Written by John VanDerLaan
In general, YES. Driving ranges are open in the rain. Going to the driving range if the weather looks bad is a great way to work in some time golfing without risking being stuck out on the course in the rain or having to take a rain check on your round.
The only exception to this is if there is lightning, in which case all golfing activities should be ceased immediately and shelter should be taken until well after the last lightning strike has been reported in the area. This lightning provision will apply to any outdoor golfing-related activity.
The big advantage that helps driving ranges be open in the rain, aside from being able to quickly take cover if needed, is that many driving ranges have a section that is covered or in some cases all of the hitting bays at the facility may be covered.
These covers serve the dual purpose of providing shade on hot / sunny days in warm-weather golf climates, and also allow patrons to continue practicing with ample protection from the rain.
How Much Rain Does It Take For A Driving Range To Close?
This is going to vary from driving range to driving range, and will revolve around two main technical points, and one that is more finicky: the surface (artificial or grass), whether the range is covered or not, and the personality of the owner. In most cases a range will not close down for light or periodic rain, but the heavier it rains the more likely factors could persuade the ownership to close up shop until things dry out a little bit.
We will go in-depth about the first two issues soon, but in general if a range has covered bays and artificial turf, there is really no reason for it to close unless the rain is so heavy that the field becomes partially flooded or so waterlogged that golf shots actually embed into the ground when landing and cause the owners to lose money from too many unretrievable golf balls. Also if the ground is very soft, equipment like range pickers may not be able to operate and replenish the balls, causing the range to have to be closed.
These situations should only happen typically in the heaviest rain of the year or during stretches where the ground is never able to dry out between storms.
The only other thing to look out for is if the ownership, despite the range being technically playable, decides that due to the foul weather not enough customers are going to show up to justify them paying staff or spending the day there themselves. Many driving ranges are family-run businesses and if an experienced operator knows that the rain will keep away a crowd, they may choose to close for the day and save their energy for a time when they can expect a full house.
In all of these situations the best idea is to just call and ask!
Covered vs Uncovered Driving Ranges
Covered driving ranges are, naturally, going to be much more well suited to all-weather practice sessions. You can usually look online at pictures or call ahead and ask if the driving range you are looking at going to has covered stalls available. Many will, but it depends on a lot of factors.
If it is a stand-alone driving range facility, they are more likely to have covered bays as they may attract customers regardless of conditions. If the driving range is part of a golf course or country club, while it isn’t an absolute rule, there will be a tendency for that range to be an uncovered, open range.
This is partly because those ranges function largely as a place for golfers to warm-up before their round as much as they do as practice facilities, and if the weather is bad their business will be slow anyway.
The other factor is wear-and-tear on the turf. A stand alone range will attract more range traffic as well as more inexperienced golfers, and they also won’t already have a dedicated grounds crew like a golf course would have. Or more accurately they could get away without one … if they installed artificial turf hitting mats.
For obvious reasons (such as grass preferring to grow in the sunshine), artificial turf hitting mats and covered range stalls usually go hand-in-hand, so you’re likely to find a facility to be either completely rain-friendly or not once you investigate it.
Mats vs Real Grass Driving Ranges
If you talk to some golfers, they will describe artificial turf mats as the bain of their existence, and extol the virtues of real grass driving ranges until their dying day. And in an ideal world - where every driving range guest makes perfectly geometric divot patterns and it’s always 70 degrees and sunny, they might be right!
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While there is a lot to be said about the virtues of hitting off of real grass when practicing, technology has come a long way and a lot of driving range mats can be made from cutting edge composite artificial surfaces that won’t damage your clubs or your joints like older-generation turf might have. Some high end mats are even built to where you can insert a tee into them and adjust the height as if it were a real grass-and-dirt playing surface.
While nothing can truly replicate the feel of real grass, artificial turf provides a few big advantages. First of all, it doesn’t die out, get bare, get chewed up, or turn into a mud pit. Also it’s usually cheaper to maintain so you might pay a dollar or two less per bucket to practice on artificial turf (some ranges even charge a different price-per-bucket if they have both grass and turf areas). Additionally, many public ranges during busy times will have the designated grass hitting areas so destroyed by the time you show up to practice that there is hardly any good turf left to hit off of, and artificial turf might actually be the better option.
And finally, but definitely not least, artificial turf mats will stay playable a lot longer during wet seasons or while it’s actually raining, and anywhere that has covered range stalls are going to have turf installed under them - so if you want to find a driving range that is open in the rain, artificial turf might become your friend.
