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Opinion & Analysis

Why you should consider playing Club Golf in college

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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.

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

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  1. Billable Hours

    Feb 15, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Unless you’re winning AJGA or other high level junior events, consider not playing college golf or using golf to get you into school with better academics regardless of whether it’s D1, D2, or D3. Top-tier college golf is a major commitment, and unless you have family money you should focus on academics as opposed to your scoring average.

    It’s difficult to tell this to a kid, but they are most likely not good enough to be on tour and should focus on their careers after golf.

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Akshay Bhatia

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with rookie phenom and Walker Cup Player Akshay Bhatia.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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