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College golf: What you really need to shoot to play in tournaments

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No doubt the greatest part of the collegiate golf experience is traveling, which provides amazing bonding, as well as access to some of the greatest courses in the country!

However, getting on the bus at most schools requires some good scores! How good? I collected data from 25/50 Men’s Division I programs on the subject and found that on average these teams report playing qualifying from an average distance of 7,072 with a course rating of 74. They report that on average they play four rounds of qualifying, and the winner of the qualifying averages 67.2, while the fifth player usually has an average of 71.3. This means that for a four-round qualifier, the last person to qualify must shoot 4 under, while the winner shoots about 20 under. Pretty darn good!

According to Tennessee Head Coach Brennan Webb, whose team started the season with two victories, “If you are going to be a successful golfer at any level. you have to be good at qualifying. That includes every level of professional golf. It is what makes golf the purest sport there is. There is no draft to the PGA Tour. Learning that skill in college will be very valuable to you as your career progresses. Every successful program I have been a part of utilizes qualifying as a major part of the growth process of their players.”

Players at other levels also face very strong competition in qualifying. For example, at Emory University, the No.1-ranked team by Golfstat at the end of the fall, the team usually qualifies at either Smoke Rise of East Lake CC. Both courses have slopes of at least 135 and play between 6,800-7,100 yards. In six rounds of qualifying in the fall, the best player averaged 72.15, while the fifth player averaged 73.5.

The story is not much different at the NAIA level. According to Coach Sikorski at Ottawa University in Arizona, for the first event of the year they played five qualifying rounds with the top three performers shooting 8 under or better. The fifth man for the five rounds was 2 under, and the team currently boasts 12 players with a stroke average of 75.22 or better.

According to Andrew Danna, now at LSU but who last year coached the NCAA Division 2 Champion Lynn Fighting Knights, “we had a tremendous group of talented athletes at Lynn, including seven players in the top 750 in the WAGR. The players were very driven, and the results showed daily with qualifying often below par.”

These numbers demonstrate clearly how good college golfers are day to day on their home golf courses. At the highest level, the best college players are approximately +6 handicaps on their home courses, while players who are on the cusp of traveling have handicaps of between +1 to +3. At other levels, including DII, DIII and NAIA, the competition really is not that much easier with many coaches reporting players routinely winning qualifying with between -6 to -15.

When considering these scores, it is important to remember that scores are likely to be the lowest in the fall for two reasons; it has the best weather and many players are coming off three months of summer golf where they don’t have the demands of schools. Together, these make players the most prepared and it is the reason why we often see very low scores in September.

For junior golfers in the recruiting process, understanding the qualifying process is extremely important. This includes not only what type of scoring maybe required but also the way coaches prefer to qualify which can range greatly. For example, some coaches might simply allow the lowest five scores from a certain number of rounds to travel, while others might use the point system which solely relies on their discretion has one simply rule: if they point to you, you are going to the tournament.

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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

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bob Bigonette

    Feb 20, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Your research is in accurate and misleading and painting a really bad image for aspiring young golfers. Simply pu,t your sample size is way to small . Do the work next time.

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