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Can They Use The Range Picker To Pick Up The Balls?
The driving range picker these days comes in all shapes and sizes and except in the most extreme of scenarios, you will probably see one being used to pick up the balls at your local driving range.
In some places you could see the “throwback” of an old station wagon with a large metal pull-behind contraption filled with box frames and metal tines that collect the balls. In other places, depending on the terrain, you could see a similar attachment on what basically amounts to a tractor.
Many places can have branded “pickers” that come with their fleet of golf maintenance equipment and devices specially made for collecting range balls either towing or pushing a small army of spiraling metal wheels that are grooved to funnell the balls into collection baskets for later sorting, cleaning, and restocking.
In all cases though the range picker will be used to pick up the balls at the driving range. Only in case of an emergency will you see the “old school” method of having employees go out and “hand pick” the driving range, except for some spots where the range picker cannot go.
Safety At Driving Ranges In The Rain
Generally driving ranges are a very safe place as long as some common sense is used and awareness is had for those around you. Rain always increases the chances of an outlier event happening though, so let’s take a look at a few extra precautions if you venture out to your local range during a mild bout of inclement weather:
First and foremost, whenever there is rain, and golf is involved, you have to be absolutely sure that lightning is not also in the area or the forecast. If lightning is seen, reported, or expected anywhere near you, wait an extended period before resuming any outdoor golfing activities.
Keep in mind that you’re basically holding a lightning rod up to the sky in an area that is probably a large, relatively open field.
If you absolutely insist on practicing during a lightning storm, take the advice of Lee Trevino and only practice your 1-iron shots. Because as he said, “not even God can hit a 1-iron.”
Actually, we’re just kidding. Don’t try to hit a 1-iron regardless of the conditions!
Good golfers are known, when the playing conditions get sloppy, to start taking a little bit off of shots and playing shorter, softer, smoother swings.
The main reason for this is because of the unpredictability of your footing when the ground gets wet. Especially now that metal spikes have been all but outlawed for the amateur golfer, you’re going to want to take some extra care when swinging in the rain, even if it’s during practice.
This is a great time to work on drills, work on half shots, and work on slow-tempo swings and feels at the range. Slipping can lead to an injury very quickly, and honestly when it’s wet out you’re not going to get a great representation of what your real ball flights will look like, so all the more reason to take it easy and incorporate some real practice work.
Wet Golf Grips
The other part of the game which relies completely on traction, aside from our feet gripping the ground, is our hands gripping the club. Keeping grips dry is absolutely essential when grappling against wet conditions.
That said, it’s not a matter of completely eliminating the conditions, but managing them. There are definitely some grips that fare better on rainy days than others.
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If you cannot keep your grips constantly dry with a dry towel, and your grips are not new and tacky (or even if they are), the best thing to do is to invest in a pair of rain gloves. These gloves are specially made with a material that actually gets STICKIER when it gets wet and is a go-to choice for many golfers when facing some rain in the forecast.
Is TopGolf Open In The Rain?
TopGolf is a great example of a golf facility that is fully prepared for all-weather conditions. They will be open rain or shine.
This is because their setup features entirely covered hitting bays along with artificial turf mats that will completely protect you from interacting with precipitation at all.
How To Dress For The Driving Range In The Rain
One thing that might change if you head to your local driving range when a storm is blowing in is how you dress for the occasion. The best way to dress for the driving range in the rain is to be prepared, and to have options. Especially if you are just going to the driving range and not hauling your stuff all over the course, it’s easy enough to bring backup gear and be flexible in changing things out as the conditions get better or worse.
In the heaviest of rains, a raincoat will be necessary. Normal high-end golf rain gear (like Gore-Tex) is rated to protect golfers over 4+ hour rounds and even over multiple rainy days in a row without “failing.” For the driving range, you can definitely get away with a lighter option if you feel more comfortable that way.
The reason for this is 1) you probably won’t be exposed for as long, so a medium-strength waterproofing might buy you just enough time before you get too miserable, and 2) even if you do end up soaking through a little bit, it’s likely that you can quickly head somewhere warm and dry and cozy as soon as you’re done.
On the contrary, if this happens on the golf course, you might have to live with sopping wet clothes for several more hours, so you can try to get away with something less-heavy-duty and less-expensive if it’s just a range session, or invest in something that can last a lifetime and be your “go-to” in all conditions.
The key with either is to get something that is fitted in a way that is loose enough to not restrict your swing.
Rain pants are another option that are absolutely essential for the course if you are expecting rain, but you might be able to get away without them for a range session.
