By Erik Matuszewski
I tend not to hit more than a dozen balls warming up before a round of golf. Like many golfers, I might joke with those next to me that my good shots are limited, so why waste them?
But during my travels I’ve come across a number of unique or unusual practice ranges where it’s easy to linger just a bit longer ahead of a tee time.
I thought about this shortly after visiting the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in Quebec, where the clubhouse boasts sweeping views of the vast St. Lawrence River from high atop a hill. The winding cart path up to the clubhouse is more than a mile long, and the payoff is well worth it. Not only will you find one of the best opening tee shots in the game—you’ll also find one of its most scenic warm-up areas.
Before starting play on one of the course’s three nine-hole layouts, players fire practice balls from the property’s highest point to a range far below. This jarringly dramatic setting for a range happens to be where President Donald Trump and other world leaders took photos during the 2018 G7 Summit held at the resort.
While it’s hard to match that setting for its natural beauty, here are a handful of the game’s unique or noteworthy spots to warm up before a round. Whether it’s quirkiness, scenic views, or a truly special vibe, these ranges have something more than just functionality.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho)
Arriving at this lakefront resort via its mahogany water taxi is simply the start of the experience. Golfers everywhere know Coeur d’Alene as the home of the true island green—one you have to take a boat to, as well—but water is also in play before the round. This scenic over-water driving range stays true to the lakefront theme by using floating golf balls. Not only that, but massages are offered to all guests at the practice tee before their round—with the resort giving an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 during the golf season.
Orange County National (Winter Garden, Fla.)
The practice range at this Orlando property, which is home to two 18-hole golf courses and a nine-hole walking-only executive layout, spans 42 acres and, most notably, is circular. There are 600 hitting bays that extend 360 degrees around the venue, which is billed as the largest driving range in the nation and is where attendees gather to test new equipment each year during the PGA Merchandise Show. Players warming up for their round at OCN can contend with any possible wind direction to prep for that day’s play.
World Woods Golf Club (Brooksville, Fla.)
Orange County National isn’t the only southern facility with a 360-degree driving range. The RTJ Golf Trail at Capitol Hill in Alabama also has one, but World Woods takes it to another level. The facility’s massive 20-acre circular range has four grass teeing stations arranged in a North, South, East, and West layout, and is central to a sprawling Practice Park that also features a two-acre putting course and three practice holes (a par three, par four, and par five) to loosen up before taking on one of the two championship courses.
Cascata Club (Las Vegas, Nev.)
In the desert away from the Las Vegas Strip is a golf oasis for high rollers known as Cascata, which is Italian for “waterfall.” The setting for golf is stunning and the practice range is no slouch either. Visitors enjoy taking aim toward a distant mountainside where bighorn sheep scale the rocky slopes. A waterfall tumbles 418 feet into a stream that wanders through the practice area, crossing under a bridge near the teeing ground, and eventually running through the clubhouse.
Pebble Beach Resorts (Monterey, Calif.)
This one gets a special mention because of the location and for what the new 350-yard double-ended venue replaced. The old range at Pebble Beach was cramped, mats-only, and down the road from the course itself. The new range is a world removed, a practice area Nirvana for resort golfers. The sculpted target greens have surrounding bunkers with a look that mimics shots found throughout Pebble Beach. And you never know who you may run into while warming up—I remember visiting one time during the Pebble Beach Pro-Am when Tom Brady was hitting driver at one end and Kenny G was grinding away at the other.
There are many more special practice ranges throughout the game. What are some of the finest, unique, or most memorable that you’ve experienced?