In 2003, college golf changed for the better when the Southeastern Club Golf Association started. The organization sought to provide college students in the southeast an opportunity to participate in organized, competitive golf. The Southeastern Club Golf Association grew to become the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) and is the governing body for club golf nationally. Today, fifteen years later, the NCCGA is a doing amazing things under the umbrella of Nextgengolf. Golf entrepreneurs and Nextgengolf founders Kris Hart, Matt Weinberger, and Mahesh Murthy were the guys behind making this happen. The NCCGA had 30 teams in 2009, and is now represented by 350+ programs including a wide spectrum of universities from Stanford, to the University of Florida, to Black Hills State University. With participation in the 10,000s, Nextgengolf is positioning itself to play a bigger role in the college and junior development scene.
Of the roughly 220,000 high school varsity boys and girls golfers, only about 17,000 will go on to play collegiate varsity golf. “Less than 8 percent of high school golfers will play any level of varsity golf in college,” Kris Hart, CEO of Nextgengolf, explained when describing the vast, pivotal industry segment.
Club Golf teams play a fall and spring season with over 60 tournaments being offered in the spring of 2018. These tournament allow both individuals, as well as teams, to compete on a regional and national scale. No matter the size of your college or skill level of your game, every college-aged golfer has a place to play and compete. Tournament entry fees are $95 on average per player for a two-day, weekend event at quality course. There are additional membership dues of $400 per team or $60 per individual as well. Teams are comprised of 8 players, with the top 5 scores from each team counting to form a team score.
Of the fall 2017 tournaments, 44 percent of them had an individual winner with a score under par. The lowest winning 36-hole score of the fall was by Ben Harden with a two-round total of 134 (10-under par). The average winning score in the fall of 2017 was 748 for 36 holes, counting 5 players per round. This means that the average score of a player on a winning team was 74.8. The average 5th place team score was 820 (averaging 82 for counting scores).
For junior golfers and their families, Nextgengolf provides an amazing opportunity to combine academics with competitive golf without having to worry about the recruitment process! Mason Wicks from Illinois State said “Club Golf is the perfect opportunity to play competitive golf in college without having the same time commitment as varsity golf. Through club golf you will meet lifelong friends and enjoy competing against many cool people all across the country.”
Club Golf has really carved out a segment quite complimentary to NCAA varsity golf. Varsity golf will always be the top destination for the top-ranked golfers, but many high school students are beginning to see the benefits of choosing a university for academics, on-campus experience, and club golf as opposed to subjecting themselves to varsity scholarship opportunities at schools they may not otherwise choose to attend.
“We have seen many varsity golfers transfer to bigger schools,” said Matt Weinberger, COO of Nextgengolf. “Ben Harden, the fall 2017 top ranked player, transferred from New Mexico State to Arizona State since he wanted to experience a larger school and was tired of each day being varsity practices and workouts, made a conscious choice that club golf was better suited for him.”
Each year, Club Golf continues to grow and the scores are dropping lower and lower. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we eventually see an elite player who used Club Golf as a path in their long-term development. College coaches are also starting to notice the strength of the players on club teams. Casey Luban of Michigan state said, “”I truly believe that club golf is a wonderful opportunity for players to continue to share their passion for the game and competitive golf outside of the Intercollegiate Athletics environment. I have always believed that in order for the game to continue to grow moving forward, we need to keep as many opportunities as possible out there for those who want to compete. Additionally, our game fosters and promotes relationships that can last a lifetime. I am a huge believer in club golf and I have been impressed by the accomplishments of these fine players.”
When deciding on where to go to college, club golf should be at the forefront versus an afterthought. The NCCGA provides a valuable service allowing anyone at any school to play college golf.
An open letter to golf
I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.
It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.
On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.
This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.
As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.
I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.
When you are able to return in full, I will be here.
Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
On Spec: Interview with Trevor Immelman, 2008 Masters champion
In this episode, host Ryan speaks with Trevor Immelman about his career, what it was like growing up around the game as a competitive amateur in South Africa, and what it’s like being a Masters champion.
Topics also include his experiences working with the design team at Nike Golf as well as his current “What’s in the Bag” which includes equipment from Titleist and the process he went through to get it dialed in.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
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