Not every player likes to practice the game of golf, but most people understand that it is difficult to implement any significant change or improvement in any sport, if little time is given to learning something different and new. Many golfers who enjoy practice, hit balls on the range without much thought, and with a lot of repetition. I call this recreation, not practice. What has been proven to work for motor skill acquisition is what we call, deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is about improving your performance, and reaching for objectives and goals that may be just beyond your current level of competence; and being mindful and gaining feedback on your results. Deliberate practice is not simply hitting golf balls, it is learning.
Here are some suggestions to make better use of your time on the range and how to make your practice more deliberate:
Have a plan for what you want to work on or accomplish for every practice session and try to stick to your plan. Try hitting to different targets with different clubs, and even from different lies. Practice with fewer balls in front of you, giving more focus and purpose to each shot. Take time to visualize your desired ball flight between shots. Develop and implement your pre-shot routine for every shot, and choose small targets. Try keeping a journal - write down what is working and lessons you have learned. Reminders will facilitate improvement and keep you on track. Finally, always allow for more deliberate practice on and around the green, not just on the range.
"While I am practicing I am also trying to develop my powers of concentration. I never just walk up and hit the ball. I am practicing and adopting habits of concentration which pay off when I play. Adopt a habit of concentration to the exclusion of everything else around you on the practice tee and you will find that you are automatically following the same routine while playing a round in competition. Play each shot as if it were part of an actual round." - Ben Hogan.
Ask yourself why you are practicing. If it is for recreation - that's great; enjoy it! There is nothing wrong with spending time outdoors hitting golf balls. However, if you want to improve, learn, or have goals you want to achieve, then consider refining how you spend your time on the range. Make your practice more deliberate.