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97 top junior golfers weigh in on what practice, tournament play, and more are really like

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With the generous support of the American Junior Golf Association and players from the 2018 Evian Senior Showcase in Las Vegas, Nevada, we were able to collect data on the development pathways of 97 junior golfers.

The survey, which had 7 questions, meant to provide some basic insights into what the average junior golfer is doing in terms of practice, tournament play and coaching. Here are the questions and results.

At what age did you become serious about golf? The average answer to the question was 12 years old with only 7% stating that they started seriously before age 7 versus 39% which started at 14 or later. The youngest age reported was 2 years old and the oldest was 16 (reported by 6 people).

Do you play high school golf? 81.44% of respondents indicated that they do play high school golf. The data suggests while some think negatively about high school golf, it plays a significant role in the golfers and most junior golfers DO participant.

How many events do you plan to play this year? 95 players responded to the question with an average of 18 events. When looking closer at the data the distribution is normal with approximately 68% of the students reporting to play between 15 to 20 tournaments.

How would you rate the quality of your home golf course on a scale of 1-100? 96 players responded to the question and the average score was 67. Approximately 30% of respondents gave their home facility a score of 80% or better (with 5 reporting 100%), while 7% reported their home facility deserved a score of 20% or lower.

How would you rate the quality of the players at your club on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 would be PGA Tour Players? The average score was 45. 37.5% of junior golfers gave their home club a score of 20 or less here with 3% reporting having PGA tour professionals.

How would you describe access to your course using a scale of 1-10, where 1 is very limited access and 10 is unlimited access? 96 junior golfers responded with an average score of 6.3. When looking closer at the results, they are very polarized with 36% reporting a score of 1 or less (incredible bad access) while nearly 50% report a score of 8.5 or better (meaning virtually unlimited access).

How many times per year do you see your coach? 96 players responded with an average answer of 36 times. 2 players reported not having a coach, while 15% reported seeing their coach either less than 10 times per year or more than 70 times per year, while 6% reported seeing a coach 100+ times per year.

What percent of your time is spent on the golf course versus the range? 96 junior golfers responded to this question with the average being about 50-50. When looking closer at the data, 85% of respondents do about 50-50 with a standard deviation of about 15%.

So, what? This information provides excellent insight into the average American junior golfer, who according to the data started playing about 12 years old, plays high school golf and another 18 events per year. They are a member at good course, with decent access but not too many people to play with and see their coach a couple times a month. When they are at the course, they like to split their time between playing and practicing.

During the holidays, I did a more in-depth survey with elite golfers; players with international records, many of whom have represented their country and are currently playing college golf. In the coming weeks, I will compare this data to the data collected about these players to highlight key differences, which will hopefully help junior golfers better understand their pathways to elite 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

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. IMO

    Jan 27, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    High School depending what type of program your dealt, can be bad for a truly talented player…

    • ChiliDip

      Jan 27, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      Great observation, my son lasted all of 2 days in his high school program. For one they didn’t have a golf class so they would head to a course 30+ mins. away after school at 4:30. Only practiced 4 days a week at most, the coach would not have a schedule for practice so it was a free for all once they arrived at the course. And, the coach wouldn’t let you go for private instruction during the week. Horrible!!! My son is a senior now and has been recruited to play in a small private university. He played regional, state wide, and AJGA events that by far helped prepare him for the next level…

  2. Steve

    Jan 27, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Here’s a good question. How much money do you think your parents shell out annually for your membership/tournament fees/coaching?

  3. Acemandrake

    Jan 26, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Good intro/background info. Could be expanded. Maybe describe a typical day (non-tournament & tournament)?

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Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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