So You Want to Play Division I Men’s Golf

Just about every client I get (junior golfer and his parents) wants the same thing — to play Division I golf. While I never discourage anyone from pursuing his dream, as I encourage clients to contact any coaches they want to play for, it is my job to recommend the best fits from a golf, academic and social standpoint. So I often have to unenviable task of explaining to junior golfers and their parents why Johnnie is not Division I material and why no Division I coach has not replied to his emails or phone calls.

In college golf recruiting, recruits and their families have a hard time understanding how few opportunities actually exist to play Division I golf. In fact there are only 298 men’s Division I schools that offer college golf. Most of these schools will take an average of two players per year. This means that among all junior golfers — in the world — there are only 596 Division I roster spots. According to the European Golf Association, 47,178 junior golfers play in Germany; 47,333 juniors play in Sweden; and 8,478 junior players in Denmark. Add almost 150,000 junior male golfers in America, and those 596 spots are significantly more competitive then people realize. And I only referred to four countries here. I did mention the likes of Australia, Canada, South Africa, France, and Thailand.

But the point is golf has grown over the last 20 years Internationally. Today, not only are there more juniors playing golf but juniors who are receiving exceptional coaching. The result is that college golf in the United States, just like professional golf, has become extremely competitive and worldly.

While recruiting is not an exact science, because sometimes factors outside of Junior Golf Scoreboard (JGS) ranking or World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) come into play — such as academics, recruiting in-state or legacy (having a family member attend a college or university in the past) — coaches at most Division I schools do look for certain golf rankings when recruiting.

So with the Early Signing period having just ended, I examined the list of men’s recruits and noticed the following facts, which should help any junior golfer and his family hoping to play Division I golf:

Top 25

The first recruits I studied were those from GolfstatsTop 25 from the end of the Fall Season. Here are some things I noticed:

•    The average JGS Class ranking was 89.45

•    The lowest JGS Class ranking was 5 (No. 20 Oregon recruit/from California)

•    The highest JGS Class ranking was 406 (No. 23 UNLV/California), a five-time winner on the Junior Golf Association of Northern California and its Player of Year, a junior tour that produced three previous successful UNLV recruits.)

•     It should be noted that I did not include a Georgia recruit ranked 1254 in his Class (77.5 Scoring Average), because he fell into one of those outside factors I mentioned above — legacy, as he is the grandson of Billy Payne, who starred at Georgia in football and just so happens to be the former United States Olympic Chairman for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta as well as the current Chairman of Augusta National. So because this recruit would obviously not be on Georgia’s roster if not for his grandfather, I did not include him when averaging the JGS Class rankings because his high ranking would skew the results.But he is important to note that more than just ranking and scoring average go into recruiting. Another recruit from No. 3 Virginia, from Pennsylvania, took a “Gap Year”, meaning he took a year off after he graduated in 2016, moved to Florida to train, and oh by the way, his brother previously played on the team as well.

•    No. 1 Vanderbilt signed 113 (Wisconsin) and 110 (Tennessee). But with a school such as Vandy, you have to realize its academic standards of admission are much higher than most other Division I schools, so its pool of recruits is less, as it must focus on top golfers and students.

•    The average WAGR was 533 (but if you take out the 2356 ranking of a San Diego St (SDSU) recruit from Thailand, who is also 596 in the AJGA, the average WAGR is 349.57.)

•    The lowest WAGR was 87 (Texas/Norway).

•    The highest WAGR, besides the Thai recruit at SDSU, was 665 (Oregon/Ireland).

•    The Top 2 players in the European Golf Rankings (EGR) were recruited by Florida (Denmark) and Texas Tech (Sweden)

•    One signee (Oklahoma/Australia) is in his second season at Indian Hills CC, where as a freshman he averaged 70.45, won 5/7 events and was NJCAA D1 Player of the Year.

•    Of the 67 players signed, 33 were In-State; 8 were Regional, meaning from nearby states.

•    11 International players were signed, from 9 different countries — Denmark (2), Philippines, Australia, Norway, Sweden (2), France, Thailand, Ireland, South Africa

•    Only 17/67 signees from the United States were Out-of-State/not Regional, meaning they were not geographically near the school that signed them.

•    California had the most signees (12; 6 were Out-of-State), followed by Florida (6; 3 Out-of-State) and Texas (5, In-State).

Top 26-100

Another good resource during the recruiting process is Golfweek’s  College Rankings. Here is a summary of the Early Signings for the next 75 best Division I men’s golf teams:

•    The average JGS Class ranking was 191.36 (but if you take away the highest JGS ranking, 1072, a University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) recruit from Alabama, a multi-sport athlete with a 77 scoring average — so there was obviously an in-state connection because their other recruits’ JGS rankings were 195 and 295 — the average JGS Class ranking was 182.97.

•    The lowest JGS Class ranking was 1 (No. 75 South Florida/Florida). In fact South Florida also had 3 (Chile) while No. 45 Alabama had 2 (Tennessee) and 4 (Mississippi). 

•    Besides UAB’s 1072 recruit, the second-highest recruit was No. 90 Indiana, 702 (California). 

•    The average WAGR was 858.09, with the range from 7 (No. 75 South Florida/Chile) to 2071 (No. 60 Colorado St/Canada).

•    Four players in the Top 564 in the EGR were signed — 154 (No. 50 Iowa St/England); 295 (No. 60 Colorado St/England); 481 (No. 99 Rice/England); 564 (No. 38 Northwestern/England).

•    Of the 139 players signed, 26 were International — Costa Rica; Chile; New Zealand (2); Australia (5, one was a transfer from New Mexico Junior College/NAIA Southeastern University); Scotland (2); Malaysia; France; Germany; England (4); Spain; Thailand (2); Canada (5).   

