Doc Wordinger lives and works in central Manchester. He has a fondness for golf, poker, fine literature, art, and film.
Improve Your Game With a Quality Hitting Mat
Home golf practice is all about trying to simulate the same conditions of real golf. You wouldn't sharpen your baseballs skills using a cucumber as a bat or practice your basketball dribbling in a swimming pool. So why settle for hitting golf balls off a piece of old carpet or a worn doormat?
When grass isn't an option—perhaps you don't want to ruin your lawn or maybe you want to practice indoors—a practice mat is an essential investment for the avid golfer. It's also an investment in your health: smashing ball after ball from an inferior or inadequate surface can lead to injury.
If you're thinking of setting up your own practice facility in your home or garden and need to find a quality mat, then keep reading; this article was written for you. Golf practice mats come in a range of sizes and prices, but not all of them are up to the job. Let's take a look at five of the best (and don't worry if your spending power is considerably less powerful than your swing because there's a mat for every budget, from $25 to $600).
1. TrueStrike Golf Mat
One of the biggest problems that traditional driving range and home golf mats have is that they don't provide accurate shot analysis and feedback. This is because the hitting surface is much harder than a typical fairway. An iron that descends into turf carves a divot. An iron descending onto a rigid surface bounces back up. This lack of realism greatly diminishes your capacity for quality practice. Any golfer who loves his 7-iron at the driving range but hates it out on the course will understand.
The TrueStrike golf mat addresses this problem head-on with an innovation called Fairway Forgiveness. As the name suggests, this is a mat that imitates the softness of the fairway, absorbing the clubhead as if it were cutting through real turf. The result is an accurate ball flight (to within 5% accuracy of a shot taken off a genuine fairway according to the makers) and less strain on your body.
TrueStrike works by applying a layer of gel directly below the top surface. This gel reacts to the descending clubhead, compressing downward like actual turf, thereby simulating the real conditions of golf. Off the course, it doesn't get more realistic than this.
As you'd expect for a practice golf mat in the $600 price range, TrueStrike is an exceptionally robust and well-crafted mat. It is hardy enough to be left outdoors and TrueStrike claims that the hitting surface is good for 55,000 iron shots before it needs replacing. To put that into perspective, you'll be able to enjoy four 100 ball sessions each week for over two and half years before you need to worry about buying a new surface (which you can get for around $115).
Unlike other practice mats, TrueStrike is assembled with detachable sections. Should one part need replacing, you don't need to purchase a new unit but only the specific section. The heavy duty $645 unit is designed to remain static, but golfers looking for greater versatility can opt for the portable mat, which retails for $345.
2. Country Club Elite Real Feel Golf Mat
If the TrueStrike mat is outside your price range, then don't worry. The Country Club Elite Real Feel Golf Mat offers similar quality but within the $300 price range.
The Real Feel surface is comprised of a "Long Fiber" system, which soaks up the clubhead rather than resisting it. Catch the ground behind the ball and you'll hit it fat like you would on the course. Catch it flush and the clubhead will continue down into the fiber system and impart accurate levels of spin and compression on the ball.
Like the gel in the TrueStrike, the Real Feel fiber system is designed to eliminate clubhead "bounce" and react as though you were taking a divot. It's just like being outside on the sun-kissed links. Okay, well not quite, but at least you're channeling your practice time into something productive rather than smashing hundreds of balls off an unforgiving surface and crippling your wrists in the process.
Starting at $177 for the portable two-piece mat, the Real Feel comes in a range of sizes and prices. Most players setting up an indoor or backyard golf range will find that the 3' x 4' ($239) or 4' x 4' ($319) versions are more than sufficient. One of the best features of the Real Feel, after its fiber system, is the sturdiness of the unit. This is a heavy duty product and consumers have praised the durability of the playing surface even after sustained and prolonged use.
One highly practical feature of the Real Feel is its ability to accept a real golf tee. You can actually push a tee into any area of the mat to your specified height. Gone are the days when you'd spend five minutes trying to get the mat to hold your tee, only for it to topple over as soon as you addressed the ball with your 3-wood. Likewise, with the Real Feel, you won't have to worry about hitting your driver from those thick plastic rubber ball holders (I resist calling them tees; they aren't!).
The Real Feel is endorsed by 2009 PGA National Teacher of the Year, Mike Bender. If you're trying to get a premium quality hitting surface at an affordable price, you've just found your mat!
3. FairwayPro Golf Mat System
Have you ever noticed how it's impossible to hit fat shots at the driving range? That's because those hard range mats aren't as forgiving as real turf. Instead of taking a big divot and watching your ball come up thirty yards short of the green, the clubhead bounces off the range mat and catches the ball thin. The ball takes off and sometimes it looks like you've managed to hit a reasonably good shot. The only sign that something went wrong with your swing is the shock felt in your hands, wrists, and arms. In short, standard range mats give poor shot feedback.
The FairwayPro addresses this problem with it's brilliantly innovated "sliding turf" mechanism. This ingenious mat mimics the actual forward motion of real turf giving way to the force of the clubhead. But instead of producing a divot, the FairwayPro mat slides forward on impact, before snapping back into place ready for your next shot. Check out the video to the right to see just how it works.
The people behind this product have labelled it "a divot simulator" because it allows you to hit down and through the ball (the optimal angle of approach which creates the divot on a real course) creating compression and gaining realistic analysis on the quality of your shot.
Not only does the FairwayPro enhance your practice time with added realism, it also imparts less stress on your body than a standard mat, greatly reducing the risk of injury.
