I want to answer a question I came across on a forum. The question asked was, how do I practice golf without hitting golf balls?
Plenty of people have answered this question already, but the responses suck. I’ve seen replies saying that it’s impossible to practice golf effectively without golf balls.
But that’s not true at all. I know firsthand because at least half of my golf practice nowadays doesn’t involve hitting balls. I’m going to show you what I use instead in this article.
Practice Hitting Foam Golf Balls
I assume the reason you want to know how to practice without hitting golf balls is because you’re practicing inside or in your backyard. You don’t want to break something …or someone …or lose your balls.
But let me ask you this – have you tried practicing golf with foam golf balls instead?
Foam golf balls aren’t a perfect alternative. There are a few things you can’t do or do well with them.
- Test your distances
- Check your ball flight
- Feel shanks or toe shots
- Feel flush or pure golf shots
These are hardly downsides, though. You’re not at the range, otherwise you’d practice with golf balls. So, you’re probably not expecting to hit for distance or practice hitting different ball flights.
Not being able to feel a flush or bad shot sucks. But that is the tradeoff you make if you can’t hit golf balls but want to practice anyway.
You can still see how you’re striking the ball. Just spray your face down with foot powder – the foam golf balls will still leave an imprint.
Other than that, foam golf balls are great if you struggle to practice swinging your club without having something to aim for, or if you prefer hitting something that is like a golf ball, only softer.
The ones I purchased are the Callaway HX Practice Golf Balls. I bought the 9-pack in the orange colorway. It comes with a mesh bag for easy storage and transportation.
These work great for golf practice, though I don’t use them as much as I use some of the alternatives I share in the next section.
Golf Ball Alternatives
I don’t practice with foam golf balls often. The reason I don’t use them much now is because I’m working on swing depth and taking a divot.
The problem with practicing hitting golf balls made from foam is they don’t provide you with the best feedback. You don’t have to hit them perfectly to get them in the air.
You can spray your club face or the bottom of your club and get feedback that way. I’ve done that, but that requires a bit more effort than what I use now.
What I use now are these 1/4 inch rubber discs from Izzo called Flatball. I bought a pack of six from Amazon for less than $10.
These give you great feedback. If you tend to hit the ball fat or thin, you’ll either catch the edge of the disc or miss it entirely. But if you hit it pure, you’ll send it straight ahead like a frisbee.
You can practice with these as is and improve your golf swing. I’m speaking from experience. But you don’t have to stop there. I also use them while performing the gate and towel drill.
I use these rubber discs for most of my golf practice sessions. They’re a great bang for the buck. You can get a lot of mileage out of them.
But what are some other golf ball alternatives?
- Guitar picks
- Carboard – boxes or cut out discs
- Old credit cards
- Poker chips
- Tees – rubber mat tees or regular wood or plastic tees
I practice hitting wood tees, too. I use these to perform gate drills. I also cut them down so that they barely stick out of my golf mat. I’ll place them in front of my rubber discs with the golf of hitting the rubber disc and then the tee, to simulate hitting the ball and then the ground.
I don’t use rubber tees for my golf practice sessions, but Adam Young shares an alternative to the popular ball striking drill in which you spray your club face with foot powder and then hit balls.
The ballless version is to spray your club face and hit a rubber tee instead. You won’t be able to tell where you’re hitting the club vertically, but you can see where you’re hitting the club horizontally.
I’ve also practiced golf by hitting old credit cards and plastic poker chips. These are great for the same reasons the rubber discs are. But there is one MASSIVE downside – they’re dangerous.
Whenever you hit a credit card, it will break off into pieces. Many of these pieces will be sharp – sharp enough to puncture or cut you.
Plastic poker chips will break off, too. I’ve hit these a few times. The last time I hit a poker chip, a piece broke off and hit me in the cheek.
I decided that, if I was to continue practicing golf with poker chips, I’d need to wear safety glasses. But I didn’t (and don’t) want to wear safety glasses while I practice. That’s why I bought the rubber discs.
I’ve not used loose change to practice golf, and I won’t after seeing an image of a penny sticking out of a wall (after someone hit it with a wedge).
The last option is cardboard. I’ve hit cardboard boxes like you would an impact bag, to work on my swing path. And I haven’t done it yet, but I plan to cut out some cardboard discs that are the same size as my rubber discs, but thinner. The idea is to make my current drills tougher.
Those are all the alternatives to hitting golf balls I have used or know about. The only ones worth using, in my opinion, are the rubber discs, cardboard, and tees.
The other alternatives are far too dangerous. Use them at your own risk.
Golf Drills You Can Do without Hitting Balls
So far, I’ve covered a few alternatives for things you can hit other than regular golf balls. You can use foam golf balls, rubber discs, tees, or even guitar picks.
Another option is to not hit anything at all. You don’t have to hit a foam golf ball or guitar pick to improve your golf game.
Either way, here are some drills you can perform without hitting golf balls.
