Hole in One

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Golf teams shoot for an indoor practice facility at University Ridge.

Fore! The Badger women’s golf team practices putting in the basement of the Kohl Center. Due to Wisconsin’s climate, UW athletes have a limited season for outdoor play, and must do their best to find suitable facilities in winter.

When the first snowfall hits Madison each year, UW men’s and women’s golfers move indoors, and they stay there until the end of March. Exactly where indoors depends on the day.

Without a dedicated practice facility of their own, Badger golfers rely on a number of campus buildings and public facilities to hone their game during the winter. They practice on a small putting surface and hit into two nets in the basement of the Kohl Center, and they travel to Cherokee Country Club on Madison’s east side and Vitense Golfland on the west side. Occasionally, they practice pitching and chipping in the McClain Center.

“Everything is piecemeal,” says Todd Oehrlein, head coach of the women’s team. “But we’ve found ways to make it work and keep our players developing.”

In Wisconsin’s greener months, the golfers practice and compete at University Ridge, the UW’s award-winning golf course that opened in 1991. “When the weather’s nice, we’re as good as anyone,” Oehrlein says. “When the weather turns, we don’t have a home.”

However, with lead gifts from a few significant donors, a vision has been established to change that.

Plans are under way to construct a state-of-the-art, indoor and outdoor practice facility at University Ridge.

Currently in the design stage, the facility will provide a 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot practice area that simulates different lies for chipping and putting, as well as heated hitting bays (similar to hitting out of a garage door) that allow athletes to see the ball in full flight. The facility will also be equipped with video capability, which may be used for swing analysis.

“Being able to work on the short game during the winter will definitely help our games,” says Lindsay Danielson x’13, a sophomore golfer from Osceola, Wisconsin.

“Practicing in one location rather than moving around from place to place will be so awesome, and being at University Ridge year round will be cool, too,” she says.

Regardless of the new amenities, Wisconsin golfers need time to transition to playing on grass each spring. “We can focus on the fundamentals of the golf swing,” Oehrlein says of practicing indoors. “Ideally, when our golfers get outside, they aren’t trying to develop technique — they’re trying to develop their touch and feel of hitting shots off grass.”

Published in the Spring 2011 issue

Tags: Athletics

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