CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.---The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, City of Chattanooga and The First Tee of Chattanooga officially broke ground Wednesday on the Player Development Complex. The complex is a joint venture that will not only benefit junior golf in Chattanooga, but also provide a comprehensive practice facility for the men’s and women’s golf programs at UTC.
“In the spirit of our metropolitan mission, which is centered on partnerships, we are pleased to partner with the City of Chattanooga and The First Tee of Chattanooga on this project,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Rick Hart. “The Player Development Complex will have a major impact on junior golf in the area as well as our nationally-ranked golf teams. This facility will give our student-athletes a much-needed practice home and enhance their college experience at UTC. We are proud to be a part of this team effort.”
His comments were echoed by UTC Chancellor Dr. Roger Brown who not only stressed the benefits to the Chattanooga golf programs, but also the impact athletics participation has on the lives of the youth in the area.
“Once again, UTC students will be benefitting from a remarkable partnership with our community,” added Dr. Brown. “We are appreciative to The First Tee and the City of Chattanooga for their support and leadership in this effort and look forward to a fruitful relationship. Our golfers will gain critical practice experience to further already outstanding programs, and local young people will learn the discipline and sportsmanship values that are at the heart of athletic participation.”
Situated on 28 acres, The Player Development Complex sets a new standard in the golf learning center experience. Anchored by its 10-acre, double-sided practice range, the facility will boast four auxiliary short game practice areas, a three-hole practice course and a dedicated practice area for the Chattanooga’s nationally-ranked men’s and women’s golf teams.
With distinct areas designated for instruction, numerous groups can be stationed simultaneously throughout the facility. Additionally, students can move through the various areas, mastering each station and then moving on to the next phase of development. A total examination of one’s game is possible at The Player Development Complex.
This will be a component in the vital work provided by The First Tee whose mission is to help children from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds assimilate valuable life skills, leadership characteristics and The First Tee Nine Core Values while learning to play the game of golf.
“In my mind's eye, I can see the practice areas busy with children practicing their golf skills and The First Tee of Chattanooga programs being held with parents assisting or watching from the nearby shade,” said The First Tee of Chattanooga Executive Director Kathleen McCarthy. “At the other end of the facility, the UTC teams will be fine tuning their skills in preparation for another great year of competition.
“Many individuals in the community, in government and with The First Tee of Chattanooga and UTC have come together to create a facility that will serve children and young adults for decades to come,” she added. “We are pleased to be part of this collaborative effort.”
The on-going partnership between the University and the City of Chattanooga was an important element in furthering this project. Just as important is Mayor Ron Littlefield’s commitment to the youth of the area.
“The City of Chattanooga is proud to be a partner with The First Tee of Chattanooga,” said Mayor Littlefield. “This is an exceptional program and one that has an overwhelmingly positive impact on the community.”
At The Player Development Complex, the initial exposure to golf and green grass is the short game area. The genesis of a quality golf experience will be formed in this area. The basics of ball contact will be developed. The ability to manage around and on the greens may be the most important key to a successful game.
A 16,000-square foot putting green and a nearly 8,000-square foot chipping green form the short game area. The massive putting green will simulate all types of putting challenges typically found on course. It can also be set up as a nine-hole putting course. The chipping green is designed for simple chips and bunker shots, played from close proximity to the green. All shots played in this area will improve control and finesse around the greens.
The practice range will be contoured for definition with five target greens shaped to simulate real greens. They will be positioned at 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 yards, respectively. Having practice shots appear like actual golf course situations will enable better focus for golfers during their practice times resulting in more useful sessions.
Framed between the target greens is the driving grid, designed to The First Tee specifications for driving mastery, the grid widens as it adds length.
The expansive main range can be overwhelming to a new or young golfer, resulting in a tendency to over swing for distance, rather than concentrating on developing sound fundamentals. With target greens at 50, 75, 100 and 125 yards, a properly scaled area has been created for the new golfer. Not only will this area benefit the kids, it is the perfect spot to work on honing wedge skills for the better golfer.
Flanked by two bunkers and defined with a fairway approach, the pitching area allows short game practice from 100 yards and in. All aspects of the short game can be fine tuned in this area designed to improve the participant’s ability to score around the greens.
While all of the practice facilities will be available for use, an additional short game area will be designed behind the far end range tee. This area will feature two practice bunkers and a closely mown chipping area for short game development. A fairway bunker will be positioned on the right side of the far end tee as well. Small target bumps have been positioned on the far end of the range to facilitate fine tuning from 100 yards and in.
At the far end of the range, space has been set aside for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s golf program. A clubhouse, practice tee, short game area and bent grass green are planned. Key to swing development is the ability to practice in a variety of wind conditions. With teeing areas at both ends of the range and a triangular –shaped, three-hole course, golf team members will be able to set up practice sessions that recreate all potential tournament situations.
The greens at The Player Development Complex will be surfaced with one of the premier Ultra dwarf Bermuda grasses. Traveling to tournaments throughout the country, the golf teams will encounter many different types of grasses. An A-1 bent-grass green will be built adjacent to the UTC Clubhouse.
The Player Development Complex will also feature a three-hole course with two par threes and a short par four. The design encourages learning in playing a variety of distances with multiple tees to provide a well-rounded practice experience.
Name: The Player Development Complex
Opening: Phase I of III is due to be completed Fall 2009.
Area: 28 Acres
Location: Site of old Hickory Valley Golf Course in Chattanooga off of Hickory Valley Rd., near Shallowford Rd.
Occupants: The First Tee of Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf teams.
About Chattanooga Mocs Golf
The mission of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men’s and women’s golf programs is to guide, encourage and support its Student-Athletes in their quest for comprehensive excellence – academically, athletically and socially. Above all else, we prepare Students for productive and meaningful lives.
The men have won three straight Southern Conference Championships and finished 18th at the 2009 NCAA Finals following a third-place finish at the NCAA South Central Regional. In just two seasons of existence, the women’s team has won six tournaments and finished 21st in the 2009 NCAA Finals after an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Central Regional.
About The First Tee of Chattanooga, Inc.
The First Tee of Chattanooga is 501 c 3 youth development program that has been active in Chattanooga since 2000. Our mission is to help children from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds assimilate valuable life skills, leadership characteristics and The First Tee Nine Core Values while learning to play the game of golf.
We envision a day when the children who progress through our program will possess the necessary life skills and value system to be the well-rounded, balanced adults who choose to serve their communities as contributing members.
The City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department has partnered with The First Tee of Chattanooga and UTC to provide the land on which we are building The Player Development Complex. The First Tee of Chattanooga will gain flexibility in the way that we offer our program and children enrolled in the program will have a place to practice in an environment that was designed for them.