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6 Tips for seniors in high school still looking to play golf in college

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If you’re a high school senior and have not signed with a college yet, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Data suggests that up to 25 percent of the top 250 players in the class are still not signed according to National Junior Golf Scoreboard (NJGS). The question is, if you’re still looking, what should you be doing now? Like always, we have the answers.

1) Get Motivated

Before we talk about recruiting, let me ask you a question; are you all-in on the process of getting better at golf? Data collected by me last year suggests that on average, many of top amateurs and college players in the world are spending approximately 4 hours per day on golf, 285 days per year. That means they are spending 6 days a week practicing, competing and working out specifically for golf. Ask yourself, honestly, are you putting in the time? When you play golf are you playing for fun, or playing serious matches against similar matched opponents with consequences? If you’re not being serious enough and you really love the game, demonstrate your passion by fully committing to your golf. People will notice, and it may make an enormous difference.

2) Communicate About Expectations

Now is the time to have honest communication with schools. As a recruit, you must remember that NCAA rules allow coaches to communicate with both High School Juniors and Seniors concurrently. It is likely that at this point the coach, particularly at the Division I level, have opportunities within both classes and if he can get the younger player that is ranked about the same as you, he is likely to do so with the understanding they have more time to develop their skills. Don’t be afraid to ask coaches for honest feedback about the odds of a fit, including what you can specifically do to change their mind.

3) Be Ready to Work

The fact is the recruiting process not only takes a lot of time but also often requires you to email coaches. On average you should expect to spend about 50 hours of communication with coaches, with many introductions coming via email. Unfortunately, email is unavoidable, so you must get into the routine of checking your email both in the morning and evening, during a time when you can not only read the messages but have time to craft careful, thoughtful responses.

4) Research Options

For many, this will be a time to consider new options. The first thing I would do is compare your NJGS class rank to those who have already signed. Where did people with similar ranks sign? What are the athletic rankings of those schools? Research those schools, as well as schools ranked 5-10 spots ahead and behind those schools to find options that match you academically, then email those schools with your SAT, GPA and ranking in the subject line. Try to get emails out either before December 15th or after January 3rd and before January 21st. If you don’t get a response within 48 hours, email again. If still no response, move down the rankings 10-15 spots, find some other schools and email them, following the same process.

5) Play Golf

The best way to get a coach’s attention to have a good tournament against solid competition; coaches care about things such as scoring average, head-to-head record and rounds under par. Ask coaches about up coming tournaments they might attend or events they suggest you should play. Then go out and kick some butt!

6) Junior College

For many reading this article, an amazing option, which is almost never considered is Junior College. This option offers everyone the opportunity to have 2+ years of further development while earning a quality education and playing fierce competition. It has also proven a pathway to playing elite major conference golf with top 10-15 players getting multiple offers from Division I schools.

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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

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ryley Fitzsimmons

    Dec 28, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Great article, but you are missing a big crucial element here and quite frankly(as my old golf coach would say) I am shocked you left it out. This being having a great family support system around you. I can speak to this because I did my own recruiting and had so much help from my parents to have the ability to play college golf and to make sure I was in compliance with the NCAA. If I were a kid who were to open up this article on the internet and read it I would think that I have to do all this by myself and add so much more pressure which could cause you to hate the game and or play bad.

  2. ronny

    Dec 27, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    … and play a full set of PXG clubs to show you’re serious about your game!!!

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How often should you actually get “Up-and-Down” based on your handicap?

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‘Up and Downs’ have long been the accepted measure of skill in the short game. The chart below shows average performance in this area for the PGA Tour and an array of handicap levels. How do you fit in?

A few points of definition: The above refers to short game shots around the green, other than from the sand. [Stay tuned: sand shots will be my next article.] I consider the short game to be all shots from within 50 yards of the hole. This distance was a topic of debate 30 years ago when I was developing my golf analysis program. I was fortunate to be working with Golf Digest Golf Schools and some of the top instructors were good enough to embrace the better form of game analysis that I was creating. In particular, I owe a great deal to Chuck Cook, Jack Lumpkin and Hank Johnson. Their help and encouragement in my early stages gave me a much needed boost of momentum. Little did we know that what I then called “Strokes Lost and Saved” would ultimately become the accepted standard of analysis on the PGA Tour — now know as “Strokes Gained.” Anyway, we agreed that 50 yards was the right distance range for the short game for two reasons:

  1. It represented the short game for virtually every handicap level, men and women.
  2. It was a short enough distance that it didn’t need to be sliced even further.

That said, I do NOT believe that “Up and Downs” are an appropriate or accurate measure of short game skill for two reasons:

  1. It represents the combination of two skills: Short Game and Putting.
  2. It ignores the ERRORS or shots that actually miss the green.

In my 30+ years of studying performance at all skill levels, I have found that it is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of bad shots (errors) that do more to influence a player’s scoring level than do all the good shots. Accordingly, I built the ability to capture data on the common errors in the game into ShotByShot.com.

The true measure of a player’s short game skill is their Strokes Gained in that facet. BUT, that is simply a number — a positive number is good and a negative number, not so much. But how then to best display the skill that is associated with the Strokes Gained number? I believe the combination of three stats to be the correct way to display short game skill:

  • Average putting distance, when the green is successfully hit.
  • Percent shots hit to within 5 feet of the hole
  • Percent errors, or shots that miss the putting surface.

Where does your game fall in these two important categories?

Note, that the two lines cross at about a 16 handicap. That is actually a better than average golfer yet for every Chip/Pitch shot that they successfully get to within 5 feet of the hole, they are also chunking or sculling one and missing the green altogether. Work to dramatically reduce the errors and that 16 will drop to 12 or 13?

You might ask: How can the PGA Tour make more errors than the scratch golfer? Good question! I have two explanations:

  1. They really are that good! Regardless of the relative difficulty of the shot, Tour players will go for it. They have the confidence that when they miss they will get the next up and down. At the same time, the amateur that has reached the lofty level of Scratch has generally done so thru rigorous consistency and the avoidance of errors. At the low handicap levels, a bogey can be acceptable but a mistake that results in a double is NOT.
  2. The tour Shotlink data considers the fringe of the green to be a miss whereas I recommend that players count the fringe as a green hit and a putting opportunity. Your long game has been efficient enough to get there and should be rewarded with the GIR. At the same time, to count the shot from the fringe as a short game shot will unfairly reward your short game skill for what was actually a putt.

That reminds me again of my very early days when Chuck Cook said to me: “Pete, Tour players don’t make errors in the short game!”  See Chuck, I was right, they do! For a Complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to: ShotByShot.com.

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