- Gate drill
- Impact drill / swing path
- Towel drill
- Strike face
- Speed Sticks
- Divot drill
Here’s what you need to know about each one.
You’ve probably seen this drill used for putting. In fact, if you want to practice golf without hitting golf balls, there’s nothing wrong with practicing your putting instead of using an iron, wood, or driver.
The idea is the same regardless of the club you’re using. Here’s how you do a gate drill.
Setup a gate using two tees, rubber discs, guitar picks, or even golf ball sleeves. Your goal is to swing your club through this gate without hitting either side.
Swing Depth Drills
I’m not sure what the proper name for this drill is, or if there is one. But this is a good drill for using golf ball alternatives, like rubber or cardboard discs.
What I do is set a rubber disc down on my mat where the golf ball would go. Then I hit them into the net.
Yes, that is it. Here’s why this is a tough golf drill (at least for beginners or high handicappers).
My rubber discs are only 1/4-inch thick. There isn’t much room for error. If you tend to hit balls thin or fat, you’ll either nick the disc or miss it altogether.
Once I’m warmed up, I’ll push the disc forward in my stance (towards the target) to work on shifting my weight and getting the lowest point of my swing further in front of where my golf ball would be.
Impact / Swing Path Drill
This is a good drill to use if you’re working on making a swing path change. I used it when my coach was helping me with my slice.
All you need for this drill is two clubs, a club and an alignment stick, or a club and a cardboard box. You can also use an impact bag, but I don’t see the value in buying one.
All you need to do is set your box or bag on the ground, starting roughly where your golf ball would be. You want to point it in the direction you want your swing path to go.
Then swing and hit the box or bag. If you’re hitting a box, the box should slide towards the target in a straight line. If the back of the box fishtails in either direction, or if you spin the box around in a circle, then you know you hit it in such a way that you’d slice or hook a golf ball.
An impact bag won’t move (much), but you should be able to see an imprint where your club made contact. This should give you an idea of the quality of your strike.
Another option is to use an alignment stick or extra club. You don’t want to hit it – you want to set it close to you, pointing in the direction of your new swing path. Then you just want to hit the ground next to it.
I’m not a huge fan of this approach, though. It’s much harder to see whether you’re making a positive change to your swing path compared to hitting a box (or bag).
This is another popular golf drill I’m sure you’ve heard of or done. All you need is a towel and a club and somewhere to practice.
What you want to do is lay the towel down a couple of inches behind where your ball should be. Then you swing your club. The goal is to miss the towel or nick it at most, depending on how close it is and the club you’re using.
If you chunk a lot of shots, you might start with the towel 4-5 inches away from the ball. Then play a game where you need to miss the towel at least 7/10 times before you can move the towel closer to the ball.
I like to combine this drill with the depth drill using my rubber discs. That way I can work on reducing my fat shots while also making sure I don’t hit thin shots.
It’s a challenging drill and you can do it without hitting golf balls. I highly recommend it!
Face Striking Drills
Many of the ideas I’m sharing I first learned from Adam Young, either from his website or his Strike Plan course (which I recommend).
One of the things he stresses is to work on your ball striking. You want to improve your ability to hit the sweet spot as often as possible.
One way to do that is by performing this face striking drill.
First, spray the face of your club with (liquid) foot powder. Then hit a foam golf ball, rubber disc, plastic milk cap, or the rubber tee on your golf mat.
The idea is to leave a mark on the face of your golf club. This will tell you how well you’re striking the ball.
Super Speed Sticks
Another way to practice golf without hitting golf balls is to use the Super Speed golf sticks. You don’t need to hit anything with these. You just need an area to swing them in a few minutes to perform the exercises they give you.
I haven’t used these yet, though I plan to buy a set in the future. These are supposed to help you improve your club head speed which should increase the distance you hit each club.
There are a couple of ways to perform this drill. The idea for either approach is to work on hitting the ground after you hit the golf ball. This drill also goes hand-in-hand with the swing depth drill I shared earlier.
There are three ways to do this drill.
- Paint a line on the ground (your yard, park, or driving range) using your foot powder spray.
- Draw a line in some sand (at the beach, local park, bunker, your yard, etc.).
- Spray some foot powder on the bottom of your club.
Your goal is to take a divot on your line or just after it. This is easiest to do in the sand as you aren’t removing earth. But you will get good feedback from either striking the ground or sand.
The idea behind spraying the bottom of your club is to see where your mark the mat with your club. I wouldn’t use this method if one of the other two are available, though. I have two reasons why.
- You can’t set the club on the ground when you address the ball. You’ll remove the foot spray if you do.
- It’s much harder to see where you marked the mat.
But do what you must. It all works. And it ensures that you practice and improve your golf game, even if you can’t hit any golf balls.
I hope by now you can see why I thought the responses I saw to questions about how to practice golf without hitting golf balls were awful.
It is not impossible to practice golf effectively without hitting golf balls. I know firsthand because I do it several times per week – and my golf game is improving as a result.
You can do it, too, if you use the tips I gave you.