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Opinion & Analysis

How good do you REALLY have to be to compete at a high-level in college golf?

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One of the major complaints I hear from parents is, “schools don’t email my son back.”

In October of last year, I published a story with data from college coaches called “Stop Bothering Me! Why NCAA coaches already get too many emails.” The story demonstrated the overwhelming demand of time coaches need to respond to emails from a melee of people from junior golfers to donors to members of their own administration. That article, however, tells only half the story; the other half is for junior players, their parents and coaches to understand the level it takes to contribute to a NCAA Division I team, which has the potential to make the post season (regional championship). For this story, we examine the college rankings of Oklahoma State and Alabama, who just met in the NCAA match play final, as well as Michigan State. Michigan State, ranked No. 54 in the final GolfStat rankings, was the highest and last team to make the post season after automatic bids.

When reviewing the data, keep in mind that currently 62 Power-5 schools have golf teams. If only the top-54 schools make regionals, after automatic qualifiers, it means that 8 Power-5 conference schools are not going to make regionals. Considering the strength of mid-major schools overall, that makes regionals a tough order.

So, what does it take to play at this level? Let me present some data; the teams, their scoring average per player, their averaged dropped score, the Golfweek rankings of the players when they signed to attend the schools and the average Golfweek rankings of the traveling team. Please note that no international players where included because none where ranked by Golfweek, and I did not want to include the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

Oklahoma State (Ranking: No. 1)

Scoring Average: 69.85
Average Dropped Score: 74.13

Players (Golfweek Rank)

  • Zach Bauchou (8)
  • Austin Eckroat (18)
  • Mathew Wolff (36)
  • Nick Heinin (31)
  • Hayden Wood (55)
  • Sam Stevens (26)
  • Stratton Nolen (40)
  • Brandon Jelley (24)

Overall Average Ranking: 29.75

Alabama (Ranking: No. 6)

Scoring Average: 71.04
Average Dropped Score: 75.92

Players

  • Alex Green (70)
  • Davis Riley (6)
  • Johnathan Hardee (21)
  • Ben Fuller (407)
  • Wilson Furr (6)
  • Davis Shore (3)
  • Lee Hodges (Transfer)

Overall Average ranking: 85.5
Average ranking of starters: 9

Michigan State (Ranking: No. 54)

Scoring Average: 72.86
Average dropped score: 76.6

Players

  • Devin Deogun (96)
  • Dylan Deogun (Transfer)
  • James Poit (81)
  • Zach Rosendale (436)
  • Andrew Walker (44)
  • Austin Jenner (93)
  • Kaleb Johnson (565)
  • Michael Sharpe (170)
  • Charlie Green (204)

Overall Average ranking: 219
Average ranking of starters: 212.8

Do you see a pattern? Although the sample size is small, teams who compete at the national level (including playing regionals) need difference makers who in college can average 73 or better. Historically, the data suggests that difference makers usually have scoring differential that is negative, and they are ranked in the top 100-150 in their class. How good is the 20th ranked player in the class? According to Junior Golf Scoreboard, the 20th player in the 2018 class has a scoring differential of -3.92, and the 20th player for the 2019 has a scoring differential of -2.51. Likewise, the scoring differential for the 220-ranked player in the 2018 class is -.14, and the 220th player for the 2019 class is +.18. This means that a player recruited at 20 in the country, who typically ends up at Alabama or Oklahoma State, is about 3.5 shots per round better than a recruit at 220 (which make sense since the data above suggests that Oklahoma State’s average counting score is about 3 shots better than Michigan State).

The simply fact is that coaches need difference makers and it is not getting any easier. Under title IX, most teams are only allowed 8-10 players. In a 4-year recruiting cycle, this means 2 players per year. Being wrong is quite literally a matter of being fired. As a result, you better believe that coaches take recruiting seriously and are carefully weighing all options. For the most part, coaches are likely to prefer not only a negative scoring differential but strong physical ability, sound technique and a love of competition. Occasionally, a coach will take a risk. The data suggests this happens about 1/10 times for a team ranked in the top 100. For example, Casey Lubhan at Michigan State, decided to give Kaleb Johnson a chance because of his power and work ethic. The result? Kaleb is now a as a sophomore is a Big Ten All Conference player. Nice call, Casey! Over time, coaches like Casey who make the right calls are rewarded by making regionals, getting incentives and keep their jobs. However, some many make similar investments and get stuck with a player who does not develop; taking up a valuable roster spot.

