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Golf's new home
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Completing a job without the necessary tools can be a challenge. It can be done, but creativity is required to overcome certain hurdles.
For the University of Iowa men's and women's golf teams, those hurdles include cold temperatures, snow, and damp springs.
UI men's golf head coach Mark Hankins and UI women's golf head coach Megan Menzel had to find ways to practice during those cold winter months and soggy spring afternoons. Golf courses and driving ranges are nowhere near ready for use and Iowa winters aren't conducive to golf.
Now that construction on the new Varsity Golf Complex at Finkbine is under way, the hours spent on planning creative practice plans can now be spent on improving actual swings.
The Hawkeyes will make their third trip in the last four seasons to the NCAA Championships. Stroke play at the championships is slated for May 29-31, with the top eight teams advancing to match play June 1-3. The Hawkeyes placed 10th at the national event a year ago, the highest finish in program history. Read more at http://www.hawkeyesports.
The Varsity Golf Complex will overlook hole No. 6 at Finkbine and will be the new home of Iowa golf. The facility will include a 3,150-square-foot putting green that can be modified like a natural grass green, effectively recreating an outdoor putting surface. It will also have a 1,200-square-foot performance studio featuring the V-1 Video Swing Analysis System, allowing players to digitally record, analyze, and compare their swings to professionals to learn from the best in the world.
The performance studio will include indoor heated hitting bays that open to the driving range, enabling student-athletes to work on full swing mechanics throughout the entire year. Locker rooms, offices, and lounge spaces for both teams will be available once the facility is completed in February 2013.
During the winter months or in inclement weather, Iowa golfers didn't have a place to hit full shots. Instead, they would hit into nets or maybe hit 120-yard wedges in The Bubble. The Varsity Golf Complex will give student athletes a chance to work on their entire game any day of the year.
"Ball flight is the biggest thing we will be picking up," Menzel says. "That really helps build confidence in your players."
Menzel pointed out that her team hasn't even played a full round or seen their full swing in action by the time the NCAA golf spring season rolls around.
"We will go out in the spring and play some pretty tough courses without seeing the ball completely off the club," Menzel says. "You want to put together a game plan before a tournament. Without knowing which direction the ball is going can make that even more challenging."
Hankins understands the role weather can play in college golf, and the national rankings are a good explanation.
"Traditionally a lot of Big Ten teams are ranked highly after the fall season," Hankins says. "The one thing southern schools don't like to talk about is how good our fall weather is.
"In the spring, the Big Ten schools start to fall down the leaderboard," Hankins says. "It has to do with the preparation level and amount of time spent in inclement weather. Having a new facility like this not only gives us the chance to practice in the winter, but during rainy days in the spring as well."
Both coaches are frequently asked what exactly they do for training during the winter and early spring months. Now they can showcase a state-of-the-art facility to potential student athletes to answer the question.
"This facility will be huge for us when it comes to recruiting," Menzel says. "We are very fortunate to have Finkbine so close to campus. This completely enhances that with all of the amenities. We are putting together a first-class facility and a great training center for our golfers."
"One of the things recruits are looking for is the ability for a program to help him make it the PGA Tour," Hankins says. "You can't do that unless you have the proper facilities to teach them, and they can work on their game every day. This new facility gives us that opportunity."
Weather isn't the only thing the facility allows Iowa golfers to avoid. Daylight is no longer a worry.
"Say a player has a test or class commitment at 3 p.m. and needs to miss practice," Hankins says. "He can come in the facility at 11 p.m. at night if he wants and practice as long as he wants. It allows kids who want to work harder than anyone in the country the opportunity to make it to the highest level."
Any golfer knows that the short game is the most important aspect of the sport. The new short game room at the Varsity Golf Complex gives Iowa golfers a chance to chip out of simulated greenside rough and fringe, along with a massive putting surface that can be manipulated daily.
"Short game is the biggest part of the game where we want to see improvements," Menzel says. "The chipping and putting room right at our players' fingertips will be phenomenal."
The V-1 Video Swing Analysis System is used by the top professional players in the world. Iowa golfers will be able to use that technology every day at Finkbine.
"Some of the technology we have in this building is second-to-none," Hankins says. "We are going to have the best golf facility in the state of Iowa. That's not just on the college level, that's across the entire state. We need that because we have the best players in the state of Iowa."
Hankins has built the men's program into a perennial top-25 team and NCAA Tournament qualifier. Menzel's results in year one of a rebuilding process show that she is on the same path. Both are appreciative that this facility can now be used to ensure success.
"We've made some great strides," Menzel says. "I don't think there is any reason that we can't be a top tier program. It's really great to see all the support behind this project, and it's a great commitment to the program."
"We have a lot of people to thank for committing private funds to this project," Hankins says. "This is a platform for these kids to take it to the next level, continue to be a top-25 team and make us proud down the road on the PGA Tour."