While some may argue that standing and hitting balls into a practice net without seeing where they go is a waste of time, to a point, this is true; however, with golf, deliberate or focused training will always help, provided it has a purpose.
Hitting golf balls into a net can indeed improve the swing and ball striking elements of your game as well as swing feel and ball striking. Along with some other helpful training tools, coaching, and a training strategy, this can offer an easy, convenient and effective training method.
However, simply standing in front of the net with no purpose or intention behind your training will only get you sweaty and a bit frustrated and even make your game worse. Let’s explore how to make your net sessions effective and get some real gains in your game!
The Pros Of Using A Practise Net – Convenience & Cost
The first and most obvious one is the convenience of it. Set it up in your garden or garage, get the balls and clubs, and off you go. For many golfers, the logistics of loading clubs into the car and driving to the range is something for weekends only.
Plus, the cost of using the net after purchase is zero. Provided you don’t miss the net and hit too many over your neighbor’s wall and keep having to replenish balls, there is no cost outside of the initial purchase.
Over time the hitting mat may take some punishment and need to be replaced or repaired, and possibly the net and targets could take some wear and tear too, but we’re talking in the thousands of shots here.
Using The Net To Improve Your Swing Feel & Ball Striking
The golf swing is very much about feel, and every golfer feels their swing differently. The goal is to develop a good feel on the swing and to have it balanced, fluid, and consistent.
Achieving this will take time, effort, and money, as in most cases, some level of coaching will be required to establish an excellent fundamental action and then fine-tune elements of the swing.
At the range, a lot is going on around you. Other players, noise, and you can get ‘distracted ‘by watching your ball flight shot after shot and then looking to correct errors there and then.
In most cases, unless you have your coach with you, it’s unlikely that you will be able to successfully ‘fix’ an aspect of your swing on the range alone.
Alone on the hitting mat, you can focus in or ‘zone’ in on your swing elements, like club path or different setups. You can focus on how the strike feels at impact as you work through each training phase.
Improving ball striking is a critical part of playing good golf, and this is why all the pros spend so much time focussing on this. If you want to play better golf, then your first point is to become a better ball striker, and your net can help you do that.
Every golfer KNOWS when they have flushed a shot! It just feels incredible! That sound off the clubface and the effortless contact and not feeling the ball impact off the clubface are all signs that you’ve hit it GREAT!
Hitting balls into the practice net can and will help you achieve better ball striking, but again the key point here is to have a proper practice plan! Without this, you are doing nothing more than a cardio workout.
What Do Practice Nets Cost?
As with any golf accessory, the price ranges from the budget products to the expensive, and hitting nets are no different.
Starting from around $150 and going up to $600/ $700, it does depend on how much you want to spend, and this price is for the net only. It doesn’t include the hitting mat, which will set you back another $40 or so for a small one that will do the job.
Of course, you can spend a few hundred dollars on the hitting mat as well if you want to get a full-size one that resembles grass, but the reality is that for the average golfer, a budget-sized net will be worth the spend.
There is no question that a basic practice net with the hitting mat is a worthwhile investment for any golfer looking to improve their ball striking and the convenience of being able to practice whenever you want.
A word of caution here. The old saying,” You get what you pay for,” holds for just about everything in this world, and while the golf net is a good tool, the very cheap budget ones are probably not worth the money.
They are cheap for a reason, and issues around durability and quality will arise sooner rather than later if you opt for a ‘cheapie.’
5 Key Elements To Look At Before You Buy A Net
- The Frame
- The Size
- Net Durability
- The Thickness
- The Optional Extras
Let’s examine these in a little more detail.
1. Why The Net Frame Is Important
Golf balls deliver a lot of force and kinetic energy on impact, and as such, a lighter frame made of fiberglass may move around as the balls contact the net. This can become rather annoying, so look at a heavier frame material such as aluminum or carbon.
Another aspect is weatherproofing. If your net is set up outside, it needs to have a material that can resist the elements – again, aluminum and carbon are the way to go.
When it comes to the frame, choose aluminum or carbon.
2. Get A Good Net Size
Having a too small net to catch your golf balls is pointless, so that a good-sized net would be in the 8ft to 10ft region. This size gives it enough space to collect the balls you hit, even the missed ones, without having them go well wide or over and through your lounge window or, worse, the neighbor’s lounge window!
If you don’t want to find out which would be worse – an angry wife or neighbor – make sure you have a decent-sized net.
Another factor to consider is portability. If the net needs to be portable, it should fold away to a comfortable carry and storage size. If the net is cumbersome and difficult to fold away, look at another one.
