Although many golfers focus most intently on improving their drives, other parts of the game are typically more important when it comes to turning in better scores. Most golfers probably derive the greatest benefit from time spent on the practice putting green, in fact, as that crucial part of the game is where many scores inflate in the most egregious and preventable of ways.

Nearly as important, though, are the approach shots that often determine where a golfer's ball will end up on the green or whether it ends up there at all. The approach is one of the most critical parts of the game, but few golfers give it its proper due when it comes to practice, and many of them have good excuses.

Part of the reason for this is that many practice facilities are not equipped to make such practice rewarding. Many golfers find that the most convenient driving ranges in their areas force them to hit off artificial golf mats, since these are so much easier and cheaper to maintain than real grass.

hese mats, though, are unforgiving and unrealistic compared to the grass that golfers actually play rounds of the game on. While they can be acceptable for hitting drives from a tee or swinging with long irons where a relatively flat, shallow swing arc is to be expected, they are almost useless for practicing with wedges, nine irons, and other shorter clubs that would normally be swung in such a way as to produce a divot.

Recognizing this, one golf industry company with a website at has attacked the problem. The company's Country Club Elite Golf Mats are designed from the ground up to be much more realistic than the mats that are common to most driving ranges, and the difference matters quite a bit when it comes to practicing approach shots.

Golfers who practice on such mats, it turns out, can swing their short irons and wedges in the kinds of relatively steep arcs that are most conducive to producing backspin and causing the ball to climb high and land softly. Instead of developing the bad habits that would build up from trying to pick a ball cleanly from conventional artificial golf mats, then, these golfers can work on the divot-producing swings that will serve them best when they line up approach shots on the course, thereby being most likely to lower their scores over time.