For coaches who are in programs where they are held accountable and funded fully, the clear majority are expected to make the regional tournament. The data collected demonstrated to have a chance at regionals, a team must average about 292 or better, or 73 shots per player. Most of the players capable of doing this consistently are going to have junior rankings in the top 100 in their class, with scoring differentials at or near 0. It is important to remember many athletic administrators expect coaches to make at least the regional tournament. Since the best way to do this is recruit talent, data suggests that administrators from nearly all institutions carefully monitor the rankings of signees, expecting coaches to get top talent ranked within the top 100 players in the class (at least).

Beyond the pressure to recruit, it is likely coaches will need to have a strong background in player development. Why? My data suggests that the average AJGA Open boy’s tournament is played from a distance 6849 on a course rating of 71.9. This year’s national championship at Karsten Creek was played at 7460 with a course rating of 77.2. To keep scores the same from junior golf to college, coaches need to make players approximately 5 shots better. Five shots, that’s a lot!

Karsten Creek is not the only hard golf course; for Michigan State to even have a chance to make regionals, they needed to have 4 players per round average about 72 in a tournament schedule which featured places like Inverness, Crooked Stick, Collection River and Ohio State. This means at a course like Ohio State with a course rating of 76.2 and yardage of 7455, you would need to be approximately a +3 handicap to help Michigan State. That’s ridiculous at the best of times; now consider the tournament is in March when the weather can be 40 degrees. Scarlett, 7500ish yards, 40 degrees, and a 73 average?! There are only several hundred players in the world that can do this and Michigan State needs four of them (at least).

If you have a scoring differential that’s not negative, it does not mean that you cannot play college golf. It also does not mean that you don’t have a future in golf. However, it likely means considering schools outside of the top 125 in Golfstat Cup in Division One Golf. When doing the search, if you are serious about a future playing golf, I would encourage you to carefully weigh more than just ranking; find a place where you will have the opportunity to play every event. This will give you 100+ college starts over 4 years, which is likely to provide you a solid foundation in tournament golf to prepare you for the next level.

I hope this article has given junior golfers, their parents and coaches insight into recruiting from a coach’s perspective. Having been involved in college athletics for 15+ years, it has been my experience that college golf is a meritocracy and follows the simple principal; if you are good enough, you will make it. So even if right now your game is not at that level, find a place, work hard and compete. No reason we will not see you on TV someday.

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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

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Dan

    Jun 10, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Great article. As a former college player it’s really eye opening the amount of talent competing for so few spots.

  2. Aaron

    Jun 10, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    It’s shocking to me how many high schoolers think they’re going to play golf at Auburn or Duke just because they start for four years.

  3. Nick

    Jun 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I also believe in being able to play somewhere all the time. I would also suggest looking at competitive Division II schools. I was about a 75-76 average golfer in high school and went to a DII school where we were ranked in the top-10 every year and had chances to win national titles. The competition was great, but I also liked the fact that DII still had a strong focus on academics, which I think is great. We still traveled and played great courses. Personally, if a golfer can’t play for a top-50 team in DI, I would strongly suggest a top tier DII school. I may not have have played against many guys who made it out on tour, but there were still quite a few who played on tour and won that I competed against.

  4. Jack

    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Agree with everything said except…over 4 years at a school where you play EVERY event, if your team has 10 regular tournaments, a conference championship, regionals, and the national championship, that’s 13 events a year. 52 over four years, not 100+? Are you assuming that the player is playing a full amateur schedule in addition to college golf, or are you counting each individual round as a start? Sorry to nitpick, just don’t want parents or kids thinking a school is gonna have them play in 25+ events over an 8 month season.

