Beginner’s Luck – No. 5
The Driving Range – home away from home

Macarena, Stephanie, Kristina and Johanna showing off their new hats

We are four women who are new to the game of golf. We connected through the game, and have become friends because of it. We love the game, and want to share our experiences in finding our way, and encourage and empower other beginners to take it on and seize every opportunity for joy in it.

A driving range is a dedicated practice area where you can warm up and practice a variety of golf shots.  Each of us use the driving range on a regular basis and have loads of fun working on our golf swings together and at different times. If you are newer to the game like us, the driving range is a great place to practice and prepare for a round. Driving ranges are located at many golf courses and there are also stand-alone practice facilities (not attached to a golf course), so be sure to check around. There may also be golf courses without driving ranges so read up on the course website and prepare accordingly.

Stephanie (@coldinseattle on TikTok): Make sure you put your basket on the hook before you put the code in and it starts to spit out the balls all over the ground and everyone is looking at you. Yup, that happened to me. Everyone was so nice and running around catching the balls, but I was so embarrassed!

The range ball machine can be your friend, as long as you put the bucket under the spout where the balls come pouring out.

When I go to the range I always have a plan. I never go and just swing away. I start with the easiest club then work my way up. I don’t stress about it – if I’m not hitting well I go to the next club, then the next. If all else fails, I putt. As long as I get out there and do something. I feel it is consistency that makes a difference. I also take video of my sessions with my phone – it helps remind me how I’m setting up, etc. My game got so much better once I just started pulling out my wedges (60-degree, Gap and Pitching) and focusing on my short game. Obviously, I never want anything over a two-putt. I had a more experienced lady tell me once, “I’ll beat you every time if you keep three-putting.” Words to live by.

Johanna: I love the driving range. If you are a newbie, a golf addict, need to work on a swing or practice with a new club, can’t get a tee time, or maybe want a date with your hubby – all are perfect reasons to hit the range if you ask me! Another great thing I love about the driving range is that everyone is doing their own thing. You don’t feel that first-tee shot pressure because everyone is working on their own swings. Furthermore, putting is free! (And you can’t beat free.) Also (and I don’t think I’m not the only one!), but the first time I went I didn’t know to place the bucket handle over the hook at the ball dispenser machine, and balls went everywhere. (Insert girl who looked super cool here.) Lesson learned. Golf teaches me so many lessons: patience, humility, and perseverance to name a few. It’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much!

Kristina at the driving range

Kristina (@k_love_90 on TikTok): My pre-round routine includes getting to the course early enough for a “warm-up” bucket. I go to the golf course pro shop to check in and pay for a small bucket along with my green fees. The number of balls provided in a warm-up bucket varies, but I find 20-40 balls is just right for a pre-round warm-up. At the driving range, I go to a station, set my balls down in a tray provided next to the mat in each station and do a few stretches. During a warm-up, I’m focused on taking easy swings and getting my muscles ready for the next few hours on the golf course. I’m not working on any swing changes during a pre-round warm-up but I will visualize shots that I expect to encounter over the next few hours on the course. Some driving ranges have practice areas for chipping but be sure to use only areas that are designated as such. I recommend taking a few minutes of warm-up on the practice putting green as well. This is helpful to get a sense of green speed or how fast or slow the conditions are for putting. I spend plenty of time at the driving range working on my swing on days when I’m not playing a round of golf, but that’s different than pre-round warm-up.

Driving range stalls

Macarena: At first, the thought of going to a driving range terrified me – from what I could tell they were male-dominated warm-up areas, where the high level of testosterone manifested itself in rows of men using their drivers to get rid of all the tensions of the day. And the sense that they were all trying to out-drive their neighbor. Consequently, I would often go to the furthest spot away I could find, and take out a variety of clubs to practice with, as instructed by my golf pro. I would then start my warm-up routine – as I am an older player, my muscles tend to be a bit stiff first thing, so my coach encouraged me to warm up my body by doing some stretches and body twists before picking up a club. Holding your arms crossed in front of your chest and practicing a hip rotation may seem very strange at first, but it does loosen up the spine, and thus far has eliminated any trips to the chiropractor! I then use my shorter clubs to practice my set-up and swing, before actually hitting any balls. And if I remember, I try to use some alignment sticks on the ground, as I am working on my direction as well as length of shots.

Towards the end of my bucket of balls, after I’ve loosened up with the other clubs, is when I use my driver, and for some strange reason they seem to go straight and far – why, oh why, do they not behave that way out on the golf course? Another mystery of the game I suppose. I have noticed a few people at the driving range wearing ear pods – this may be to listen to some golf meditation, tips or some empowering music, who knows, but if this helps you concentrate on what you are doing and not be intimidated by the sound of your neighbor’s driver, feel free. If you wear a good watch, I was told by a watchmaker to remove your watch at the driving range as the constant hitting motion could damage some of the more delicate mechanisms. Also just discovered that some driving ranges have heat lamps above the tee, which may help warm up those muscles on cold frosty mornings.

Who We Are

Johanna MacMichael

Johanna MacMichael: Prior to March 2021, I’d only played golf a few times with my husband in “scramble” games. During COVID, a neighbor friend recommended a women’s golf league and I started playing on a regular basis. I love this game! My handicap is 38.6.

Macarena Dearie

Macarena Dearie: I was born in the UK, with the past many years living in various countries around the globe. I made a promise to my husband over 30 years ago that I would learn to play his beloved golf game if he learned to ski. And so here I am. My handicap is 40.0.

Stephanie Standifer

Stephanie Standifer: At 55 years old I started taking golf lessons during the COVID pandemic. My instructors encouraged me to play more regularly, so I joined my first 9-hole women’s league in the spring of 2021. My handicap is 26.4.

Kristina Laidler

Kristina Laidler: I retired during the pandemic, so I’m returning to golf after years commuting and sitting behind a computer keyboard. I always wanted to play more, and better, golf but did not have the time until now. My handicap is 26.3.