Survey: What is it like to play in the NAIA? It's a lot like D1
03 May 2019
by Brendan Ryan of Golf Placement Services

- John Schultz/QC Times photo
- John Schultz/QC Times photo

This is Part 2 in a series about golf in the NAIA. For Part 1, see NAIA: The highest level of golf that you don't know about.

To provide insight into NAIA men’s golf for prospective student athletes, their families and golf professionals, I collected data from 9 of the top 10 teams. The data was collected via a survey. Here are the questions and what we found:

Q: On average, how many times do you fly to a tournament each year?

The average answer was 2, with every team flying at least once and one team reporting flying six times. To put this into perspective, the average major conference school, like Oklahoma State, reports flying 4 times per year and the average NCAA D1 school reports flying 3 times.

Q: What amount of scholarship is the average person in your top 5 getting?

The average answer was 50% with 2 schools reporting close to 70%, 2 schools reporting closer to 35% and the other four at 50%. 50% would be very in line with what has been historically reported by NCAA D1 schools, while 70% would be a very nice offer for anyone!

Q: What scoring average are you looking for when recruiting?

The average answer was 73. While some people reading this may scoff, please consider that 2 of these teams are averaging 286 (-2) or 71.5 per player, while the rest are averaging about 290 (72.5 average per player). This means that a 73 player must get at least 1 shot better on what are likely harder courses.

Q: What score does the sixth man on your team average?

The average answer was 75. For most of these teams, based on their schedule which for most includes play at Innisbrook, the Farm, TPC San Antonio, this would mean being about a scratch golfer in tournament play. Your reward at this level? Sitting on the bench.

Q: What score do your best players average?

The average was 72. Again, based on the nature of the schedule, my data suggests that these players are approximately +2.5 handicaps in tournament golf.

Q: What do you want recruits to know about NAIA golf?

Here are a couple of the comments:

• “NAIA golf can provide a good player with a D1-comparable scholarship, elite facilities, tour quality tournament venues, and a realistic chance at honors like the Palmer Cup and Nicklaus Award.”

• “The golf ball does not care what division you play in.”

• “NAIA golf is highly competitive, and teams play a great schedule that travels across the country at amazing golf courses, including many PGA Tour stops. If you are looking for a great education as well as an amazing student-athlete experience, you should look into NAIA schools.”

My own experience with the NAIA includes a brief stint as a coach, as well as working closely with NAIA coaches over the past 7 years. In that time, I have sent about a hundred student athletes to the league, attended a couple national championships and dozens of events like this past month at the Farm. My impression? There are at least 30 programs with sophisticated programs that have engaged coaches, great facilities, top travel and excellent competition. For over 90% of the people reading this article, you would be very lucky to end up at one of these places.


Brendan Ryan
Brendan Ryan, a former college golfer and coach, is the owner of Golf Placement Services (started in 2009), a boutique business that provides specialized golf services in the areas of college placement and junior golf development.

Ryan, a natural connector, has built an extensive international network of world renowned coaches, teachers and industry professionals. He uses this network on a daily basis to help students navigate the college search process and find schools that meet their individual academic, athletic, financial and social needs.

To find out more, visit Golf Placement Services at www.golfplacementservices.com

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