matter of both policy and practicality. It is against the policy of public driving ranges to allow the use of personal balls and from a practical point of view there is no safe way to get your own golf balls back on a range after you hit them.
Many golfers would prefer to use their own golf balls at a driving range for the reason we have already outlined above in relation to the different performance outcomes you get from hitting range balls by comparison to regular balls.
But it is also the best way to practice in the most accurate way to use the same golf balls at the range as you do on the golf course.
However, it simply does not work to use your own balls on public driving ranges.
When it was time to come to pick them up you would find yourself the target of all the other golfers at the range firing golf balls constantly at you which is clearly a non-starter.
But even if you managed to find a driving range willing pick up your golf balls in the tractor, however implausible that may be, at the same time that they collected their own you range balls they would be subjecting your good practice balls to being bumped and smashed about by the tractor mechanisms damaging them constantly.
When it comes to private members golf courses there is usually a driving range where you can use your balls however if you’re like a huge number of golfers with access only to public driving ranges you are not going to be able to bring your own golf balls with you.
There may be one or two ranges that have a practice green where it is possible to bring your own golf balls with you but that is very much less common and they could only be used for short game practice in such instances.
What Golf Balls Do Pros Use on the Driving Range?
Professional golfers use sponsored golf balls when practising or warming up at a tournament on the driving range or chipping greens. These golf balls may not always be the same ones the individual pro will use in their round but they are always premium golf balls and close to brand new.
For us average Joe recreational golfers to use such high-quality golf balls on any driving range would be cost-prohibitive either for the golfer or the driving range business itself.
Golf driving ranges are businesses and like any business it is their job to maximise their assets and while I am sure they would all like to offer premium quality golf balls for their customers to hit on the range the wear and tear range balls are subjected too makes it impossible.
They would probably have to replace close to their entire ball stock at the end of every day.
As a result regular golfers unfortunately are not typically able to replicate the practice experience of the pros on the driving range but although range balls might react differently to your regular golf ball they still do a job.
As long as you keep in mind that range balls do not react the same as higher quality golf balls in the ways we have covered above you will still get plenty of good feedback from your shots on the range.
The driving range is your opportunity to work on your swing, and just about any ball out there will allow you to do that.
Are the Golf Balls at a Driving Range Bad?
Like most sports equipment, the quality of a driving range golf ball does degrade over time. Keep in mind that hundreds of golfers are hitting the same ball, so their integrity will lessen as the hits keep accumulating. This means that a range ball does not give you an exact accurate picture of each of your golf shots
Driving range golf balls are not the best golf balls but they are not in general ‘bad’.
Yes they suffer much more wear and tear than the balls you use on the course, get hit more often, get bashed about by the tractor picking them up and get washed over and over and as a result they are not ‘good’ golf balls.
But they are still good enough golf balls to allow any regular player to get some decent practice in at the driving range.
Their 2-piece design and construction from a thick polyethylene casing make them more durable and longer-lasting than regular golf balls so unless you are hitting the range ball we all come across now and again which has been washed so often the dimples have worn away you will be fine hitting range balls.
Just always remember that range balls react differently to regular balls on the course and it will be important for your practice regime to strike a balance between hitting balls on the driving range and actually playing a round or two on the course.
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