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Indoor facility an asset for Ohio State golf during winter, in recruiting

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The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center allows OSU's golf programs to practice year round, no matter the weather. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center allows OSU’s golf programs to practice year round, no matter the weather.
Credit: Whitney Wilson / Lantern reporter

About a year after opening, Ohio State’s $6.3 million state-of-the-art golf facility is paying dividends in more ways than one.

Not only are the current OSU golfers able to practice regardless of weather, but the indoor facility is helping the coaches bring in future Buckeyes as well.

“It has allowed us to recruit kids from all over the country now, where before most of the kids we were recruiting were from the Midwest or from cold weather climates,” men’s golf coach Donnie Darr said. “That stigmatism of not being able to develop your game in the Midwest because it’s cold is gone now because we do have a place to practice.”

The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center was named a Design Excellence Recognition Program Award recipient by the American Society of Golf Course Architects earlier this year. The university’s golf programs received the 20,800-square-foot facility in February 2014.

Darr said the facility has benefited his players enormously in terms of practicing, in addition to the help in recruiting.

“The biggest advantage the facility offers us is that we have the opportunity to develop our skills year-round and we don’t have to take that break for a couple months like we’ve had to do in the past,” Darr said. “In the past, we’ve had four months where other teams were getting better and we weren’t and so we were falling further behind.”

Women’s golf coach Therese Hession said players benefit the most when it comes to the finer portions of the game.

“The biggest asset has been to our short game, a lot of putting practice, and a lot of short-game chipping and putting,” Hession said. “The facility aids us in putting too, having greens with different surfaces and speeds. Where we were in California (for the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge), greens were really fast, so we were able to adjust to them quicker, whereas in Peoria, Arizona, (for the Westbrook Spring Invitational), it’s a lot slower, so I think speed control has been good for us.”

Women’s golf assistant coach Lisa Strom said the facility has also provided a place for players to spend their spare time.

“The facility has provided a great environment for not only golf but also the camaraderie between the teams and also amongst ourselves,” Strom said. “You find that the team members come in here a lot more to study and lingering to practice on their own.”

Darr said while it is difficult for his team to develop a playing mentality after practicing indoors for half of the year, the players have found a way to get a match mindset.

“The playing mentality is hard,” Darr said. “One of the things we do is we try to simulate games. We will simulate a round of golf when they’re hitting balls, we’ll visualize, ‘OK, I’m going to hit the first tee shot at the next tournament’ and they’ll work their way through 18 holes. That’s the best way of getting back into playing again.”

Darr said his players are not limited in terms of practicing with specific golf clubs, showing appreciation for the team’s spacious facility.

“Mostly the building was designed for chipping and pitching and so we’ve been able to do that a lot in here,” Darr said. “You can also hit golf balls in the building, you can hit it 50 yards before you get to the other end, where there is a net. We also have a net that comes down in the middle of the building, so if we do want to hit pitching wedges or 8-irons inside the building, we can do that as well.”

Darr said the building has required little upkeep thus far, sustaining excellent condition.

“From a maintenance standpoint on the building, you do have to do a little bit of maintenance to the turf but it’s nothing in depth,” Darr said. “There’s a bunker in there that you’ve got to rake and maintain, but for the most part, it’s fairly common sense practices.”

The Buckeyes are set to continue practicing in the facility until traveling to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate, scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

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