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How difficult is it REALLY to play NCAA Division I Men’s Golf?

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This article was written in collaboration between Brendan Ryan and Estefania Acosta. To research more on the subject of college golf from these authors, please check out their book, The College Golf Almanac, that is now for sale on Amazon for $19.99.

Just about every client I work for wants the same thing — to play Division I college golf. While I never discourage anyone from pursuing this dream, it is my job to recommend the college that best fits the client from a golf, academic, and social standpoint. So, while it would be nice for all of my students to play at a DI school, it just simply isn’t possible. In many cases I am stuck with the unenviable task of explaining to junior golfers and their parents why they may not be Division I material.

The fact of the matter is that recruits and their families have a hard time understanding how few opportunities actually exist in Division I golf, particularly for men. Only 298 Division I schools have men’s golf teams, most of which will take an average of two players per recruiting class. This means that there are only 596 Men’s Division I roster spots offered per year.

Those chances seem slim, but they get even slimmer when you take an international perspective into account. According to the European Golf Association, there are 47,178 male junior golfers in Germany, 47,333 juniors in Sweden, and 8,478 juniors in Denmark. Add almost 150,000 juniors in America and the juniors from the fifteen-plus other countries I left out, and those 596 spots are significantly harder to land than most people realize.

Because of the ever-increasing amount of prospective student-athletes, coaches need an efficient means to quickly seek out juniors and evaluate their performance. Enter the Junior Golf Scoreboard (JGS) and World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), the most accurate ranking systems for junior golfers around the world. Coaches often use these two systems as a way to quickly examine potential recruits. The JGS and WAGR gather data from junior golf tournaments to provide an objective look at how players perform and where they rank with their fellow competitors.

Junior golfers and their parents should pay attention to these rankings to understand the level of performance they need to play at a DI level. Extensive statistical analysis of the JGS and WAGR rankings of players on the JGS list of 2016 Early Signees could tell you exactly how good you need to be. But nobody wants to do that. It is tedious, daunting, and takes far too much time. Luckily, I did all of that dirty work for you.

So you want to play Division I men’s golf? Here’s how good you need to be:

Recruits from the Top 25 Schools

I split my analysis into three sections of group data, first analyzing the top 25 schools, then the top 26-100, followed by the top 101-150 schools, the top 151-200 schools, the top 201-250 schools, and the top 251-298 schools. Beginning with the top 25 schools, I used data from Golfstats’ Top 25 college teams from the end of the Fall Season. There were 67 players signed, 58 of whom were from the United States and 11 of whom were international players.

In terms of geography, the most recruits in the United States were either from California (12), Florida (6), and Texas (5). Of the 58 American signees, 33 of these players were recruited in-state, 8 were recruited regionally (schools in states near where they live), and 17 were recruited to non regional out-of-state schools. The international students were from Denmark (2), Philippines, Australia, Norway, Sweden (2), France, Thailand, Ireland, and South Africa.

As far as statistics go, the average JGS class ranking was 89.45 and the average WAGR was 533. While this may seem fairly cut-and-dry, these averages do not paint a full picture of the players recruited to the top 25 teams. There are some outliers.

For example, there was a vast discrepancy in the rankings of players. Although the player with the lowest JGS class ranking was an Oregon recruit from California with a ranking of 5, the highest ranked player was a UNLV recruit from California with a ranking of 406. Although a Norwegian player who was recruited to Texas had the lowest WAGR rank at 87, the player with the highest WAGR was a Thai player ranked at 2256 who was recruited to San Diego State. This player drastically skewed the data; if we took him out then the average WAGR would be 349.57.

Schools ranked in the top 26-100

The second tier of recruits I studied were from the next 75 best Division I men’s golf teams. 139 players were signed, 113 of whom were from the United States and 26 of whom were from international countries.

Out of the 113 American players, 67 signed to in-state schools, 23 signed to regional schools, and 22 signed to non regional out-of-state schools. The 26 international players were from Costa Rica, Chile, New Zealand (2), Australia (5), Scotland (2), Malaysia, France, Germany, England (4), Spain, Thailand (2), and Canada (5). One of the Australian signees was also a transfer from a junior college.