Retailing around $150, this a serious product made from quality materials, including German manufactured stainless-steel springs and premium turf. Despite all the seemingly endless things that could go wrong with a product of such complexity, this is clearly a mat that is built to last.
The FairwayPro measures 23' by 17' and features two flip-up panels. One of these panels is for ball storage and the other panel is used to hold the mat firmly in place by sliding under a larger "stance" mat which, alas, must be bought separately. If you only intend to you use FairwayPro at the driving range then the stance mat isn't necessary, but for a home practice range, you'll need to purchase the golf and stance mat as part of a combo direct from FairwayPro for $219.95. Once your session is over, simply flip both panels back over to protect it from bad weather or pick it up with the handle and carry it away like a mini suitcase.
All-in-all, this an exciting golf mat that will not only help you improve your game via improved shot feedback, but also bring a greater level of enjoyment to your practice sessions.
4. TT3660 Monster Tee Golf Turf
The Monster Tee Golf Turf operates in a similar fashion to the Real Feel golf mat using dense fibers, termed "spring crimped nylon," to create a cushion that reduces clubhead bounce and minimizes impact stress on the body.
The Monster Tee has a thin urethane underside which reduces it to almost half the weight of its equivalent size in the Country Club Real Feel range. Although it may not have the heavy-duty feel of its costlier competitor, the Monster Tee Golf Turf will also accept a real golf tee removing the necessity to hit from a predetermined height.
Retailing at around $88 for the 3' x 5' unit, this product should easily satisfy any golfer who wants a large durable hitting surface with minimal clubhead "bounce" but doesn't want to spend top dollar. And one last thing. The Monster Tee would make a good, affordable accompaniment for a home golf simulator such as the Optishot, assuming you don't want to spend $500 on a custom built mat.
5. Callaway FT Launch Zone Mat
This portable mat by market-leader Callaway is the perfect choice for anyone looking for a cheap but durable hitting surface.
At 8" X 16" it's one of the smallest mats on the market, but don't let that put you off. The tough rubber underside is heavy enough to prevent the mat from sliding around—unless you make the type of swing that would dig up a bucket-sized divot out on the course!
Although Callaway has tried to design this mat with the beginner in mind (see slopping front edge that minimizes chance of club-mat collision on the downswing), the Launch Zone is probably too small, and possibly too intimidating, for new or hopelessly inept players. Have at least some experience and swing competence before buying the Launch Zone.
The cons of purchasing the Callaway FT Launch Zone are few, however, some consumers have reported that the mat emits an unrelenting rubbery odor that doesn't appear to subside after sustained use—maybe something to consider if you're buying this product to use indoors, but it is hardly of great concern if you plan to use it in the garage or yard.
The Launch Zone comes with a tee-holder and the mat has a small hole at the front if you want to secure it to a hard surface with a nail or screw.
At $25, this is one the best value practice mats on the market.
Have you tried any of the practice golf mats listed in this article?
Good or bad, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below and help your fellow golf disciples pick the right mats for their home set up.
Got any questions about this article? Want to share your love for the game? Please, fire away and I'll respond as soon as I can.
JB Carilli on March 23, 2018:
Your mat "review" is missing the most affordable, versatile and the only available mat or turf surface that truly compares to REAL GRASS. CustomDesignGolf's DivotAction turf technology has changed the old criticism of practicing on golf mats. It not only gives natural feel but the data results when used with, say a Skytrak, GC2, Flightscope, Trackman, or frankly any launch monitor or golf simulator measures spin, speed, launch just like hitting from real grass.
JB Carilli on April 26, 2017:
You missed one, the DivotAction™ Mats and Inserts are superior to any of these mats and provide 100% accuracy compared to natural grass. They were even tested by the Mississippi State Golf Team using a GC2.
Craig H on April 24, 2017:
Mike G, What is the name of the company you bought your mat from?
Craig Holmes on April 24, 2017:
Hi Mike, what is the name of that company? I'm looking for that exact mat.
Mike Geary on January 25, 2017:
I have the callaway mat it lasted a week before turf started coming up. 2 weeks it was completely off. My Wife bought me the net , turf, caddy package. I now have a 5x5 mat that is awesome. It holds a tee then has the closed cell foam an inch thick. It normally sells for over 600 but I found a company that buys out golf courses around the world and resells it. I got it for 130 plus 40 shipping. I received the mat in 2 days, it looked brand new. I love this mat and if I hit it fat you feel it plus the ball shows the effects.
Doc Wordinger (author) from Manchester, UK on June 08, 2015:
I'm glad you found it helpful. If you've got enough room, perhaps you could set up your own practice range at home using a net and a simulator. I wrote a hub on this topic too. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment.
Tony Li from Canada on April 15, 2015:
I never thought of bringing my own mat to the driving range but after reading this, I might have to. You're right that most mats do not give the golfer the feedback they need when their club makes contact with the mat. Thank you for researching this topic and writing about the different mats on the market. I plan to read it again and see what mat suits me and my budget.
Doc Wordinger (author) from Manchester, UK on May 19, 2013:
Thanks for your comment and advice Mike F. The small Callaway mat is the budget option in our list and I would strongly agree that anyone looking to hit mid to long iron shots invests in a larger mat. You quite rightly point out that the cheaper mats are less forgiving and don't give realistic feedback on contact with the ball.
Mike F on May 05, 2013:
I have the mat from callway and I am about to replace it with a larger mat. It is great for working on short irons, but terrible for 5 iron and below because the "fear factor" of hitting the mat or in my case the concrete garage floor is too great. Prolonged use on a small mat like this promotes thin shots, or at the least it did for me. I wouldn't recommend any mat less than a 3 x 5 for weekend golfer like me seriously trying to improve their game.