Does Hitting Off Mats Hurt Your Golf Game? – It’s Complicated!

Lee Trevino says “Synthetic practice mats are the worst thing for your golf game”.

Conversely, Trackman did a study 8 years ago that showed very little difference in performance.

My experience? I’ve cut my handicap in half because I started practicing golf regularly at home, hitting exclusively off a mat….

So, does hitting off mats hurt your golf game? I don’t think it is a straightforward yes or no. But in general, especially for the long-term, I think some practice is better than no practice.

Hitting Off Mats vs Grass

outdoor natural grass range
Outdoor Natural Grass Range
indoor golf simulator with synthetic mat. Golfer standing with a club and a dog named Rollo sitting in the way.
That’s Rollo, he likes attention

No question, hitting golf balls off the same surface you play on is going to be the most beneficial. No matter how good the range mats get, or those used for indoor golf, they simply cannot replicate the true feel and club response you’ll get when hitting on real grass.

But, that doesn’t mean you cannot IMPROVE your game by using them.

Tiger Woods, talking about his home simulator – “I’m in here probably more than I am out playing”. Tiger discusses how he uses the Sim to get his carry distances and work on his shot shapes. But when he wants to see his full ball flight, he is STILL HITTING OFF A MAT in his at-home practice area that opens up to the outside. – Full Interview

Certainly, Tiger is still getting some practice in on a grass range and the golf course. But if Tiger is okay using a golf mat…why not you?

What’s The Real Difference?

The biggest argument you’ll hear for “not hitting off mats” is – you can hit several inches behind the golf ball, and still get it in the air. While that’s true, it does not mean you’re not aware of it.

The study from Trackman showed a slightly higher launch angle and less spin when hitting off a mat compared to natural grass. This led to slightly more distance from the mat. All other data points were extremely similar.

But, this study was done 8 years ago and there are some significantly higher quality mats out there today. Now, if you’re hitting off of driving range mats, you’ll probably see the same impact from the study. But again, that does not mean you cannot use them to help your game.

My Experience Hitting Off a Mat Indoors

The author practicing on a mat

We installed a simulator in the basement almost 2 years ago. I have spent the last two winters hitting balls exclusively off of that mat. After the first winter, my first round of golf felt weird. I had gotten used to hitting on an even surface and I hit my fair share of fat shots.

But it was very short-lived, it only took another round before I was used to playing on real grass again and my game had improved dramatically from the previous season. I dropped from a 16 handicap to 12, and then very quickly to 10 after spending a winter hitting balls off of a mat.

As the year progressed, all of my practice was indoors on the mat and I got down to a 7.7 handicap by the end of last season.

I spent this winter doing the same thing, playing exclusively on the mat. We had some nice weather last week and I went out to play 9 holes. This time, I only needed about 2 holes to adjust.

As I’ve continued to use the mat, I’ve gotten significantly better and I absolutely know when I hit 3 inches behind the ball…even if the ball still goes nearly the full distance I expected. I look at those as a terrible shot, just as it would be on real grass.

The Convenience of Golf Mats

Not everyone has a natural grass range nearby. Whether you’re thinking about setting up a hitting area in your garage, or you just aren’t sure about hitting off of driving range mats, I believe there is a ton to gain from hitting off a mat.

I’ve experienced it myself, and have friends who have done the same.

If all you have available to you are driving ranges with synthetic mats, I would say some practice is significantly better than no practice.

Natural grass ranges are very labor-intensive to maintain, and unless you’re in an area where the grass grows year-round, they are not nearly as plentiful. Driving ranges with mats may simply be the most convenient option for you.

Aside from the convenience of hitting balls at home…I also like the fact that I can setup a “hitting station” with a couple of alignment rods and don’t need to move them every time I take a divot and prepare for the next shot.

The number of repetitions you can perform in the same time window is also significantly improved by hitting off of a mat, especially if it is a home setup.

And what about the winter or summer months? How long are you going to stand out there on a natural grass range when it’s 110 degrees? And you’re obviously not going out to hit balls in 2 feet of snow.

The Downside of Golf Mats

Not all mats are created equal. Some are far more realistic than others. Some have much more padding underneath and are easier on the body and your clubs.
Driving ranges oftentimes focus on “durability” when they install mats. They are usually about an inch thick and have concrete underneath. Spending too much time in those conditions can lead to knee and elbow pain.
It can also put additional wear on your golf clubs, specifically your irons. I have never broken a club (knock on wood), but I know some people who have on cheap mats. Mainly the thin pieces you’ll see on Amazon for what seems like an amazing deal.

I think the bottom line is – If you’re going to install a mat at home, go for the highest quality mat you can afford to avoid unnecessary wear on your body and golf clubs. If you need to use a driving range instead, don’t do marathon practice sessions.

My Recommendation

If you care enough about working on your golf swing, you can absolutely make progress while hitting off of a mat. Even worn-down driving range mats.

