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Opinion & Analysis

The effect that the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf

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The current NCAA rules allow students to make unofficial visits any time, and make official visits (definitions for “visits” at the bottom of the article) starting September 1 of the player’s Senior year. Over the past five years, these unofficial visits have started earlier and earlier, as the sport has started to experience younger athletes making commitments. Last week that rule changed; the new rule, effective immediately, will prevent student athletes from making visits involving athletic staff before September 1 of their junior year, however coaches will be able to pay for official visits starting September 1 of the players Junior year.

In summation:

  • Old Rule: Prospective Student Athletes (PSA) can make unofficial visits any time. They can make official visits starting September 1 of their Senior year of High School.
  • New Rule: Effective immediately, PSA cannot meet on campus with a coach until September 1 of their Junior Year, however coaches can start to pay for official visits starting September 1 of the prospective student athlete’s junior year.

The adoption of this legislation signals a major paradigm shift in recruiting among college coaches. Data collected by GolfWRX,suggests that not all coaches support the new rule, however. Through an online, optional survey, GolfWRX was able to collect feedback from 60 NCAA Men’s and Women’s coaches; 51 percent of respondents identified themselves as women’s coaches, and 49 percent of respondents identified themselves as men’s coaches.

The first question we asked coaches: “Are you in favor of the resolution which prevents players from visiting before September 1 of their Junior year?” In response, 51 percent of respondents suggested they where in favor, including Bradley women’s coach Mary Moan.

“The more time we can give athletes to explore their options thoughtfully the better,” Moan said. “There is such an urgency to verbally commit that players may not be making the best choice with the limited information they have. In the long run, this rule, allows players to mature and have more time to explore options.”

The second question we asked coaches: “Do you think the rule will prevent early commitments?” Nearly 60 percent of respondents said, “No.” According to comments collected anonymously as part of the survey, many coaches think the legislation will simply nudge coaches to use other methods to interact with recruits, such as camps. Steve Runge, the Head Men’s Coach at University of Central Arkansas and former college standout at Ohio State said, “while you want to do what’s right for the student athlete, it is important that coaches keep to the intention of the rule and allow young people the time to properly develop, as well as explore all their options”.

As a former college coach myself, and someone with an academic training and strong interest in behavioral economics, it will be interesting to see the long-term impact of the rule. Colleagues in other sports where this legislation has been adopted have suggested similar rules in their sports have not been overly effective, as coaches simply have more camps and clinics where they can not only interact with younger players but can also make money. The new rule also opens potential interference from either club reps/apparel reps, college advisors, high school coaches and swing instructors who could look to capitalize on the later time table, acting as middle men in the recruitment process.

While the rules do take a step towards protecting PSA from making decisions early, they don’t fully address the problem facing the typical recruit, which is the issue of bad information. At the root of the issue is the lack of useful information for PSA, their families and coaches. It’s important for PSA to use a wide range of resources to help them make the best choice for them and thirr future.

As the rule nudges visits after September 1 of players Junior Year, it may also have a fiscal and scheduling impacts. These visits, funded fully or in part by the college or university, have been significantly decreasing as the time table for players have moved up. Shifting the timing back makes it more likely they will again be a part of both recruiting, as well as a line item in budgets. For some schools, this will mean they can make less investment in the student athlete experience. The rule may also have a significant impact on Fall schedules as many schools such as Norte Dame, Stanford and Alabama look to make sure they can entertain their best recruits on major football weekends.

One cannot help but applaud the intentions of the NCAA; to serve the best interest of the student athlete. However, one can question their understanding of the process; while coaches need to be held accountable, so do college advisors, media outlets, agents, industry reps and others. This rule does nothing to better frame their roles and accountability in the process and it is my feeling that until that happens, it will be much of the same.

In the future there is also talk of other significant rules changes. New legislation likely to become effective in early August will limit the days coaches can recruit off-campus to 45 days. To put this in perspective, when I coached at the University of Kentucky, I recruited approximately 150 days per year. Cutting those days by a third will handcuff coaches; they will need to make quicker decisions, which could result in earlier offers with shorter windows to accept. It could also lead to a lot of offers on players who coaches have not watched, which over the long term could lead to an increase in transfers.

Another potential rule will limit recruiting during the month of December, allowing coaches to have more of a break during the holidays. During my 8 years of college coaching, I was never home once at Christmas. Instead I was at either Doral, the South Beach Amateur, the Orange Bowl or watching National teams at training camps. I can therefore appreciate how this can impact the quality of family life, however, I think the rule will have significant consequences for the late developer who uses tournaments like the AJGA Senior Showcase and Doral (both in December) to demonstrate to coaches their skill. This is particularly true for players from outside the United States, who might not be as savvy with the NCAA rules.

Definitions

  • Unofficial Visit: when the recruit, and their family, pay for all costs associated with visiting a school. During the visit the prospective student athlete can meet coaches and teams, as well as tour academic and athletic facilities within a 30-mile radius.
  • Official Visit: When the athletic department pay for part or all the cost associated with the trips for the student athlete. The parents must pay their own costs.
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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

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. MIKE

    May 2, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Well written article but I think it misses the point that this is only a D1 rule change. Both D2 and D3 allow unofficial at any time. D2 allows official starting June 15 after sophomore year. D3 allows official starting Jan 1 of junior year.

  2. Gregg grost

    May 1, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    New rule change the landscape but recruiting calendar in Div I is the game changer….

  3. 2putttom

    Apr 30, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    don’t call me, I’ll call you

  4. squeezefade

    Apr 30, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Still won’t prevent college coaches from finding ways to meet with recruits on campus before Sept. 1 of their junior year. Host a golf prospect camp, invite Fr. and So. recruits, and talk/tour recruits when they are there for the camp. I’d be surprised if this isn’t done already.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.

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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Opinion & Analysis

An open letter to golf

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Dear 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.

Sincerely,

Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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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.

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