While past winters had been limited to firing off balls in heated hitting bays or into nets inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the program is in the final stages of completing construction on the Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center, located at the Ohio State University Golf Club.
The 20,800 square-foot facility cost $6 million and will give the teams an indoor practice facility that compares favorably to any in the country. According to Mike Penner, OSU's Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations, fundraising began in 2009, followed by the design phase in summer of 2012. Construction began in March 2013.
"I probably visited 20 different places before we went into the design phase, and there's nothing anywhere near this," 23rd-year women's golf head coach Therese Hession told BuckeyeSports.com. "There's a lot of them that have warm indoor areas, but the putting surfaces are relatively flat and nothing allows you to hit full shots. With this one, it looks like you're on the golf course."
The list of amenities is numerous and is highlighted by a short game area that measures 25 yards long and 50 yards wide with an undulating green surrounded by sloping bunkers. There's a workout room that provides another fitness option aside from the on-campus location they use, and behind that is a putting studio featuring two different surfaces that measure different speeds, giving the golfers a taste of either an average or faster green, depending on what they'll face in upcoming tournaments.
There will also be a mental training room that measures heart rate and temperature, designed to give feedback to golfers on what they can do to reduce nerves when putting or swinging. Lastly, there are five heated hitting bays that should be a comfortable option in weather that is 20 degrees or warmer.
"The main thing was to get that short game area, and the rest was a vision of Walt and Jane Dennis, our sponsors. A lot of the different donors had gifts in mind for particular parts of it and contributed to the cause. The ability to add all of those things really separates us from the rest of the country by far."
70° & ?? in Columbus! Here we are getting in a great practice session at the Jane & Walt Dennis Performance Center! pic.twitter.com/nYkJn95MK7— Ohio State W Golf (@OhioState_WGOLF) January 21, 2014
Although the facility was not complete at the time, both teams were able to practice in the short game area beginning in January. The chance to see the facility up close validated the ambitious drawings that the golfers had seen as the plans developed.
"You really can't understand what it's like until you actually see it," senior women's golfer Allison Harper said. "The first time I saw it, I thought it wasn't even possible, like, how did they even do this? I think that's the coolest part about the building."
For a school with a golf tradition that includes two NCAA titles, five NCAA individual champions and arguably the greatest golfer in history as an alum in Jack Nicklaus, the facility serves as validation to the players who hope to follow in those footsteps.
"It's awesome that we pretty much have one of the best golf courses in the country and now we have the best indoor facility in the country, too," junior men's golfer Boo Timko said. "It just shows that Ohio State golf has a lot of tradition and it's still an important thing here. It's cool to be a part of that."