The average JGS Class ranking was 191.36 and the average WAGR was 858.09. But again, we see these statistics influenced by outliers. For example, the lowest ranked player on the JGS was a South Florida recruit from Florida who was ranked #1, while the highest JGS ranking was a University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) recruit from Alabama with a ranking of 1072. The lowest ranked player in the WAGR is a South Florida recruit from Chile with the #7 rank, while the highest ranked player had a WAGR of 2071 and was a Canadian player recruited to Colorado.

NOTE: The sample size of international students registered with the WAGR was too small and showed too much of a discrepancy to take into account for the rest of the teams in this study. 

Schools ranked in the top 101-150 

70 players were signed to the 50 next best schools. Two of the signees were transfers from junior colleges. Of the 63 players that were from the United States, 34 went to in-state schools, 18 went to regional schools, and 11 went to non regional out-of-state schools. The 7 international players were signed from Sweden (2), Canada (2), Japan, Czechoslovakia, and Scotland.

The average JGS Class ranking was 341.77. The player with the lowest JGS Class ranking of 21 was a Pennsylvanian player who signed to Kansas. The player with the highest JGS Class ranking of 1176 was a player from Wisconsin who signed in-state to Wisconsin.

Schools ranked in the top 151-200

63 players were signed to fourth tier of DI colleges I reviewed. Two Junior College transfers were also signed. Of the 54 United States recruits, 27 signed to in-state schools, 16 signed to regional schools, and 11 signed to non regional out-of-state schools. There were 9 international signees from Canada (3), France, Philippines, England (2), the Dominican Republic, and Japan

The average JGS Class ranking was 482.98. The player with the lowest JGS ranking was an Oral Roberts recruit from Oklahoma with a ranking of 41. The player with the highest JGS Class ranking was an Army recruit from North Carolina with a ranking of 1585. 

Schools ranked in the top 201-250

47 players were signed to the top 201-250 Division 1 men’s teams. Of the 43 United States recruits, 19 signed to in-state schools, 14 signed to regional schools, and 10 signed to non regional out-of-state schools. The 4 international students were from Canada (2), Thailand, and Spain.

The average JGS Class ranking was 516.70. The lowest ranked player was a Rutgers recruit from Maryland with a ranking of 132. The highest ranked player was a Temple recruit from Maryland with a ranking of 1547.

Schools ranked in the top 251-298

Only 19 of the final 47 Division I men’s golf schools even had Early Signings to report. 30 signees were recruited, all of whom were from the United States. 18 signed to in-state schools, 7 signed to regional schools, and 5 signed to non regional out-of-state schools.

The average JGS Class ranking was 573.37. The player with the lowest JGS Class ranking was an Xavier recruit from Kentucky with a ranking of 206.

General Statistics

The following are general statistics and totals I found for my entire study. I decided to keep these general statistics until the end of this article. I believe that it they are misleading if you do not understand the nuances of the group statistics that I explained above.

  • Average JGS Class ranking of all DI Early Signees: 364.54
  • Percentage of International Early Signings: 13 percent
  • Percentage of In-State Early Signings: 52 percent
  • Percentage of Regional Early Signings: 26 percent
  • Percentage of Out-of-State Early Signings: 22 percent

Conclusion

Based on my analysis, the highest average JGS class ranking for any section of the top 298 Division I teams was 573. Therefore in my opinion a male junior golfer must be in the Top 600 of his recruiting class to be seriously considered by a DI program.

But when everything’s said and done, it is important to remember that recruiting is not an exact science. The WAGR and JGS are not the be-all-to-end-all. Other factors such as academics, recruiting in-state, or legacy (having a family member attend a college or university in the past) can influence a coach’s decision. My data should only be a benchmark for knowing how well you have to perform to be a Division I golfer. Hopefully you find this information helpful on your journey to be a collegiate athlete.

