I love to work on my golf game. A certified golf junkie, that's me.
The problem these days is finding the time to get to the driving range, let alone the course for a round.
I'm a new parent, which is incredible, and I don't want to take all that time away from home to go to the range or the course. But, I still want to work on my game.
I've tried out a bunch of golf nets from golf stores, but they don't cut the mustard. They're flimsy, a pain to set up and if the wind blows, so too will that net.
Recently, I had the opportunity to try out three products from Rukket Sports: The RukkNet Portable Driving Range, Range Marker & Chipping Target and, the ultimate, Rukket Monster Cage.
Here's a breakdown of my experience with each...
I was really a big fan of how the RukkNet Portable Driving Range is so compact in its packaging. It literally folds up into a perfect circle, into a carry bag that makes it easy to bring anywhere.
And the best part? There's very little set up time. You simply unzip the carry bag, pull out the net, and it pops out like a jack-in-a-box. Hammer down a couple of stakes just to keep it steady and you're ready to let some shots rip.
The net itself is high quality, too. You don't need to worry about hitting driver and sending a golf ball through the net into an unsuspecting neighbor's window.
This could be the most practical net on the market today. It doesn't require a ton of space to set up, you can take it with you to a friend's house and -- perhaps most importantly -- it takes up less storage space than one of grandma's folded quilts. Heck, if you have the room, you can even easily set if up indoors.
Like anything new, it took some getting used to folding the net into the carrying case, but once you practice a couple of times, it's a breeze.
The RukkNet Portable Driving Range sells for $219.99.
The ease of use on the Range Marker & Chipping Target -- much like the Portable Driving Range -- is impressive. It just pops open, you hammer a couple of stakes down and you're ready to go.
For any golfer this is a great practice companion, because it really forces you to focus on the target. I spent most of my time working with the chipping target, going as far back as 25 yards. From there, I worked on shots with all my wedges, attempting to envision which of the three holes I wanted to hit and then trying to hit it there.
Of course, I didn't hit the target I intended every time, but over the course of about 15 minutes, my misses were much closer to my intended target.
And, if I'm being honest, the net wasn't used for just practice, but also for fun. My brother has come by for a couple of visits strictly to square off against one another in chipping contests.
I also found the Range Marker to be useful. Instead of pacing off a yardage, I used my rangefinder to lock in the marker at 50 yards. It really helped to develop a feel and consistency. I tried a variety of shots with different clubs, trying to hit the marker on the fly and one-bouncing it to the marker.
I'm not sure I'll use the marker part of this tool as much as the chipping target, but for those with a bigger yard, it could certainly be useful in essentially setting up your own personal backyard, short-iron driving range (the yardage "flaps" go up to 150 yards).
The Rukket Range Marker & Chipping Target costs $43.99.
Last, but not least, the mother of all golf nets -- the Rukket Monster Cage.
I'm not going to lie -- this thing was not easy to put together. It took two of us (not very handy guys, mind you) roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes to get the job done. The assembly video on Rukket.com was helpful, but we both laughed at the video when the narrator suggested it would take two people about 20 minutes.
Basically, there are just a lot of pieces. Two things about that, which I realized not long after we got it assembled though: 1. There's a reason for all the pieces; 2.This isn't the type of net you're going to keep putting up and taking down. This is a heavy, heavy duty net. So, yes, it may take longer than the estimated 20 minutes to set up (or, maybe not for you), but once it's up, it's got that "wow" factor. I mean, really.
My advice would be to set it up exactly where you want it to be located. It's certainly moveable with just two people, but it's a little awkward because of the size.
OK, now let's talk about performance after we got it set up.
In a word: unreal.
Just like its name suggests, this net is, in fact, a "monster." Like Rukket's other products I tested, the net was such high quality that there wasn't a single worry about letting a driver rip.
What also separated the Monster Cage from other nets I've tried is that it's an actual cage. There's a "ceiling" net and three "wall" nets (right, left and center). It's pretty much mishit-proof (well, you can still mishit, but it won't cause unwanted damage) to something in your yard, neighbor's yard, or house).
It's also built to last. It's the kind of net you'd expect to see in a simulator, pro shop or trade-show booth. The frame is made from three-part steel tube construction with nickel-plated fasteners and the powder-coated frame ensures long-term outdoor use. The frame tubes and corners have extended ends for greater stability and the corners have PVC base plates that won't scratch floors if you're lucky enough to be able to assemble this indoors.
While I'll get plenty of golf use out of the Monster Cage, I also love the fact that it's so much more than a golf net. The quality and sturdiness, make it perfect for a growing family like mine that will be able to kick soccer balls, hit baseballs and softballs, throw footballs, or whatever else, right in the comfort of the backyard. It's an all-sports cage.
With a price tag of $599.99, it's certainly not cheap. But trust me, you get what you pay for. This is a net for the long haul. When you think of all the money you spend on golf balls at the driving range over the course of a year (if you're a serious golfer), or the money you spend for your kids to go to the batting cages, you quickly realize that having the luxury to do both in your own backyard has the Monster Cage paying for itself in no time.
To learn more about Rukket's offerings, visit www.rukket.com.
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club