In the 1930s, West Point, Mississippi was home to, among other things, a local dairy farm on the outskirts of town, complete with a large, wooden and newly-erected barn to serve the land. 80 years later in the same spot, a similarly quaint but far more technologically advanced facility stands in its place. Today, the area is home to Mississippi State’s golf programs and the new $2.4 million practice facility the teams just moved into as part of the nationally-renowned Old Waverly Golf Club across the street.
Never forgetting their roots, however, the new home of Bulldog golf has been nicknamed The Barn, built partially with reclaimed wood from the original dairy barn whose place it took in grasses of West point.
With over 8,700 square feet of indoor space, including locker rooms, four hitting bays, an indoor putting studio, coaches’ offices and players lounges, the facility also has one of college golf’s premiere outdoor training areas, a space conceived by Hanse Golf Course Design, the same group commissioned to design the host course for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. The team clubhouse, driving range, three short-game greens and 18,000-square foot putting green in the shape of the state of Mississippi all find themselves nestled between Old Waverly Golf Course and the soon-to-open Mossy Oak Golf Club.
This week, the new facility makes its competitive debut, as MSU hosts the Old Waverly Collegiate Championship.
“We’re really excited to show this facility off to our peers,” head men’s golf coach Clay Homan told reporters as he helped lead a tour of the new facility last week.
“Word is starting to get out. The excitement is building,” women’s coach Ginger Brown-Lemm added. “For the first time, we’re not catching up to anyone else in facilities. We’re leading now.”
Not just around the south or even around the country, people around the world are taking notice, the two head coaches agreed. Elite players from across the globe are now calling Homan and Brown-Lemm, instead of the other way around, wanting to come play and train at MSU’s facility. Future Bulldogs in the high school ranks and former Bulldogs in the pros have each found a new favorite place to perfect their game.
It’s easy to do there, of course, where the three short-game greens are all set up with various situations and challenges, the hitting bays are equipped with Trackman swing and ball flight analysis systems and the clubhouse includes an indoor putting center complete with a Sam PuttLab training system.
All of that, plus access to two of the best golf courses in the country right outside their porch.
“We’ve got something that can challenge us in every way.” Brown-Lemm said of the teaching and development capabilities of their new home.
“Nowhere,” Homan said, “are you going to find something like this … Anybody can build a nice driving range. We have two top-tier courses and a facility in the middle of it.”
That facility includes much more than just a place to golf, of course. The training room has golf-specific workouts and rehabilitation programs. The high-ceilinged and aged-wood locker room offers space, outlets and even the flag of each player’s home country emblazoned beneath their names on the plaques adorning their lockers. Two separate lounges – one with couches and TV, another with a ping-pong table and already a few curiously paddle-shaped scuff marks on the wall – offer a place for the college students to unwind and relax. The conference room, the extra storage and even baskets of chex-mix in seemingly every corner have a purpose.
“When we were planning this building,” Homan said, “we tried to come up with every possible thing they could ever want or need.”
“We visited at least 10 other golf facilities across the country,” Brown-Lemm said. “Now, we have people calling us to find out what we did.”
Some of the more important calls, however, involve future players. As great as the facility has been for the current teams, the future teams may benefit the most. Never, each coach said, has recruiting been so easy.
“This facility has been a game-changer for us,” Homan said. “We bring kids in from all over the world and just wow them.
“We wouldn’t have had a chance with these kids a couple years ago,” Homan confessed. “They want to be pros … They know they’re not going to be able to go anywhere and have better facilities than this.”
For Brown-Lemm, The Barn, Mossy Oak and Old Waverly pair perfectly with Mississippi State, a place with charms she said it seems so few recruits are aware of.
“Really,” she said, “it’s in line with our beautiful campus. People come and say they had no idea that it was so warm, welcoming and beautiful.”
Now that the teams have moved in, and especially this week as the men host their annual tournament, it’s the realization of a dream for the people behind Mississippi State golf, the product of all their wildest visions and everything they hoped for.
“It’s better,” Brown-Lemm corrected.