In many parts of the country, practicing off Mats is just part of the reality of being a golfer. Few people enjoy Hitting from mats, but if they are the only option in your area – well, you gotta do what you gotta do.
If the grass isn’t growing in the winter months, the grass tees won’t be open at the range, and artificial mats will be your only option.
The good news is this – you can still make plenty of progress on your swing even when hitting from a mat. Is hitting off of a mat the same thing as hitting a shot from the turf? No, not quite. But you are still making a swing and hitting a golf Ball, and there is still a lot to learn.
With this post, we’d like to explain how hitting from a mat is different than hitting off natural grass. Also, we’ll highlight some ways that you can optimize your practice sessions to make sure you get the most possible benefit from your time on the mats.
Mat vs. Turf – Highlighting the Differences
Let’s get right into it – the list below touches on some of the main differences between practicing on a grass range and hitting balls from an artificial turf mat.
#1 No Divots
Quite obviously, you aren’t going to be taking divots from an artificial turf mat. That means the club head can’t sink down into the ground after impact like it usually does when you are hitting from grass. So, if you swing down through the ball to hit a wedge or another short iron, for example, the club is going to bounce up off the mat after impact rather than cutting down through the grass.
While you should still be able to make your normal swing – unless you have a particularly steep downswing – there will be a different feel through the impact area. No matter what you do, hitting balls on a mat will never feel quite the same as playing from grass.
#2 Fat Shots are Forgiven
Perhaps the biggest practical difference when hitting off of mats is that you can be forgiven for some of your swings that would have produced fat shots on the course. For instance, let’s imagine that you are hitting a wedge toward a target that is 100-yards away. If you hit an inch or so behind the ball while practicing on a mat, the club is likely to ‘slide’ across the mat and into the ball, producing a decent result. The ball might wind up flying all the way to the target, or at least pretty close to that 100-yard mark.
Of course, if you were to hit an inch behind the ball while playing on grass, you wouldn’t get so close to the target. Depending on the conditions of the turf, you might only get 70 – 80-yards out of such a mistake.
#3 Longer Shots Aren’t Much Different
If you are hitting a long iron shot from the mat, or a driver off the tee, you won’t notice much difference as compared to practicing on grass. The biggest difference from a long iron perspective is that you have a perfect lie every time on the mat, with the ball sitting up cleanly. That isn’t always the case on a real golf course, so mats don’t give you the opportunity to practice from less-than-ideal lies.
Practicing on Mats the Smart Way
One of the keys to getting value from your practice time on mats is simply to pay attention. Let’s go back to the previous example of hitting a fat wedge shot on a mat. Sure, the ball might have made it most of the way out toward your target – but you could probably feel in your hands that you didn’t hit it cleanly. So, don’t base your evaluation of the shot on where the ball ended up, but rather on how it felt. If you know it was a fat shot, work on making corrections so you can hit the next one cleanly.
Also, range sessions on mats are a great time to work on your long game, since those clubs aren’t as affected by the change. You can get plenty of driver and fairway wood work in, and you can hit some long irons, as well. That is not to say that you shouldn’t hit any wedge shots but focus your efforts on the parts of the game that will look similar between mats and natural grass.
You can also work on fundamentals like aim and alignment while practicing on artificial turf. In fact, some mats even have built-in alignment lines to help you work on how your body is positioned at address. It is often the fundamentals that lead to the biggest gains in golf, so never miss an opportunity to sharpen up this part of your game.
A Word on Injuries
We need to quickly mention the issue of injuries as it relates to artificial mats. Since the club is going to bounce back up off the mat when you use a downward strike through impact, you might find that hitting too many balls on mats can be tough on your joints. Specifically, you may develop pains in your lead wrist or elbow, and maybe even up into your shoulder. This is particularly true for players who swing down steeply into the ball.
If you are concerned about this issue, limit the volume of short clubs you hit from the mats. Maybe just hit a few wedge shots before moving onto other things, rather than emptying the whole bucket of practice balls with your wedge. Cutting back on how many times you swing hard down into the mat from a steep angle will hopefully help you avoid any injury issues.
Hitting off artificial mats really isn’t that bad. It will never quite be the same as getting to practice on grass, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay home and keep your clubs locked up. Have a plan for how you are going to approach this kind of practice session and you can still come away as a better golfer for the effort.