Analysis: Do Junior Golf Rankings Predict College Signings?
16 Jul 2018
by Brendan Ryan of Golf Placement Services

If you Google “college golf” you will be presented with some 649,000,000 matches. Start reading and quickly you will find tons of opinions on college golf from many different “experts”, many of which contradict each other. It is no wonder that so many junior golfers and their families feel lost and exhausted by the process of trying to find a college golf scholarship.

Confronted by these realities, I decided to act and apply my research skills which I honed through earning several master’s degrees and publishing 20+ academic papers to create content for parents based on population data collected by surveys, as well as analysis of public data. The result has been about 50 popular articles over the past couple years with millions of reads.

In this article, I will introduce you to the key finds of data, which I hope will help you in your own search.
My first step was to examine the relationship between junior rankings and college signees. In all, I have looked at about 5,000 players and found strong relationships between a player rank in their graduation class and their opportunity to play college golf. For example, the average player who signs to play at a major conference school is ranked 89 in their class.

The average Division One boy is ranked 365 in their class with a scoring differential of about .5, where the average Division One girl is ranked 211 with a scoring differential of 5.25. The average men’s Division Two signee is ranked 585 and the average Division Three men’s is ranked 822.

On the women’s side, the data suggests that players with scoring differentials of 6 or better can play anywhere from mid-major Division One Golf to Division Two, depending on their preference. The data also demonstrates that coaches have a strong preference for players from “in-state” with nearly 60% of signees from both boys and girls coming from in state programs, with the numbers being closer to 75% for mid-major or Division Two programs and Division Three programs.

So, what do these numbers really mean? To be the rank 585 male in your graduation class, you have a scoring average of about 75.5, with 90%+ of your rounds under 80 and scoring differential of 2.0 or better. To be the 822-ranked male, you have a scoring average of about 76.5 with a scoring differential of about 3.5 or better. Both players often finish in the top 40% of tournament fields and have a couple rounds under par.

Maybe the most important thing about the data is the overwhelming confirmation that college golf recruiting obeys strict rules and almost no one “beats the system”. In fact, of the 5000 players that we examined less than 3 individuals were significant outliers. Of those 3 players, 2 have transferred and the other one has yet to participate in any events for the team.

I have also surveyed coaches on several critical issues, including scholarships in men’s golf. The data suggests that 69% of the 80+ coaches survey had zero players on full ride versus 18% of 80 coaches which reported one player on full ride. When asked to describe the type of player who deserved a full scholarship, the aggregate of the data suggests you have a negative scoring differential and be ranked in the top 100 in your class in AJGA or Junior Golf Scoreboard or within the top approximately 500 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

The beautiful thing about college golf is there are fantastic opportunities for players of all skills and engagement. I hope you will use these numbers to help direct your search. For example, if you are a 2019 who is ranked 1000 in their class, you should look at Division Two teams ranked 100-150 and Division Three Teams ranked 40-75. Likewise, if you are a 2019 ranked 3000 in your class, maybe start with Division Two Teams Ranked 150-200 and Division Three Teams ranked 125-175.

I hope this article has been a helpful introduction and that it has helped you better understand the college recruiting process and where you might fit. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via my website: golfplacementservices.com.

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