Ok, its official, I hate range mats. But let’s be clear, I always have. I get it. They don’t require watering, they last a reasonably long period of time, they are sorta effective at mimicking real grass, and likely on the long term save courses money. But honestly, they are ugly, annoying pieces of shit, and here’s why:
1) They make you a worse golfer
Ever notice how you have a perfect lie each and every time you play on the course? No? Oh that’s right, you never do… so why do range mats offer you this privilege? Yes, they are great for beginners who need the confidence boost, but once you’re past a 20 handicap, they provide you with unreasonable expectations. The best, is when you get a slightly worn out mat, and the ball sits up on the ‘fairway section’ like a groundhog poking its head out of a hole. Yeah, that’s like real golf. The worst part? It’s pretty much impossible to hit a shot fat or chunky on a range mat. I mean, you can, but the result is very different than on grass. If you hit an inch or so behind the ball on grass, you chunk it. On a range mat, the club skips off the ground and continues on its merry way into the ball – talk about great feedback.
Some of you may be saying – well, at least some mats have alignment aids, which is true, and they can often be helpful, but more times than not they are aiming you in odd locations around the range, and not specific targets (which you should be aiming for btw).
2) They don’t mimic grass
I have yet to meet a range mat that accurate mimics fairway and rough conditions, and I doubt I ever will. That’s because their made of plastic, and made to last. Real grass ain’t. The rough is usually way too soft, and the ball sits down in it so only the top half of the ball is visible – forcing you to dig it out. Sure, some shots from the rough are similar, but you don’t have to nearly break your wrists in the process to move the ball. The fairway usually is like hitting from hardpan, and the ball sits up way too well. There’s no happy medium. Move the ball 5 feet to the nearby grass and take a swing, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Its no wonder better players and pros prefer to play using real conditions on real grass when practicing. The results of good, bad, and mediocre swings are consistent and repeatable – something range mats cannot offer.
3) They ruin your clubs
Aside from the green melted plastic that finds its way on to every one of your clubs, range mats are very effective at collecting sand and rocks in their plastic fibers just aching to chew up your clubs. Furthermore, the plastic itself is often too coarse and thick for softer metals – like forged blades. Over time you’ll start to see wear lines on the heels of your club from hitting off mats. Sure, you can hit rocks and ruin your clubs on real grass too – I’m not saying you can’t – but rocks often have a harder time hiding on the short practice grass a normal driving range should have.
4) They are frustratingly useless at times
This is one of my biggest pet peeves of range mats – the tees. They are often not level to even hold ball, or have enough rigidity to handle the weight – that is of course if you’re lucky enough to have a tee at all.
Depending on their construction, you can be faced with different annoying challenges – like the range mats made with panels that rarely last more than one season, and are easily disconnected leaving you with four unanchored grass squares that move after each shot. Or for the larger one-piece construction mats, you may have to deal with how water can add bulges and make the mats uneven. Sure, you can chalk this up to “uneven” lie experience, but who are you kidding?
5) Can Be Dangerous
Many of you will laugh at this one, but hear me out. How many of you have hit off a range mat and have your foot slip? How about seen a ball fly sideways? Or chunked a shot so bad your wrists were in pain. And again, yes, this can all happen on real grass, but its more common on mats because you’re forced to use whatever setup the range mats have for you versus what would come more natural.