The great thing about most golf rain pants is they often feature either a “breakaway” design or a design that at least allows the leg holes to be unbuttoned or unzipped enough to easily slip them on/off over top of shoes. This is specifically so they can be tossed on in a moment’s notice if the weather turns bad, and discarded immediately if it calms down.
With that said, it all depends on how much of a “trooper” you are and how much rain is expected. For a light range session, it could be tolerable to just have a jacket to deflect most of the rain and just go and immediately change afterwards. Given the flexibility of rain paints, however, if you want to guarantee staying dry, there isn’t much downside to packing a pair or wearing them when you head out.
One of the most underrated or overlooked accessories when golfing in the rain is a proper rain hat. A lot of times a regular baseball cap just won’t cut it and you certainly don’t want to mess up your brand new fedora or Panama Jack.
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The key to a good rain hat is two simple things: coverage, and waterproofing. For these reasons the classic “bucket hat” style comes into play often, although there are many other styles to choose from. In addition to rain protection, a bucket hat that is made of a water-repellent or water-proof material can double as great sun protection, as well, for those days when the weather forecasters are completely wrong.
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One of the most common attributes you’ll see on golf-specific shoes is that many of them come in waterproof styles. Even on the nicest of days, this is very handy as golf courses tend to oftentimes be recently-watered if you’re playing in the afternoons, and just the dampness of the grass can begin to soak your feet. The other caveat is early morning rounds can leave you with wet socks very quickly just from the dew formation, especially if you get into the rough on the first couple of holes.
If you’re going to an open-air driving range on a rainy day and plan to splash around a little bit, or play in any inclement weather, they become even more important.
The other factor with your shoes when you go to a driving range that is open in the rain is to look at the kind of traction they have. A lot of golf shoes are made nowadays with molded-rubber bottoms similar to “trail runner” style shoes and they serve the purposes of the casual, fair-weather golfer very well. But with a little bit of moisture on the ground, you might want to opt for a pair with soft spikes or head for a covered bay if you didn’t bring a change of shoes.
Almost all golfers wear at least one glove (on their lead hand) when playing. When it comes to rain, you either need to meticulously keep that glove dry, change it often, or some combination of the two.
Golfers who don’t want to fuss over that and don’t mind a slightly different feel opt for a pair of rain gloves. Typically rain gloves will be worn on both hands, and these gloves actually increase their stickiness when they get water on them. They are definitely worth trying out if you plan to go to a driving range or play golf in the rain.
A lot of golfers carry an umbrella as a standard piece of equipment in their bag, unless they are in a location with a season where it doesn’t rain at all for an extended time.
Umbrellas are so universal in golf because even though you can’t use one to keep yourself dry while playing, you’re always going to want to keep your clubs as dry as possible. It doesn’t matter how dry you keep yourself, if your clubs get wet, it’s going to be an uphill battle the rest of the day.
The thing that is special about golf umbrellas is that they are typically oversized. You won’t be navigating sidewalks or other obstacles normally - the emphasis here is on keeping you dry while moving, and keeping you and your clubs dry at the same time if you are carrying your own clubs around. Even if it’s just from the parking lot to the driving range, a full-size golf umbrella is the way to go.
The simplest but perhaps most overlooked piece of “rain gear” in golf has to be the golf towel. And if you’re legitimately planning on playing or practicing in the rain, we should emphasize towels *plural* very strongly. If used properly, you will go through them. They are needed both to keep the clubs clean and dry, as well as your hands, arms, and the golf ball (as much as possible).
Keep an extra towel in your bag, and hang one from the undercarriage of your umbrella or cart, as well as keeping one under your own rain gear. Wipe your grips off after every shot diligently, and you’ll be all set!
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Golfers are nothing if not die-hard. And a little bit of drizzle or even a heavy downpour has never kept somebody away from the course who has already made up their mind that it’s their day to play or practice.
Fortunately, the golf industry is used to dealing with this kind of passion, and lots of technology has been developed both to help the golfer and to help driving ranges and courses stay open in the rain. This can span everything from rain gear to rain gloves for the player, to artificial turf mats, special attention to drainage from the agronomy team, and last but not least fully-covered driving range stalls.
With all this at our disposal, “if there’s a will there’s a way” usually prevails for the modern golfer. As long as there isn’t any lightning and it’s not an unusually bad storm, you’ll usually find a driving range that is open in the rain, and you might even find a bunch of other hardcore golfers grinding away at their games when you get there!