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Estefania Acosta-Aguirre is a former college coach and player who has won an individual conference championship and two PGA Minority National Championship. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in International Business, and is a K-Vest, Flight Scope and Putting Zone Certified Coach. She is currently pursuing her masters in Sports Coaching at the University of Central Lancashire, as well as finalizing her second book due out in early 2018. You can follow her on Instagram at steph_acostacoaching

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Susan

    Oct 14, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    It is very hard to buy into the WAGR stats given they changed from a 12 month cycle to a 24 month cycle about 18 months ago. That has significantly changed the information as currently who is playing well as it looks at 2 years. That is a lifetime for a junior golfer and now to reach the minimum divisor is over 104 when it used to be around 52. That means that AJGA events (some) invitationals and just a few other junior events and then amateur events are what contributes to WAGR. The AJGA rankings are straight forward and a much better representation of where a player stands, I completely disagree that coaches are watching WAGR for junior recruiting. International players have access to pro events/ elite amateur events and can zip up WAGR quicker than most US Kids. The players that would play toward the top of WAGR are for the most part AJGA players of note. Junior Golf Scoreboard is a good system in that all scores are being shown for each event. To state that only x kids can or are likely to go d1 in the 500’s is kinda short sided. You can have great players that play 25 events a year and a player that plays 6 events a year but played really well have almost the same ranking. As a general rule coaches are not obsessed with rankings. They are obsessed with scores, length off the tee and good putting. They want kids that are ready to go and play at the top level and contribute to the team. You analysis is interesting but the brush is way too broad.

  2. shandy

    Oct 4, 2017 at 8:17 am

    So what you’re saying is that you have to be among the top 600 of your class to garner one of 596 roster spots. Really crunching those numbers, eh?

  3. Riley

    Oct 3, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Should probably be noted that this is not about gaining a full or even partial scholarship, that number is much smaller. Not all players are on scholarships, the number of available scholarships are not like football or basketball. This is simply to be recruited as a team member.

  4. D

    Oct 3, 2017 at 2:33 am

    D1 scholarships are out there in their hundreds, problem is kids want to play in places like Florida. Having played D1 for a time my conclusion is that their are tournaments all over the US, every week, winning scores at each tournament are in the mid 60’s, seriously good golf but the kid shooting 78 78 78 78 still finishes top 30 out of 100 guys, hailing from Europe my experience of D1 golf was such. The good guys were ridiculously good but the bad scores were worse then regional u16 events in Europe, guys shooting in the high 80s regularly.

    My advise to anyone wanting a D1 school, contact coaches directly, send your swing, your scores and your videos direct, get on their websites and find schools that have a bunch of juniors and seniors. Last but not least schools that have alot of european guys like my team will love to recruit local guys.

  5. HeavyG

    Oct 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    While the JGS and WAGR are analyzed,
    Most of us do not understand them. How does that translate to average score or HDCP?

  6. Branson Reynolds

    Oct 2, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    2 recruits a year? Do college golf teams only carry 8-10 players?

  7. Chris

    Oct 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Not to mention it’s nearly impossible to walk-on these days. I tried at a D1 school, had tournament scores in the 70s, and was playing my best golf at the time. The coach refused to take any walk-ons, the school just made him have tryouts.

  8. Guy

    Oct 1, 2017 at 1:37 am

    Playing D1 doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good, it means you were good in high school and had the money to play a lot of junior golf (Get a top-notch recruiting resume). I play D2 and know a lot of guys that would be able to play for some top D1 schools.

  9. Rwj

    Sep 30, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Or just identify as a girl. Most div 1 female players can’t break 80

    • Mr. Feel Good

      Oct 2, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Really? I would love to see your statistics. My guess would be that you could not play division 1 mens golf and thought it would be easier if you were a girl. Thinking that makes you feel better. The only thing stopping you is your gender. God made men and women different. The top LPGA players have never been able to really succeed on the PGA Tour and likely never will. That is not a knock on women but a true comparison in terms of size and strength. The skill is VERY similar.

      Those averaging under 80 on top quality courses would not be a huge number but those who “can’t break 80” would be VERY few.

      • Egor

        Oct 3, 2017 at 12:14 am

        How dare you assume his gender (or.. her.. or.. zee, or it..). If it want’s to identify as a fem and play golf in college on the girls team wearing a skirt to hide his twig and berries – so be it. These stupid schools that cave to that agenda deserve every bit of wrath coming to them.

        When you open the “stupid” door, you never know what is going to walk through.

  10. nicelife

    Sep 30, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    It’s been a long time sine Undergrad. What is a Division I (igloo) / DI vs. a Division 1 (number one), D1 school?

  11. wt

    Sep 29, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    596 spots for the seniors only who want to go college and 150K are the juniors from all ages. So the number should be much less if you only count the senior golfs.

  12. The Dude

    Sep 29, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Wow…someone did their homework

  13. 2putttom

    Sep 29, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    an enlightening article. More complicated than it was three decades ago. This article is something I will use as a reference.

