Before we get started a note of CAUTION! Here at The Junior Golf Hub we appreciate the perceived importance of rankings, but we don’t believe rankings are either infallible or all important. Occasionally, we see players so intent on ‘optimizing’ their ranking that they neglect vital development opportunities – like playing in competitive tournaments – because the ‘strength of field’ is not up to par. In our humble Hub opinion, this is penny wise and pound foolish. Prioritize your long-term development and the thrill of competition first. By all means you can pay attention to your ranking, but don’t make it your master. Rankings are a lag factor of being prepared to play your best and results showing up. Each challenge prepares you for the next challenge and if this leads to better rankings, great. If not keep increasing the challenges!
Onward. Let’s start with some basics:
- Play in as many 36-54 golf tournaments that you can prepare for (we at The Hub recommend no more than 18 good events a year)
- Start local then work to bigger events as you are ready for them. Again, challenge yourself.
- Rankings are an important part of the recruiting process, but not all important.
- The ‘big daddy’s’ of junior golf rankings are Junior Golf Scoreboard (JGS) and AJGA Rolex.
- Make sure to play in at least four, 36 hole ranked events to get a JGS ranking.
- AJGA Rolex Ranking is for AJGA events and a smattering of top amateur events (US Junior).
- Other ranking systems include World Amateur Golf Rankings and GolfWeek (less commonly used).
How much do you know about Junior Golf rankings? What are the major ranking systems out there? How do they work and calculate rank? What do I have to do to get ranked? How do I improve my ranking? What rankings do college coaches focus on? How much weight do they put on rankings?
All good questions. And fear not! This article outlines the junior golf ranking landscape and provides answers to these important questions.
The ‘Big Daddy’s’ of junior golf rankings are (1) Junior Golf Scoreboard and (2) the AJGA Rolex Ranking. There are other ranking systems (Golfweek, World Amateur Golf Ranking) and we will touch on these as well. Let’s explore Junior Golf Scoreboard first.
Junior Golf Scoreboard
The Junior Golf Scoreboard (JGS) ranking is without a doubt one of the most important rankings that college coaches look at. The reason? In one word: breadth. JGS typically receives results for over 2,100 tournaments worldwide and then ranks north of 10,000 players at any one time including national, state and class rankings. Unlike the AJGA, the JGS system counts results irrespective of the tour you played on so your JGS ranking can include results from the AJGA, Hurricane Tour, your PGA Section and so forth.
The JGS ranking is based on a formula that reviews a player’s record in 36-hole or longer tournaments over the last 365 days. A player must have four events within the year to be ranked.
How is the ranking itself calculated?
1. Scoring Differential (65%):
- Scoring differential is simply your score on a given day minus the course rating. For example, if you shot 75 and course rating is 73.0 then the scoring differential for that round is +2.0. If you shoot 71 the scoring differential is -2.0. Junior Golf Scoreboard takes the top 75% of your scoring differentials and then averages this out to determine your scoring differential for calculating your ranking. Discarding the bottom 25% of your scoring differential is nice as it takes the pressure off a few bad rounds. This factor then contributes to 65% of the overall ranking. The important thing to note here is that the most important factor in the ranking is your score relative to the difficulty of the course. Makes sense!
2. Strength of Field (25%):
- Strength of Field measures how competitive the field was in each tournament you played in. How is this calculated? Beats us! This is a black box and proprietary to Junior Golf Scoreboard but we can only presume that they consider the rankings of the players in the field. Higher ranked players = Stronger field, Lower ranked players = Weaker field. This means that finding strong events to compete in can give your rankings an extra boost. This criterion counts for 25% of the ranking.
3. Strength of Finish (10%):
- Average finish of the competitor with consideration given to the size of the field. This criterion counts for 10% of the ranking.
There are of course a bunch of other subtleties and complexities in the ranking (what if the tournament waived a Rule of Golf prohibited by USGA Rule 33-1) and if you are interested in checking them out check out this link: https://www.juniorgolfscoreboard.com/rankings.asp
So, that’s the basics. What have you learned? Here’s the Hub’s quick punch list of tips for getting ranked by JGS and improving your ranking:
1. Play in JGS Ranked Events:
- The fact is that if you want to get ranked, you have to play in JGS Ranked Events. If you want to double check, send a note to JGS or double check the tournament on www.bluegolf.com and note if it has a JGS ranking attached to it
2. Play in a minimum of 4+ ranked events:
- Another simple one. Under 4 events = no ranking. Over 4 events = ranking
3. Play well … against the course:
- Remember that 65% of your ranking is your score versus the course rating meaning the most important determinant of your ranking is how well you play on any given course. If you have the luxury of selecting events at courses you know and are intimately familiar with, take advantage of it!
4. Seek out events with top fields:
- Admittedly, it’s arguable whether 25% of your ranking should be determined by who you compete against. Whether you like it or not though it’s a fact of JGS life! When you are ready for it, actively seek out the better fields, tournaments, and events. An AJGA Invitational that pulls from a national field of ranked players will count more than your local PGA section event. Actively work to play in better events at the more prestigious tours to optimize for this variable. As we noted above we do not, however, recommend neglecting events based on strength of field. In our mind that just doesn’t make sense. Focus on competing and your long-term development and avoid the tendency to get too cute with your schedule
Do college coaches really check JGS rankings? In one word: Yes! Although of course it does depend on the program and competitiveness of the program. If you are shooting for a top D-I program the coach will almost definitely be interested in your ranking. Other programs may be less interested depending on the Division and level of competitiveness.
