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Opinion & Analysis

How good are the best college golfers, exactly? Here are their estimated handicaps…

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Here’s a question: How good are the best players who are playing Division I, Division II, NAIA and Junior College Men’s Golf? With the help of Jim Cowan, director of course rating and handicapping for the Northern California Golf Association, I set out to examine the tournament handicaps of each of these players from their results in the 2017 fall season and answer this question!

According to GolfStat.com, the best Division I golfer in the fall of 2017 was Justin Suh of the University of Southern California. Justin was the best player at any level with an adjusted scoring average of 68.5 for 12 rounds. The best player for Division II golf was Jacob Huizinga of the University of West Florida. For 12 rounds Jacob averaged 69.4. The best NAIA player was Rowan Lester from Texas Wesleyan University. For 11 rounds Rowan averaged 70.27. The best Junior College player was Mathias Lorentzen from McLennan CC. For 7 rounds Mathias averaged 69.71. After identifying the players, I build a spread sheet for each player with each of their rounds, the yardage and the course rating. Weather was not taken into consideration. Yardage was also based on the numbers listed on tournament results and may not be absolute, however, they are close enough to provide a baseline.

Justin Suh

Rowan Lester

Jacob Huizinga

In the data we have listed, both the average differential, as well as an upper-half calculation. The average differential considers all the rounds recorded by the golfer, both good and bad. The upper half is a crude approximation of a handicap.

Last year, Golf Placement Services (my college consulting business) reported that there were over 900 rounds played under par by boys in AJGAs and over 700 rounds played under par by girls. In my own experience, playing with many elite junior players including Won Jun Lee, Karl Villips and Aiden Ye, it is common for them to shoot significantly under par at their home golf courses and often shoot between 3-under and 7-under on their home golf course during practice.

What does this mean for a junior golfer and their family reading this article? Breaking par is a skill and like any other skill should be practiced. I would strongly recommend that tournament golfers play frequently from shorter tee boxes (as close as 5400 yards) with goals of shooting lower and lower. For example, a good junior tournament golfer might have the following goals:

  • Shoot 70 or better a lot from 6800 yards
  • Shoot 68 or better from 6400 yards
  • Shoot 65 or better from 6000 yards

These numbers should be tweaked slightly depending on the junior, their skill level and tournament experience.

Investing in breaking par is an important skill for junior golfers since men’s college coaches certainly seek players who have experience breaking par in tournaments. Also, it is likely that tournament golf will be 1-4 shots harder than playing your home golf course. If earning a college scholarship requires a scoring average of 75 or better, this means that the player might need to average as little as 71 on their home golf course!

Remember that, like any skill, shooting under par is going to take time. When working on the skill, players might want to start by segmenting rounds into smaller groups, maybe groups of 3 holes. Then try and have as many 3-hole scores under par per round as possible. As the player’s skill increases, they might make the segments bigger, for example 9 holes, until the player can accomplish their goal over 18 holes.

Please also remember that whenever possible, players should be playing at least 18 holes per day. Elite golf is about continuous steady play. Shooting outstanding scores over 54 holes requires not only great technical skill but also endurance, hydration, nutrition, focus, stress management and the ability to make birdies. In the summer, when juniors don’t have any academic responsibilities, it would not be impossible to play 36 holes or more of golf per day. As players improve skills, they should not be afraid to play other golfers of a similar level in competition. It would be ideal if the competition had a consequence; the loser may have to clean the winners clubs or if appropriate for a snack after the round.

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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

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Dave

    Mar 28, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    LOL @ “spread sheet.”

  2. Morr

    Mar 25, 2018 at 3:07 am

    Not if golf is your job and could provide you with the opportunity to become a millionaire while being out in the fresh air enjoying lovely placess and surroundings. There are plenty of mindless occupations that people have to do for a living that are REALLY horrible and degrading that barely sustain them let alone gives them the chance of being a millionaire ‘overnight’ if they are good enough. What bothers me is how many pro aspirants there are, and how few actually make it. At least, they will have a college degree to fall back on.

