A short game at the driving range

Driving ranges keep you game ready


photo by Isaac Bonnell

Dean Russell, owner of The Hitting Zone at Barkley Village, takes a swing during a sunny day in March. For those who are new to the game of golf, Russell recommends focusing on three things: hit the ball, get it up in the air, then work on accuracy.


For most people, golf is a seasonal sport. The same summer sun that dries out the greens also calls out to recreational golfers, beckoning them to call in sick and set up a tee time.

But the first game of the year can be a rough one if you haven’t been practicing; this is where the driving range comes in. For beginning golfers and professionals alike, the driving range is the place to hone skills, develop a consistent swing and build confidence.

“The driving range attracts the recreational golfer who wants to work on their grip and swing — it gets them better prepared to enjoy a round at the golf course,” said Dean Russell, who owns The Hitting Zone at Barkley Village.

For the serious golfer, going to the driving range is just like shooting free throws and three-pointers before a basketball game, Russell said. And therein lies the importance: the driving range is not just for driving golf balls all the way to the back fence, but for practicing with every club in your bag, even the putter.

“More-experienced players always start with the shortest club in their bag, usually a sand or pitching wedge, because it’s heavy and it gives you the most feel when you’re loosening up. The short clubs are great at getting you into a rhythm, while relaxing you at the same time,” Russell said. “Experienced players aren’t going to just use a driver the whole time in practice. I start with a sand wedge and move up to the driver, usually on even numbered irons and then I work back down on the odds, hitting five or six shots each. Then I spend at least a half-hour on putting and chipping.”

Russell compares a day at the driving range to any other sports practice: you don’t start a batting practice by hitting home runs. You don’t throw touchdown passes on your first try.

And before you can drive a ball like Tiger Woods, you must first dial in your grip and body position. These two factors are responsible for 90 percent of your success in hitting the ball where you want it to go, Russell said. After all, golf is a game where the ball won’t move unless you move it.

“I believe golf is the hardest sport in the world because in most other sports the ball is in motion. In golf, it’s stationary,” Russell said. “You have to get a stationary, 1.6-inch ball into a 4.25-inch hole.”

Sounds like a daunting task. But at the driving range, there is no hole to worry about. You don’t have to retrieve your ball — leave that up to Russell. Its just you and the ball, so keep your head down and swing away.


The Hitting Zone at Barkley Village

The driving range first opened in 2001 and has been under the guidance of Dean Russell and his brother Chico since 2005. It has 25 covered stalls that are open year-round and offers weekly deals, lessons and a pro shop. Women’s clinics are offered on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and run for six weeks, from March through October. Junior clinics for kids ages 4 to 17 begin in June.

For more information, call (360) 527-8707 or visit www.hittingzonegolf.com.


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