We hope this primer on JGS was helpful! Admittedly we could write a short treatise on rankings and we’ll continue to add additional sections to this over time. Now onward to the next biggie in the rankings world: the AJGA Rolex ranking.
AJGA Rolex Rankings
The AJGA Rolex Ranking differs from JGS in a few important ways. First, the ranking limits itself to only AJGA tournaments and a smattering of elite junior events (US Junior Amateur, IMG Junior Worlds, Junior PGA and others). Second, the AJGA uses (a) strength of field and (b) finish within the field as the core determinants of the ranking meaning the Scoring Differential concept of JGS is thrown out. Like JGS the ranking spans a rolling 52-week cycle.
Here are a few more details of how the AJGA Rolex calculation works:
- Players are awarded points on a per-event basis. A player’s total points are then divided by the number of events played to derive a points average. Players are ranked according to this points average. A minimum denominator of six is set, so a player who competes in fewer than six events during a 52-week period may still be ranked, but will not receive full credit for their performance.
- Players are rewarded for playing tournaments with stronger fields. Each tournament’s point values are based on the strength of field for that event. Strength of field is measured by calculating the combined top-10 finishes (top-5 finishes for girls) of a given field over the past 52 weeks in events ranked by the AJGA. Certain Invitational events are locked in at the highest point level. Champions of those events are awarded 200 points. Champions of other events receive between 20 and 100 points.
Got all that? Admittedly sometimes you need a M.S. in Rankings to properly sift through the methodologies. For the intrepid among us, check out https://rankings.ajga.org/inside-rankings for detailed nitty gritty. Here at The Hub we are very action focused, so let’s get right down to a few quick tips on helping your ranking.
1. Play in six events:
The AJGA Rolex Rankings automatically divide the points you’ve gained from events by six even if you’ve only competed in three events. So, to maximize your AJGA Polo Rank it would be wise to play a minimum of six of their ranked events (if you can!).
2. Be aware of the hierarchy of events:
It is useful to understand that certain events are locked in at high point values and in general there is a hierarchy of events in the AJGA schedule. Here’s a quick rundown of both:
1. Events that are locked in at high point values:
- About 16 events are locked in at the highest point value (200). These are the cream of the crop. Check out the link above to see what they are. Many of these are invitationals or very competitive junior events (US Junior). You’ve been warned!
- There are another ~27 events that are locked in at higher than normal minimum point value. Check these out as well and shoot to play in a few if you can.
2. Recognize the general hierarchy system of events:
- In general, Invitationals (events with stronger fields by definition) will be awarded the most points, followed by Open events, then Senior events, then ACDS Junior All Star events, then Junior Golf Hub Preview Series events.
Onward. In case you were hungry for more, there are two more rankings to take into consideration. These admittedly get less exposure and airtime but some college coaches may check in on them from time to time.
World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR)
With WAGR we move out of the realm of competitive junior golf and into the expanded realm of all amateur golf worldwide. Quite a difference! The WAGR database currently processes information from over 4,000 counting events to accurately rank over 10,000 players from more than 100 countries. Players are ranked on the basis of their average performance in those events over a rolling cycle of the previous 104 weeks. Events are graded based on strength of the field with the number of points awarded being proportionate to the event strength.
WAGR publishes a list of past and upcoming events to be included in their rankings. Do some research and try to sign up for these events if you can!
According to Golfweek, their ranking system is “based on a mathematical formula that uses a player’s won-lost-tied record against other players when they play on the same course on the same day, and the stroke differential between those players, then links all players to one another based on common opponents.” Got that? Nope, neither do we. Don’t fret though. The Golfweek ranking generally has lesser mindshare among coaches although certainly some coaches do check it from time to time.
We hope this was a useful primer on Junior Golf Rankings. It is certainly helpful to understand the basics of the rankings. Here’s a final list of things to remember from your friends at The Hub:
1. Don’t tie yourself in knots.
- At the heart of it, rankings are simple. To get ranked, play in ranked events. To improve your ranking, play well in ranked events and become eligible for even higher ranked events (and make sure you have the game to back it up)!
2. Remember our recommended progression.
- Play in Local events. Start playing well in Local events. Play in Regional events. Play in National events. Crawl. Walk. Run.
3. Rankings aren’t everything.
- There have been many junior players that were never ranked, that went on to have fabulous college careers and beyond!
- They are certainly useful in some contexts, but should not be treated as a “not a be all and end all”. Prioritize your golf game, your ability to compete, and your long-term development before playing it too cute with your ranking.
4. Test yourself.
- Don’t shy away from strong fields or highly ranked events (or a 7th AJGA event) in fear of playing badly. Coaches want to see you play as much as you can and in events that challenge you.
Enjoy your Journey!