With the spring season well underway in college golf, teams will be jockeying for position leading up to the NCAA Regionals in May with hopes of qualifying for the Finals at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.

Winning the NCAA Championships is the ultimate goal for every school, but golf is a fickle game; it’s not necessarily the best team that comes away with the trophy. Take last year’s result, for example. Oregon won the men’s title, while Washington pulled out the victory on the women’s side.

These two teams came into the week ranked 21st and 13th, respectively. The championships were held in Eugene, Oregon, and both may have benefitted from some Pacific Northwest familiarity. Still, the top-ranked teams at both tournaments fared extremely well. For the men, Texas finished runner-up despite playing without an injured Beau Hossler in the final match. Meanwhile, the UCLA women advanced to the semifinal match before falling by a narrow 3-2 margin to the surging Huskies.

In order to determine the best team in college golf each year, it’s essential to look at the full body of work throughout the season. To fulfill this purpose, the Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking system provides an excellent measure. The index employs an algorithm that takes into account multiple factors — the team’s won-lost-tied record and its stroke differential — to calculate a power rating. Of course, the ranking is relative and is affected by the ratings and performance of common opponents (i.e. the other teams in the tournament field).

With this in mind, the concept of ranking the best teams in college golf in recent years was born. Through analysis of archived Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings year-end data, it’s possible to compile ranked lists for both men’s and women’s teams. The following are the Top-10 rankings for two time periods: the last five years and the last decade.

Men: 5 Years

NCAA Photos Archive

  1. Texas
  2. Alabama
  3. Stanford
  4. California
  5. Illinois
  6. Oklahoma State
  7. Georgia Tech
  8. Southern California
  9. Georgia
  10. LSU

Teams 11-15: Auburn, Florida State, Washington, UCLA, Arkansas.

Men: 10 Years

  1. Alabama
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Georgia
  4. Stanford
  5. Southern California
  6. Georgia Tech
  7. Texas
  8. UCLA
  9. Florida
  10. Texas A&M

Teams 11-15: Illinois, Washington, Florida State, California, Auburn.

Notes

NCAA Photos Archive
Recognize these two players?
  • Alabama beat out Oklahoma State by the smallest of margins to claim the top spot (70.2783 vs 70.2788).
  • Stanford was the most consistent team, having finished outside the top-10 only once in the past 10 years. The team’s average ranking was 6.8 over that span.
  • Teams that have come on strong over the past five years: Texas (jumped from 7th to 1st), Illinois (11th to 5th), California (14th to 4th) and LSU (N/A to 10th).
  • The 10-spot jump for California can be attributed in large part to its record-setting 2012-13 season, in which the team piled up 11 wins (it also won the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships, but fell to Illinois in the Semifinal match).
  • Two teams finished atop the rankings in consecutive seasons: Oklahoma State from 2008-09 through 2010-11 (a three-peat) and Georgia in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
  • The 2013-14 Alabama squad was the only top-ranked team to win the national championship in the past decade.

Women: 5 Years

  1. Southern California
  2. UCLA
  3. Duke
  4. Alabama
  5. Arizona State
  6. Arizona
  7. Stanford
  8. Arkansas
  9. Florida
  10. Washington

Teams 11-15: Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Virginia.

Women: 10 Years

NCAA Photos Archive

  1. Southern California
  2. UCLA
  3. Duke
  4. Arizona State
  5. Alabama
  6. Arizona
  7. Florida
  8. Stanford
  9. Arkansas
  10. Oklahoma State

Teams 11-15: Purdue, Virginia, Georgia, Auburn, Vanderbilt.

Notes

  • Women’s college golf has shown more constancy in the rankings with the same teams occupying the top-9 positions.
  • Purdue had a strong 5-year stretch from 2006-07 to 2010-11 where the team finished inside the top-10 every year, but recent struggles have left Purdue out of the top-10.
  • Southern California and UCLA have separated themselves from the rest of the pack; neither team finished worse than 7th in the rankings over the past decade.
  • The top-ranked team has gone on to win the national championship four times in the past decade: Duke (2007), Southern California (in 2008 and 2013) and Arizona State (2009).

General Observations

  • Every team comes from a major conference: Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Big 10. The best teams not from a Power-5 conference were the UNLV men (Mountain West) and the Pepperdine women (WCC).
  • The Pac-12 is particularly strong in women’s golf with 6 of the top-10 teams in the nation over the last 5 years.
  • Most teams come from warmer climates with the exception of Illinois and Washington (making Illinois’ recent run of success all the more impressive).
  • On average, the men (12.1 per season) play more tournaments than the women (11.2).
  • The men’s and women’s programs at each school are often not created equal; in some cases the men perform better (eg. Texas, Illinois, Georgia Tech), while in others it’s the women who have more success (eg. Duke, Arizona State, Arizona).
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Jeffrey Knox's main interests are junior and college golf, but he also follows the professional tours closely. Jeff graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2014, where he served as the Sports Editor and later as Editor-in-Chief of the campus news magazine. He currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he works as an environmental scientist for Providence Engineering.

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