•    Of the 113 United States players signed, 67 were In-State; 23 were Regional (additionally, 5 of the Canadian signings were either Regional, meaning like Eastern Michigan was near the Canadian province its recruit was from, or because of Climate, such as Iowa, a cold-weather state during Spring, recruiting a Canadian because he is used to playing in adverse conditions.)

•    Only 22/112 signees from the United States were Out-of-State/not Regional, meaning they were not geographically near the school that signed them.

 Top 101-150

Here is a summary of these Early Signings:

•    The average JGS Class ranking was 341.77.

•    The lowest JGS Class ranking was 21 (No. 117 Kansas/Pennsylvania).

•    The highest JGS Class ranking was 1176 (No. 133 Wisconsin/Wisconsin).

•    2 Junior College transfers were signed.

•    Of the 70 players signed, 7 were International — Sweden (2, one was 923 in EGR); Canada (2); Japan; Czechoslovakia (641 EGR); Scotland (1253 EGR).

•    Of the 63 United States recruits, 34 were In-State; 18 were Regional (2 Canadian signings were Regional as well.)

Top 151-200

Here is a summary of these Early Signings:

•    The average JGS Class ranking was 482.98.

•    The lowest JGS Class ranking was 41 (No. 198 Oral Roberts/Oklahoma).

•    The highest JGS Class ranking was 1087 (No. 170 South Dakota/Iowa); No. 193 Army did sign a recruit ranked 1585 (North Carolina), but I didn’t include because only certain student-athletes can get into any of the United States Military Academies, so I feel they are in a separate class.

•    2 Junior College transfers were signed.

•    Of the 63 players signed, 9 were International — Canada (3); France; Philippines; England (2, 245 — No. 166 Virginia Commonwealth — & 1556 in EGR — No. 189 Weber St.); Dominican Republic; Japan.

•    Of the 54 United States recruits, 27 were In-State; 16 were Regional (3 Canadian signings were Regional or Climate related.)

Top 201-250

Here is a summary of these Early Signings:

•    The average JGS Class ranking was 516.70 (and that is with three recruits ranked more than 1000 in their Class1018 (No. 209 Francis Marion/South Carolina); 1160 (Murray St/Kentucky); & 1547 (Temple/Maryland).

•    There were 6 recruits ranked 132-197 in their Class; 4 ranked 249-277.

•    The lowest JGS Class ranking was 132 (No. 203 Rutgers/Maryland).

•    Of the 47 players signed, 4 were International — Canada (2); Thailand; Spain.

•    Of the 43 United States recruits, 19 were In-State; 14 were Regional (2 Canadian signings were Climate related.)

Top 251-298

This is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Division I men’s golf. Many of these schools are in cold-weather states and, more importantly, as I will get into more in my next Blog, where I will summarize the Division II, III and NAIA signings, just because a school is Division I does not mean it is good at golf, because there is a reason these last 47 Division I schools are ranked where they are: The school/coach/community/donors do not support the program. Many Division II, III and NAIA golf programs are better than Division I schools for a variety of reasons. For example only 19 of the final 47 Division I men’s golf schools even had Early Signings to report.

With that said, here is a summary of these Early Signings:

•    The average JGS Class ranking was 573.37 (which is still respectable, considering that three recruits were ranked 1000 or more in their Class1000 (No. 281 Monmouth/New Jersey); 1020 (No. 260 Youngstown St/Ohio) & 1414 (No. 251 Green Bay/Wisconsin).

•    The lowest JGS Class ranking was 206 (No. 256 Xavier/Kentucky). Xavier also recruited the son of PGA Tour golfer Steve Flesch (Kentucky), who had no JGS ranking.

•    0 International signings.

•    Of the 30 recruits, 18 were In-State; 7 were Regional.


•    Average JGS Class ranking of all Division I Early Signings: 364.54

•    Percentage of International Early Signings: (13%)

•    Percentage of In-State Early Signings (52%)

•    Percentage of Regional Early Signings (26%)

•    Percentage of In-State or Regional Early Signings (77%)

•    Percentage of In-State Early Signings by California schools (76%)

•    If you wanted to play in California — and didn’t live in the state — you needed to be from Washington, British Columbia, Hawaii, Thailand, Sweden or Florida.

•    Percentage of In-State Early Signings by Texas schools (75%)

•    If you wanted to play in Texas — and didn’t live in the state — you needed to be from Florida, California, Denmark, Sweden or Norway.

•    Percentage of In-State Early Signings by Florida schools (67%)


•    As I proved above, the highest average JGS Class ranking for any section of the Top 298 Division I men’s golf teams was 573, so a good benchmark to be seriously considered as a Division I recruit is Top 600 in your Class.

•    If you have an JGS ranking, go to Compare your own ranking with the rankings of those who have signed. Which schools did the 10 recruits above and below your current ranking sign?

•    As I illustrated above, if you have a famous father, grandfather or brother who played Division I golf, do not be afraid to use this to your advantage during the recruiting process.

•    The fact that 77 percent of the Early Signings were either In-State or Regional means you need to not only be searching for schools that are looking for players with your JGS, WAGR or EGR ranking, but for those recruits in the United States and Canada, you need to start looking at schools in or near your state or province as well as that have similar climates.

•    If you want to play in the three most popular college golf states and the states that typically produce the most college golf prospects — California, Texas and Florida — then you better be one the best players in either the United States, or world, because if not, coaches in those states will stick with their own golfers. Or those in their region. 

I hope you found this information informative. In my next Blog entry, I will examine the Division II men's golf Early Signings, compare Division II men's golf to Division I as well as explain why it is more important to focus on how important the golf program is to a college or university — as opposed to strictly Division level.

In the mean time, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Kind Regards,

Brendan Ryan, CEO

Golf Placement Services