A good net size should be 8ft-10ft in diameter and easy to fold and store.
3. Why The Net Durability Matters
Net mesh is the material that catches the golf balls, and you would need to get a suitable mesh. Net mesh is either knotted or knotless, and the knotless option offers more durability and is more resistant to wear and tear.
You can get polyester or nylon with the mesh, but nylon is more robust, so the knotless nylon is the ideal combination.
One drawback of the knotless mesh is that it cannot be repaired once it gets damaged and needs to be replaced.
4. Look For Good Net Thickness
Aside from the material composition and the knotted/ knotless options, net thickness is another consideration when looking at a practice net. Thickness is measured in ply, and ideally, you should be looking at a 4-ply thickness as the minimum, especially if you are going to use actual golf balls.
When it comes to the thickness, the thicker, the better, and some nets have a double net, which helps should one of the nets break.
5. Consider The Optional Extras If You Can
Depending on your budget, there are some extras you can add to your network: the side netting barriers and an extra durable base for indoor use to protect the floor. You can also look at some devices that can add significant value to your net session outside the net extras.
Are Golf Practice Nets Safe To Use?
The answer to this fundamental question is yes, if golf nets are correctly set up, they are safe to use. One of the considerations is the distance in front and the space behind the net.
How far should you be in front of the net to use it correctly? You could hit the net frame on your follow-through and risk damaging the frame and your club if you are too close.
Ideally, you should be placed between 7ft and 10ft away to give yourself enough space on follow-through and enough space on the error margin to have the net catch still the mis-hits.
Remember that you also need space to swing, and you need to consider the height and length behind you. As many people have this setup indoors, you’d need about 6ft behind you
If you are too far away, you could miss the net entirely or have balls glancing off the frame on impact.
Having enough distance behind the net is also essential as you need the net to have enough space to absorb the impact of the balls without them pushing the net outward and hitting a wall, and have the ball ricochet back at you.
Ideally, you can leave 1ft-2ft behind the net as a minimum and more if you can.
Lastly, choose the safest space you can to set up your net. While a good net won’t let a ball through, pick a spot where if that should happen, there is minimal risk of damage to people, animals, and property.
Whenever you are hitting balls into a practice net, you want to ensure that no one is at risk of injury, especially yourself. This is why a 4ply knotless nylon double net is optimum to ensure that balls don’t fly through the net.
Give yourself enough room front, back, and height, and set your net up in the least risky spot you can find.
What About Using A Launch Monitor With Your Practice Net?
Once you have decided to go for the net, you may want to consider buying a launch monitor as well. Combined with the net, this may well be the next best thing to the range as the monitor’s software will give you a massive range of feedback you can work with.
Flight, shape, direction, distance, club path, launch and attack angles, and backspin are just a few of the measurements you can look at after every shot. Now while having all of this may certainly help you get better, without a good practice plan, you’ve just got yourself a costly virtual golf game!
Practice With Purpose To Achieve Your Golf Goals
With the technology available that offers insight into your swing mechanics like never before in the game, the modern golfer looking to improve has every available resource to do it.
But even with all of this, you need to practice the right things, as putting effort into the wrong ones will hurt your game.
Proper practice requires focus and planning goals for each session and a plan covering a range of training sessions over a few weeks. So, if the goal is to improve ball striking, then focus only on coaching and training that achieves that goal.
The Downside To Hitting Off A Mat
Most golfers can’t hit off the grass when at home, so that a mat will be required. The more oversized mats deliver a more stable and broader hitting and standing surface and are closer to hitting off the grass.
But closer isn’t grass, and this is one of the drawbacks of using a mat. The mat is very forgiving compared to grass, and hits behind the ball won’t seem as severe or off as they would on grass.
Grass has no sense of humor when it comes to golf and will tell you in no uncertain terms that your swing wasn’t the best.
So fat shots on a mat feel and sound like good striking, when in fact, that same shot played on grass would result in a fat strike. With the smaller mats, you’d be standing on the ground and hitting off the mat.
So you’d need to be sure that your feet are level with the hitting surface to simulate range conditions best. The other minor nuisance is that the smaller mats can move on impact, and this can become an irritation after a while if you keep having to move them back.
Conclusion – Using A Practice Net To Improve
When it comes to choosing a net, get the very best one you can afford. You want to have your hitting surface as close to simulating grass as possible, which would mean putting in a few more dollars.
If your goal is to get better at golf truly, then any investment is better than none, and a good investment is better than a poor one. If you need to save up to get a better net, then rather wait until you can afford one of the better ones and do it right.