  5. shawn

    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Deer coach. I am a jr goffer an I reely reely luv goff and I wanna play fer u if u giv me a chance. I once scored a 59 an had a hole in 1. I feeel i will be a toor goffer if u giv me a chance to play fer u. thanx a lot.

  6. Tom

    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    sub 70’s in competetion on a regular basis

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Opinion & Analysis

Nutrition: The lowdown for fueling golf performance

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Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand. In reality, nutrition is the foundation for health, fitness, and performance.

What you eat every day is going to affect how you feel, how you operate and how you perform.

And what about during a round of golf? Four hours(-ish) of walking, swinging, raking, laughing, shouting, etc. all take a lot of energy, and if you’re consuming a Mars bar and a Coke, you’re in a bad place.

The typical pro shop rations are more or less the worst choice you could possibly make. Such a high glycemic load (lots of sugar) will leave you on a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the round. This isn’t good. It makes it very difficult for the body to function accurately and optimally, it’s going to cloud your mind, impair your performance and generally be negative for your health.

If you’ve rushed out of bed, had two cups of coffee and no breakfast on top of this, then I’m not even sure you should be making it through 18 holes never mind posting a good number!

So, what should you do? Well, as stated, everyone is individual, but a great guideline for gameday would be the following.

A filling breakfast of quality protein & fats with a smaller amount of quality carbohydrates – eggs, meat, fish, veggies, avocado, fruits (berries are best) and oats. My go-to would always be eggs, smoked salmon, avocado. A modified ‘cooked breakfast’ is also a good idea; bacon/sausage (not too much) with eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes other veggies and no beans, toast or worse gets you off to a great start.

Caffeine is also a good way to get cognitively fired up and combined with a quality breakfast it will be released more gradually, therefore assisting performance in many cases.

During the round, the requirements remain similar, but timing is critical. Over such a long period of time, the body is burning fat for energy, so a consistent supply of it makes sense! Nuts and seeds are the best options due to nutrient density and the satiety (feeling full) they create. They also contain enough protein for the body to continue to function and repair during the round. For optimal performance and speed, I would combine those nuts with some fruit, berries, apple, banana, etc. and spread it out over the course of the round. Swapping this out for a performance bar is cool, just check the label! So many of the bars out there are so jacked up with sugar they’re really no different to other sugary options!

Eating a reasonably small amount every three or four holes will ensure your body has the necessary fuel to perform at its best and also mean that it will focus on the task at hand as opposed to digesting a huge hit of food or calories!

And before you say it, you do not need sugar for energy. That’s a terrible scenario on the course and in everyday life. Ditch the chocolate, poor quality protein bars, sugary drinks, and Gatorade to see your performance improve!

Some people work better with more carbs, some better with more fats—but having an overall understanding of your needs during a round can make or break your performance!

After the round its all about recovery. A good meal predominantly of quality protein, matched with some quality carbs (eg. sweet potato) and plenty of vegetables and some fats will get you back to your best in no time!

Hydration is so important yet its very simple—you must be hydrated! If you allow yourself to get dehydrated, muscular performance will suffer, cognitive performance will suffer, and basically, you will feel terrible—not good for playing your best golf!

Water is the most important aspect and you should be drinking some basically every hole! A coffee at the turn or throughout the round can also help you be at your sharpest, but that depends how you react to caffeine and how you rehydrate following that coffee.

Whether you drink a ‘sports drink’ is up to you, again there are so many variations you have to do your research and test them out. But as with the food, the greater the variation in blood sugar and insulin response, the more difficult it will be to maintain optimal performance throughout the round.

There are many, many aspects to consider but if you are training in the gym, have a hectic lifestyle and playing golf you are likely to be burning a bunch of calories! This is where it gets really fun, matching your nutrition to your training is going to guarantee the best results and leave you as a ripped up golfing machine!

Look out for the GOLFWOD Nutritional challenge, and also our online nutritional coaching designed to make you a beast on and off the course!

This change can and will absolutely change your game and your health!

Don’t overlook your fuel in 2019!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: The Open Championship drama and Knudson’s golf trip

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The Open Championship is over and we talk some drama with Brooks and JB Holmes. Knudson talks about his golf trip and if his back held up. We finally talk about Xander Schauffele’s illegal driver.