  3. mal harris

    Mar 5, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    any idea for Womens golf

    • Russell

      Mar 5, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      How can u say “The best college golfers” but not include Braden Thornbury from Ole Miss who won the individual national championship last year who returned to college instead of going Pro!

      • kevin

        Mar 22, 2018 at 2:37 pm

        because just as the article stated…he named only the top player according to golfstat.com.

  4. Scooter

    Mar 5, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I actually caddied for Justin Suh in the 2012 US Junior Amateur as a volunteer caddy. This was cool to see him in this article as the No. 1 ranked college golfer. He truly acted like a professional even in 2012 when he was only 15. I remember just trying to do my job and stay out of his way. The 4 days I worked for him he was one of the nicest kids and most talented golfers I have ever met. Extremely respectful and very appreciative of the work others do. Very rare to find in a young talented player. I’m excited to keep tabs on him as he progresses into professional golf.

  5. Daniel Escobedo

    Mar 5, 2018 at 7:21 am

    What about for gurls golf?

  6. Chip

    Mar 4, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Um…you didn’t tell us what their handicaps are….these guys handicaps aren’t in the (-), they’re (+).

    • kevin

      Mar 22, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      do you know the difference between handicap and rating differential?

  7. ted

    Mar 4, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    What a mindless waste of time… playing golf endlessly…. !!!!!

    • RS

      Mar 30, 2018 at 1:30 am

      This from someone who’s negatively commenting on a website about other people getting outside and playing a sport for hours? Won’t go into detail about how your punctuation doesn’t exactly scream ‘mensa’, but trust me when I say you might want to consider being a bit less critical of others and a bit more critical of yourself.

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Opinion & Analysis

How important is playing time in college if a player wants to turn pro?

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One of the great debates among junior golfers, parents and swing coaches is what is the most crucial factor in making the college decision. My experience tells me that many students would answer this question with a variation of coaching, facilities and of course academics (especially if their parents are present).

I would agree that all three are important, but I wanted to explore the data behind what I think is an often overlooked but critical part of the process; playing time. For this article, I examined players under 25 who made the PGA tour and played college golf to see what percent of events they participated in during their college career. In total I identified 27 players and through a combination of the internet, as well as conversations with their college coaches, here are the numbers which represent my best guess of their playing time in college:

Player Percent of Events

  • Justin Thomas 100%
  • Rickie Folwer 100%
  • Xander Schauffele 100%
  • Bryson DeChambeau 100%
  • Jon Rahm 100%
  • Patrick Reed 91%
  • Jordan Speith 100%
  • Beau Hossler 100%
  • Billy Horschel 100%
  • Aaron Wise 100%
  • Daniel Berger 100%
  • Thomas Pieters 95%
  • Ryan Moore 100%
  • Kevin Tway 98%
  • Scott Langley 95%
  • Russell Hendley 100%
  • Kevin Chappell 96%
  • Harris English 96%
  • JB Holmes 100%
  • Abraham Ancer 97%
  • Kramer Hicock 65%
  • Adam Svensson 100%
  • Sam Burns 100%
  • Cameron Champ 71%
  • Wydham Clark 71%
  • Hank Lebioda 100%
  • Sebastian Munoz 66%

Average: 94%

Please note that further research into the numbers demonstrate that players like Pieters, Munoz, Clark, Reed, Hicock, Langely, Reed and Champ all played virtually all events for their last two years.

This data clearly demonstrates that players likely to make a quick transition (less than 3 years) from college to the PGA tour are likely to play basically all the events in college. Not only are these players getting starts in college, but they are also learning how to win; the list includes 7 individual NCAA champions (Adam Svensson, Aaron Wise, Ryan Moore and Thomas Pieters, Scott Langley, Kevin Chappell, and Bryson DeChambeau), as well 5 NCAA team champion members (Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer and Wydham Clack) and 2 US Amateur Champs (Bryson DeChambeau and Ryan Moore).

