What started out in 1996 as a plot of land and a promise, has materialized into one of the finest on-campus golf practice facilities in the nation.
Tucked into the southeast corner of the University of North Florida, the Hayt Golf Learning Center opened its doors in 2002. The four-hole practice facility comes complete with a lighted driving range, lighted chipping and putting areas and a separate practice area at the back of the range for the UNF golf teams.
Former UNF Head Golf Coach John Brooks first met with former UNF President Dr. Adam Herbert and Athletics Director Dr. Richard Gropper about the project in 1996 and solidified the land. With that land came a promise from Brooks that no university money would have to be pumped into the facility. That's where local businessman and UNF golf enthusiast John Hayt entered the picture. Hayt gave an initial donation of $750,000 to help get the project started and later gave two more $100,000 gifts. Add on state funds that matched Hayt's initial donation and another $100,000 donated by the First Tee, plus other gifts along the way, and the final donation total amounted to more than $2 million.
What came of that money is a facility that houses a pair of par 3s and a finishing hole that can be played as a par 3, 4 or 5. Golf News rated the hole as possibly “the best in the area.” Don't forget, the North Florida area includes the famous 17th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Not only is the Hayt Center open to students, faculty and staff, but it is also open to the public. The facility also plays host to annual First Tee clinics, which reach out to “young people around the world by creating affordable and accessible golf facilities primarily to serve those who have not had previous exposure to the game and its positive values.”
No matter the public demand for use of the Hayt Center's amenities, Mother Nature is pretty much the only thing that can keep the Osprey golf team from using the center. In the style of the practice facilities at the TPC at Sawgrass, the golf team has its own practice area built on the back of the range. This includes a private practice tee as well as a large practice green with space allocated for putting, chipping, pitching and bunker play.
The UNF practice range also has standing mirrors where players can check out their swings and portable nets located at different distances. Before and after a day on the range, members of the UNF golf teams can relax in the team room, which includes an oak-lined locker for every member of the team, showers, couches, a television and computers.
With the addition of women's golf as a varsity sport in 2012-13, a team and locker room facility along with coaches offices was completed for the program in the fall of 2012. The team amenities include oak lockers, showers, couches, entertainment center and computer center.