For the golfer who can hit a shot and know where it’s going without actually seeing the ball flight. Or who can tell you where the ball hit the club face…you won’t have any problem at all in my opinion. You’ll know when you hit one fat.

For the casual golfer, beginner, or anyone who doesn’t have that level of awareness in their game – It depends on your level of commitment to it and the time you will put in. If you work to gain some of that awareness in your golf swing, you’ll easily overcome any downside there is to “wrecking your game” due to hitting off a driving range mat.

Bottom line(s)…

I think Lee Trevino is talking about the casual golfer who isn’t going to put the necessary time in to improve their game…he’s also talking about the old mats.
I think those golfers who say “I’m not hitting off of a mat, it will wreck my game” are either making an excuse because they don’t want to put the time in, or they are “old school” and have not experienced the newer technology.
Significant work can be done to improve your swing mechanics, ball contact, getting to know your distances etc…all on a crappy driving range mat.

There are certainly differences between real grass and a mat, but if you focus your efforts appropriately, you can maximize your game improvement.

How to Get The Most Out of Different Hitting Surfaces

Although I am clearly an advocate for using mats in your practice, especially when natural grass isn’t always available, or convenient…I do think it is important to pick and choose what you work on.

RelatedHow to practice golf at home


I have a putting mat in my basement and it is wonderful for focusing on my stroke and setup. I can do a ton of work on my start line, make sure I’m hitting it square, and practice various distances.

But I cannot use it to help me read greens, and the putting mat only has one speed. So those are things I need to work on when I’m on a real putting green.

So, when I practice putting at my local club, I focus more on calibrating for the green speed and on hitting shots that will have some break. This gives me a chance to practice reading greens, which I cannot do at home.


My chipping improved significantly after the first season of working in the simulator. I got very familiar with how hard I would need to hit 10, 15, 20-yard shots. It certainly doesn’t translate 100% on the golf course, but it is exponentially better than not practicing those shots.

Here’s where it did translate…I now have a great frame of reference for what a perfect lie 20-yard chip shot feels like. So, when I get into a situation where there is a little uphill and my ball is buried a bit, I simply take that as a factor and adjust accordingly.

I can practice all I want on a perfectly level surface at home on my mat…so, when I do work around the chipping green at my local club, I simply avoid the perfect “tee box-like” setup from 30 yards. Instead, I hit shots off the side of the hill, buried in the rough. Or a tight lie just off the green.

Bottom line – You can absolutely practice your chipping off of a mat, but mix it in with practice from some really crappy areas in real grass when you can.

RelatedCreating a wedge matrix


Similar to chipping or putting, your practice with irons on a golf mat is limited to a “perfect lie” scenario. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work on punch shots, fades, draws, picking it clean, hitting a stinger etc.

Getting to know your distances….getting to know your distances…[foot stomp]

Yes, hitting off of a mat can be more forgiving than natural grass, but speaking from experience here, I developed the “feel” after countless sessions on a mat. As soon as the ball leaves my club I can tell you where it’s going and where I hit it on the club face. I couldn’t do that before.

It’s not because of the mat, it’s because of the practice I’ve put in…

But that has translated into understanding when the outcome of my shot was due to the mat, or me making good contact.

I rarely ever practice on a grass range. My iron game is either practicing golf on a mat, or playing on the golf course. They have improved significantly, but you cannot replicate having a ball laying a foot below your feet with a downslope on a mat.

You get a wonderful frame of reference from practicing golf on a driving range or simulator, then you take that information and apply it to the real-world conditions on the course and adjust as needed….that’s it.


Hitting your driver off of a driving range mat or on a perfectly manicured tee box has very little difference. The only thing that might make a big difference are those crap rubber tees they have on the range or your visual perception.

If you’ve ever had one of those rubber tees that sits at the same height as your normal tee shot…consider yourself lucky.

If you are a regular at a driving range and they don’t have good tee options, check out Birtees (👈 That’s an Amazon ad link that I’ll make like $.05 cents off of) This is what I use at home. It sits on top of the surface and gives you a perfectly consistent tee height. They are also incredibly durable.

Honestly, I don’t see much of a downside to practicing your driver off of a mat. Footing can vary a bit depending on course conditions…but…hit away!


Final Thoughts

Don’t be afraid to practice on a mat! Many PGA pros, including Tiger, practice on mats. Yes, they can be “easier to hit off of”, but the reality is – Once you get enough repetitions in, you’ll know whether it is a good shot or not regardless of outcome.

Even if you never develop that feel, I believe some practice is better than no practice.

Mats have evolved over the last decade. As home golf simulators become more and more popular, the technology has both improved and gotten less expensive. So if you are considering installing a hitting area at home, go for it!!!

If you are worried the sessions you’re putting in at the local range are hurting your game…be patient and stay the course.

Feel free to reach out in the comments or shoot me an email.

Good luck on the course!

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