    • matt_bear

      Oct 1, 2017 at 10:23 am

      it got “complicated” when the money got ridiculous. First being the cost of attending college is astronomical, and secondly the money available if you “make it” to pro golf.

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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PGA Tour Pro and Parkland Alum Nick Thompson is Part of the Solution

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The tragic shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida moved the entire nation in a deep and profound way. The tragic events touched many lives, including PGA Tour Professional Nick Thompson, who attended Stoneman Douglas for four years and was born and raised just minutes from there.

On our 19th Hole podcast, Thompson described in detail just how connected he is to the area and to Douglas High School.

“That’s my alma mater. I graduated in ’01. My wife Christen and I graduated in ’01. I was born and raised in Parkland…actually Coral Springs, which is a neighboring city. Stoneman Douglas actually is just barely in Parkland but it’s pretty much right on the border. I would probably guess there are more kids from Coral Springs that go to Stoneman Douglas than in Parkland. So I spent 29 years in Coral Springs before moving to Palm Beach Gardens where I live now, but I was born and raised there. I spent four years of high school there and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Thompson’s siblings, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and Web.com pro Curtis, did not attend Douglas High School.

His reaction to the news was immediate and visceral.

“I was in shock,” said Thompson. “I just really couldn’t believe it because Coral Springs and Parkland are both wonderful communities that are middle to upper class and literally, like boring suburbia. There’s not much going on in either city and it’s kind of hard to believe that it could happen there. It makes you think almost if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has really gotten to a lot of people.”

Thompson knew personally some of the names that have become familiar to the nation as a result of the shooting, including Coach Aaron Feis, who died trying to save the lives of students.

“I went to high school with Aaron Feis,” said Thompson. “He was two years older than me, and I knew of him…we had a fair amount of mutual friends.”

And while the events have provoked much conversation on many sides, Thompson was moved to action.

“We started by my wife and I, the night that it happened, after we put our kids to bed, we decided that we needed to do something,” Thompson said. “The first thing we decided was we were going to do ribbons for the players, caddies, and wives. We did a double ribbon of maroon and silver, the school colors, pin them together and wrote MSD on the maroon section. We had the media official put them out on the first tee, so all the players were wearing them. It’s been great.”

“I got together with the media guys and Ken Kennerly, the tournament director of The Honda Classic and they have been amazing. The amount of players that had the ribbons on, I was just watching the coverage to see, is incredible. I actually spoke to Tiger today and thanked him for wearing the ribbon. We really appreciate it, told him I went to high school there. I mean the only thing he could say was that he was sorry, it’s an unfortunate scenario and he was happy to wear the ribbon, do whatever he could.”

Thompson is quick to note the help that he has received in his efforts.

“It’s not just me. My wife has been just as instrumental in getting this done as me. I just, fortunately, have the connection with the PGA Tour to move it in the right direction even faster. I have the luxury of having a larger platform that can get my words out and everything we’re trying to do faster than most people. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart so it was just literally perfect with The Honda Classic coming in town.”

Thompson has also been involved in fundraising that goes to help the survivors and victims’ families. GoFundMe accounts supported by Thompson and the PGA Tour have raised in excess of 2.1 million dollars in just a week.

“One of the most important uses for this money is counseling for victims, for these kids who witnessed this horrific event, or have one degree of separation,” Thompson said. “Counseling for kids who lost a friend or a classmate, who need counseling and to help them with their PTSD essentially. I think that’s one of the most important things is helping all these kids deal with what has happened.”

Thompson acknowledged the fact that the entire Parkland family is activated to help in the healing. As for his efforts, it’s the product of his recognition of just how fortunate his life has been and a heart for service.

“Golf has given so much to me that it was the perfect time to give back even more than I already have. It’s the best we can do. We’re just trying to make a difference. ”

Listen to the entire interview on a special edition of The 19th Hole with Michael Williams on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Podcasts

TG2: What irons did Knudson finally get fit into?

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GolfWRX equipment expert Brian Knudson gets his first ever iron fitting. He dishes about his favorite irons, some irons that didn’t work for him, and he discusses the wide array of shafts that he tried. And then, he reveals what irons and shafts he got fit into. His irons of choice may surprise you.

Check out the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

jewkh

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