We have all made it out to the range, excited to stripe some range balls, only to be disappointed to see mats instead of being on grass. But, have you ever wondered what the actual difference between mat and grass is? Are there any consequences to hitting off a mat? Are there differences in the mats you hit off of? The answer to all of these questions is yes! What are they exactly? Let's talk about it!
Good or Bad
I personally hate hitting off of most mats. There are some great mats out there to hit off of, but they are usually just the ones at a simulator. Most mats are actually bad for your back to hit off of. The harder the mat and the harder whatever is under it is, the worse it is for your back. Think about the mats at top golf; they are not the highest quality; they usually have indents and dips from where people hit, which is normal wear and tear for a mat. These mats at TopGolf are always sitting on concrete. You are basically hitting the concrete under the mat, absorbing all of the shocks, straightening up your arms and into your back. I have met many golfers who, after hitting off of mats, hurt their backs because of the shock. The shock going into your back could lead you to back pain and even force you to take a break from golf for a while. In general, you can hit off a mat warming up, or even going to TopGolf every once in a while will be okay. However, in most cases, I would warn against repeated practice sessions off of range mats.
A good Mat?
There are some fantastic mats that you can use! I have no issues using hitting mats to practice on a simulator, or in a hitting bay. I also enjoy some mats on some ranges. You can usually get an idea if a mat will be decent or not based on whether it is a single square mat or a whole line of mats all put together. Usually, a line of mats all connected one to the other, the bottoms have been treated, and they should be alright to hit off of! A great mat; if you hit down on a ball, it won't hurt at all! If you are taking swings on a mat and it hurts to hit it, probably don’t keep hitting off of those; it will do more harm than good. Although we golfers do seem to be a bit masochistic, so do you, I guess.
Okay, so you have a good mat; what is the difference?
Well, if I could take a mat onto the course with me and use it to hit every shot, I would be on tour. Okay, well maybe not quite that much, but they simulate perfect ground and are spongy. There is no really hitting it fat on a mat; you have to do something very, very wrong to hit it fat on a mat. Sometimes, it will breed false confidence in you, which could be a good thing! It could also make you think you are better than you are; just don’t be disappointed if you go from a mat to grass and aren’t hitting it well! A mat will definitely help you hit it better than off of grass. Alignment drills are also way easier on a mat because you never have to move the sticks; you just keep hitting from the same spot. The big problem with hitting off of a mat is that you don’t get that great feeling of hitting a ball, then tearing through the grass and leaving a nice pure divot.
So, should you hit off a mat or not? I would say if you are using a simulator, hit off that mat! You should probably be okay at a nice country club as well, but in general, I would skip mat days and work on your short game instead. A mat can damage your body so much that I don’t think it is worth the risk. If you are going to hit off a mat one day, you should be fine, but skip multiple mat days in a row, it just isn’t worth the risk!