Be ready to use every club in your bag
Unlike most team sports, college golf is both an individual and a team sport. However, unlike larger team sports such as football or basketball, the recruiting process in college golf is quite different and quite competitive. So before you tee off your recruiting process, make sure you know your way around the college golf recruiting course.
Know The Numbers
While golfers always aim for low numbers, some other numbers come into play during recruiting. The first of those numbers is a date; June 15 after your sophomore year of high school. That’s the date when NCAA Division I and II golf coaches can begin contacting high school golfers. Note that you should start assessing your skills and considering colleges well before that date. That preparation includes establishing a recruiting profile, compiling a swing video, and making sure your grades and entrance exam scores are as high as possible.
Another number to know is the scholarship limit at the schools you’re considering. As golf is an equivalency sport, each team has more players than available scholarships and coaches most often try to offer partial scholarships to every player rather than full-ride scholarships to just a few. In Division I, scholarships are limited to the equivalent of 4.5 for men and six for women. At NAIA schools, the limit is the equivalent of five scholarships for both men and women. Those limits make full-ride golf scholarships a rarity, so you or your family will most likely wind up paying a portion of your college expenses. One exception to that rarity is at the junior college level, where fully funded men’s and women’s golf programs can offer eight full-ride scholarships per team. That’s notable since most JUCO teams only carry seven golfers for men’s teams and three on women’s teams.
Know What Coaches Are Looking For
While every coach has different approaches to recruiting, in general, they’re all looking at scores and national ranking. When it comes to scores, most coaches will consider average scores from multi-day tournaments or tours, while putting extra weight on rounds played on courses that are 6,600 yards or longer. At the top end, most DI coaches look for players who carry an average of 72 or lower. Lower level schools often sign players whose average ranges from the high 70s to low 80s.
When it comes to rankings, most coaches will consider sites such as the Junior Golf Scoreboard, the American Junior Golf Association, and Golfweek. Beyond number ranking, college golf coaches will also consider tournament score differential to see how a golfer performs over the course of a multi-day tournament, rather than just focusing on his or her best round.
Know-How To Get A Scholarship
As mentioned above, landing any golf scholarship will take plenty of work, so any extra edge you can give yourself will help. And the best advantage you can offer compared to other golfers is a solid academic record and high entrance exam scores. That’s because good grades in high school show coaches you can handle the academic load in college. And, those good grades may also make you eligible for academic scholarships. And with an academic scholarship in hand, you potentially give a college coach more flexibility to better stretch his or her scholarship budget. And that can make you a more attractive recruit.
Beyond having your grades in order, it’s up to you to be proactive in your recruiting if you want to earn a scholarship. That means you have to reach out to coaches, send them your recruiting profile, scores, and swing video, and then follow up with those coaches. Attending golf camps is another good opportunity to raise your recruiting profile and get to know college golf coaches. Finally, for more high-end exposure, you’ll most likely need to compete in tournaments beyond just your high school team.
Know Where You Stand
Every golfer and college golf program is different. And as you tee up your recruiting process, knowing where you’ll fit best can save time, confusion, and angst. One way to find where you fit is to compare your average score to the current players on a team you’re considering. To do that, figure the average score of the four best players on a given team and then subtract two strokes. That number is most likely the average score the coach at that school looks for in a recruit.
Then, with an idea of where you’ll be able to compete, consider the various levels of college golf, look at the schools in the division where you’ll fit best, establish a target list of schools, and start reaching out to coaches. With more than 1,300 college golf programs across every level of college golf, you may see a fit in many divisions. Given that, be sure to consider factors beyond golf, such as academics, campus size, and even the climate of a school’s location in your decision.
Golf recruiting can be confusing, difficult, and humbling. But, to earn a scholarship, you need to know the numbers, know what coaches are looking for, and know where you fit. But most importantly, you need to put in plenty of work. And finally, you need to remember that landing any spot on any college golf team means you’ll still be competing against the top 6% of golfers in the country. Be ready to use every club in your bag!