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

The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 4: Chipping fundamentals

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Editor’s Note: Pictured above, Bud Cauley is the PGA Tour leader in strokes gained: around the green this season, picking up an average of .684 strokes on the field. 

In this fourth part of my series on short range performance, I am going to dive into what I consider the basics of chipping. Understand that I know some of you are already superb chippers of the ball, while others struggle with this part of the game. It is this latter group that I hope to help with my thoughts today.

One of the odd things about chipping is that you can see golfers with their own “home-made” technique that do just fine, possibly even much better than average. We all know some of those guys. This treatise, however, is to try to break down some of the basic fundamentals that will help you become better on those short shots around the greens.

When the ball is off the putting surface, and you face a basic chip, think of it as a mini-swing or a long putt. You are trying to execute a rather relaxed back-and-through with only a little movement in the wrists…but there will always be some if you are relaxed. The essence of the chipping stroke, however, is a rotation of the shoulders. With that as our foundation, here is my take on the basics

  1. Your basic chipping posture is somewhere between your putting set up and that for a half-wedge. Knees should be flexed, and your upper body should be bent over from the hips so that your free-hanging left arm puts your left hand clear of your thigh. Your front foot should be pulled back from the line a little so that your hips and shoulders are slightly open to square to the intended line. Notice where your naturally hanging left-hand position is in relation to your body—I’m a believer that in the shorter golf shots you want the left hand to “cover” its address position as it comes back through the impact zone.
  2. Set up with the ball at or just back of the center of your stance. Pay attention to this, as you will find that the open stance might visually throw you off here. Use your naturally hanging left hand as your guide. Gripping the club there, the shaft should have a slight backward angle so that your hands are just forward of the ball. The most common error I see in chipping setups is that golfers have a severe backward angle of the shaft, which de-lofts the club too much for good chipping. But having the ball too far forward will cause you to “flip” the clubhead at the ball, usually resulting in very thin contact, or chunking the club behind the ball.
  3. Use a very light grip on the club. This is a feel shot, and a tight grip destroys all sensation of touch, and ruins tempo. I like to feel like my left arm and hand are holding the club with control, and my right hand is taking it back and through with precision and touch. If you are right-handed, your eye-hand coordination is firmly established between your eyes and right fingers and thumb. Use this natural “touch” in your putting and chipping as much as you can.
  4. The back stroke is almost lazy. —A very simple backward rotation of the body core, allowing the right hand to “feel” the shot all the way. A slight break of the wrists can be allowed at the end of the backstroke, and you should feel the club stop and reverse direction—pause if you have to. But a hurried downstroke is the killer.
  5. On the through stroke, the body core and shoulders lead, with the left arm and hand guiding the path and the right hand determining the touch required to generate the proper force. Do not make an awkward attempt to “accelerate” but just emulate a pendulum stroke—back and through, keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead. Your goal is for the impact position to exactly duplicate your set up position.
  6. Finally, I’m a proponent of chipping with different clubs, while others believe you should always chip with your sand wedge or even lob wedge. My philosophy is that you should choose a club that will just loft the ball safely over the fringe, so that it lands on the green where bounce and roll-out are predictable. For consistency, figure out where the ball needs to land on the green, and then how much roll to allow for after that, to get it all the way to the hole. If you want to carry it only 10-20 percent of the way, a 6- 8-iron is usually good. At the other end, if you want to carry it more than half-way to the hole, you might opt for a pitching or gap wedge or even more loft. Of course, green speed and firmness have to be taken into account. It only takes a little experimenting learn this basic piece of the puzzle.

To give yourself the best chance at giving the shot the right touch and speed control, pick out the exact spot you want the ball to land…and then forget the hole! Focus intently on this landing spot. Your natural eye-hand coordination will always register on where you are looking, and if you are looking at the hole, you will usually fly the ball too far and hit your chips long more often than not.

So, that is my guide to a good chipping technique. I hope many of you can put at least one or two of these fundamentals to work right away.
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