As you dig further into the data, you will see something unique; while there are several elite junior golfers on the list, like Speith and Thomas who played in PGA tour events as teenagers, the list also has several players who were not necessarily highly recruited. For example, Abraham Ancer played a year of junior college before spending three years at the University of Oklahoma. Likewise, Aaron Wise, Kramer Hickok and JB Holmes may have been extremely talented and skillful, but they were not necessarily top prospects coming out of high school.

Does this mean that playing time must be a consideration? No, there are for sure players who have matriculated to the PGA Tour who have either not played much in college. However, it is likely that they will make the PGA tour closer to 30 years of age. Although the difference between making the tour at 25 and 30 is only 5 years, I must speculate that the margin for failure grows exponentially as players age, making the difference mathematically extremely significant.

For junior golfers looking at the college decision, I hope this data will help them understand the key role of playing time will have in their development if they want to chase their dream of playing on the PGA Tour. As always, I invite comments about your own experience and the data in this article!

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member pdaero, who takes us to Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. The course is situated just ten minutes from downtown San Antonio, and pdaero gives us some excellent insight into what you can expect should you make the trip here.

“My favorite golf course to play, it is always in really good shape. These pictures are from wintertime, which the greenness is still impressive. The course has a ton of fun holes and unique designs, and only houses visible on 4 tee and between 14 green and 15 tee.

The course rating is strong, with a 74.2 rating on a par 71 (7007 yards from the tips), and even from the second tee you get 1.3 strokes.”

According to Republic Golf Club’s website, the rate for 18 holes during the week ranges from $29 to $49, while the weekend rate ranges from $35 to $69.

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Opinion & Analysis

An interview with State Apparel’s founder Jason Yip

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For the past five years, Jason Yip has been building an apparel company that redefines the purpose of golf wear. With a strong background in innovation from his days in Silicone Valley, Yip wanted to reinvent golf apparel to be a functional tool for the golfer.

The other day, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Jason Yip about State Apparel and a little about himself. It is not every day that you get to speak with someone who can exude passion through the phone. On this day, though, I could hear the passion Jason has for golf, California, and for State Apparel.

Yip said State Apparel has two major foundations

  1. Functional innovation
  2. Social responsibility

Jason loved talking about watching Tiger Woods. However, he watched for something I believe few ever have. How was Tiger wiping the dew and the grass off his clubs, hands, and ball? The answer that Jason observed was that Tiger and others are utilizing their clothing as wiping surfaces. The core of State Apparel is the functionally located wiping elements on your article of clothing. The staple of the brand is their Competition Pants which have wiping elements located on the cuffs, side pockets, and rear pockets.

State Apparel recognizes the need to be socially responsible as a company. This seems to be from Jason’s earlier days of playing golf behind a truck stop in Central Valley, California.

How is the State Apparel socially responsible? Yip identified three ways.

  • Production is done in San Francisco.
  • Most of their apparel utilizes sustainable fabric.
  • Proud supporter of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.

Jason’s desire is to provide not only apparel that is golf specific but also the experience that we have on the golf course. A little over a year ago the State Apparel Store and Urban Clubhouse opened on Filmore Street in San Francisco, California.

“I wanted to provide the golfing experience closer to the home of many golfers in the area,” Yip told me.

Among the State Apparel clothing at the store, there is an indoor hitting by with launch monitor. And they have even hosted speaking events with local professionals and architects at the clubhouse.

At the end of our conversation I asked Jason, what would he say to someone who knows nothing about State Apparel, especially those of us not in California?

His answer

“State Apparel is a unique authentic brand that is designed specifically for golfers by a golfer. Look at the product because it is something you have never seen and absolutely communicate on what you see or what you have questions about.”

 

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