I just picked up a used net and mat a few months ago. This is the best investment I ever made .... perhaps even in 'cheapest' category as I bought an old used net and mat for $45.00.
I started golfing in the late 90's. After purchasing a Spalding Executive iron set, I have always played forged irons. Spalding Executive 5 iron broke on me from hitting the turf and practice mat a bit too hard :)
Playing with forged irons, I learned to 'feel the swing'. After a considerable amount of time, I could tell how the results of my swing by the feel of impact between the ball and the clubface.
I learned to play this way.
But I have been very very inconsistent as my swing is not exactly as graceful as Freddy Couples' ----- far from it....more like Arnie Palmer.
I made a commitment to myself that I will practice more, change my 'ugly' swing.... My goal for next year is to consistently shoot in the low 80's and break into the 70's evey now and then.
My achilles heel has always been my iron play. It could be so great one day and could also be outright dreadful the next few rounds.
I have changed my swing quite a bit to have a more repetitious, compact but simple swing. I videotape my swing and make the necessary corrections.
In regards to the ball flight, I think I am 90% correct as to predicting the ball flight again based on the 'feel' of the impact. When I play......I am really pretty dead on.
So the net has given me the benefits that I thought I will get....I have a great picture in my mind of what I need to do if I need to hit the ball with a draw or fade, low or high....
Plus, with hitting around 200 balls daily, I have gotten much stronger.
Again, this is the best investment I ever made.