Recently, I was at a college, speaking to a coach and asked him a question: How much do you follow high school golf compared to major junior golf tours? The coach didn’t hesitate and responded by saying that he really didn’t consider high school golf almost at all while he considered two-day tournaments on major junior tours important.
Not surprising. But is this a good assumption?
To start, I did a survey via Facebook in which I invited college coaches to respond to three questions about high school golf. They were
- Is high school golf an important part of development for junior golfers?
- Do you seriously consider high school golf as part of the recruitment process?
- Will you attend at least one of your high school state tournaments this year?
- Would you encourage a player, who is not recruited, to participate in high school golf?
In 24 hours, 86 coaches responded to the survey. Here are the results
- 60 percent of coaches thought that high school golf was an important part of development
- Only 37 percent of coaches considered high school golf as part of the recruitment process
- 70 percent of coaches will attend at least one high school state tournament this year
- 87 percent of coaches encourage a player, who is not recruited, to participate in high school golf
Next, with the help of National High School Golf Association (NHSGA), I wated to check out the numbers; what is the REAL quality of high school golf?
After an extensive search and examination of the data between 2016-2018 found:
- Based on 487 results, 71.2 is the average score for a boy’s high school state champion
- Based on 342 results, 74.7 is the average score for a girl’s high school golf champion
- The lowest scoring differential for a boy’s high school event was Logan Mccalister from Oklahoma with -19.5 in 2015/16 when we shot 62,66,66
- The lowest girl’s scoring differential for a girl’s high school event was Sophia Yoeman from Minnesota with -13.21 (63,66)
- The lowest single round by a boy was Frankie Capan in 2017/18 – 59 at the par 70, Tucson National from 6,382 yards
- The lowest single round by a girl was Sophie Yoeman with 63 at Sand Creek in Jordan, MN a par 72 measuring 5,463 yards
When reviewing this information, keep in mind that while the average winning score in AJGA Open events is close to 69 for boys and girls, the average winning scores in AJGA previews for boys was 72.81 from 6,484 and 75.6 from 5,610. Based on this data, it means that the high school state tournament is comparable to somewhere between an AJGA Open and a Preview, with scores better than a Preview but not quite as good as an Open.
For the first time ever this summer, there will be a National High School Invitational. The event, hosted by the National High School Golf Association, will be held June 26-28th at The Disney Golf Resort and Falcon’s Fire Golf Club in Orlando featuring 124 girls and 224 boys.
To receive an invitation to the event, a player or team must win their state championship golf tournament. 2019 will mark the inaugural NHSGA Invitational Tournament.
“It’s exciting to bring together the best high school golfers from across the country for a single tournament. All players in the tournament will represent their state, not their division or their school. Public or private. Large or small. This event will bring together a diverse, talented group of champion caliber golfers and give high school golfers a chance to showcase their talents on a national stage. It’s about time high school golf gets some love!” said Chris Noble from the NHSGA.
Without a doubt, high school golf lacks the sexiness of other organizations. In my experience the rounds are very long, there are no snacks and often the courses are, well not the best. These are three things that certainly make high school golf challenging, however it has one good thing going: it is completely inclusive. High school golf is not perfect, but in my opinion and based on the numbers, I think that junior golfers and college coaches should consider the numbers and ask themselves, is high school golf more important than I previously thought?
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
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PGA Tour and LPGA Tour falling in line with this announcement by January 1, 2022. Only ten short weeks left for the long drivers.
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