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College golf recruiting is becoming more competitive—the best golf score 20 years ago is now the average score among top NCAA Division 1 players. Even though landing a roster spot can be tough, it isn’t impossible. There are more than 1,000 colleges, from Division 1 to NAIA, that give student-athletes an opportunity to compete at the next level.
But we won’t sugarcoat it—getting there takes work. Recruits need to build a list of realistic schools, create an online profile and swing video, contact college coaches and compete in the right tournaments if they want to be successful. To maximize their opportunities, families should know the criteria that coaches look for in every division and understand the NCAA golf recruiting rules so they can map out when coaches can contact them and establish relationships from the get-go.
Plus, outside of athletics, there are several factors that go into making the college decision, such as academics, cost, school size, campus life, etc. And college coaches—especially golf coaches—really focus on recruiting student-athletes with an excellent GPA and test scores. That’s why it’s so important for families to be thorough when searching for the right fit. This college golf recruiting guide is designed to help you at every step of your recruiting journey.
NCAA Golf Recruiting Rules and Calendar
When can men’s golf coaches begin to contact potential recruits? It’s the first thing student-athletes want to know as they kick off their recruiting journey. In general, college coaches can personally reach out to student-athletes starting June 15 after their sophomore year. They can call, email, text and make verbal offers. However—and this is important—a significant amount of recruiting takes place before this time.
To build a list of interested prospects, college coaches start researching recruits before they can initiate contact. They follow national rankings, evaluate golf scores at top tournaments and analyze swing videos. So, this section not only explains the men’s golf recruiting rules and calendar, but it also goes into detail on how coaches recruit during—and around—these regulations.
NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 golf coaches can begin to contact recruits starting June 15 after their sophomore year. At this time, they can call, text, email, direct message and make verbal offers to student-athletes. Then, beginning August 1 before junior year, recruits can partake in unofficial and official visits. Division 3 college coaches, on the other hand, aren’t required to adhere to the same set of rules and can reach out to recruits at any point in high school. NAIA coaches set their own recruiting timeline, as well.
But don’t be mistaken—a lot of work is done before this point. Men’s golf coaches are actively researching and evaluating recruits so when the time comes, they know exactly who they’ll contact. Coaches keep a close eye on national rankings, such as the Junior Golf Scoreboard, the American Junior Golf Association and Golfweek, evaluate swing videos, track scoring averages at tournaments and prioritize high academic recruits. That’s why student-athletes interested in competing at top golf programs need to start early and be proactive. This includes: researching the different divisions, improving your national ranking by playing at tournaments and tours, registering for the NCAA Eligibility Center and meeting academic requirements, creating a profile that highlights academic achievements and a swing video and emailing coaches.
Golf Recruiting Guidelines
College golf has only become more competitive—the best golf score 20 years ago is now the average score among NCAA Division 1 athletes. Of the 144,000 high school athletes who play golf, only two percent go on to compete at the Division 1 level, 1.6 percent at Division 2 and 2.3 percent at Division 3.
From an athletic standpoint, college coaches like to focus on two aspects when building their list of recruits: golf scores and national rankings. First, men’s golf coaches evaluate average scores at multiple-day tournaments and tours. They typically hand pick results from tournaments that are 6,600 yards or more and exclude anything less than that. In other words, they don’t pay too much attention to high school events that are 18 holes because college golf tournaments are usually 36 or 54 holes.
Keeping that in mind, top Division 1 programs tend to recruit players with an average golf score of 72 and lower. Top Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA programs are also selective—college coaches at these schools look for players who average 74 or lower. Most mid-tier Division 2 programs make offers to recruits who average 76 or lower, while you’ll find more flexibility at lower level Division 3 and NAIA programs, which can range from high 70s to low 80s.
In addition to evaluating a recruit’s best scores, coaches also like to see how they rank nationally. Most commonly, they follow the Junior Golf Scoreboard to gauge how a recruit measures up against top golfers from across the country. They will also look at tournament results through the American Junior Golf Association (AGJA) website and Golfweek. Recruits who go on to compete at the Division 1 level earn high rankings on these sites and have top finishes at AJGA, USGA and state tournaments. You may find top Division 2 and Division 3 prospects on these lists as well, while recruits at mid-to-low tier Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA programs compete and place in state, regional and local tournaments.
Landing a golf scholarship can be tough—but it’s not impossible. Of the 1,318 schools that offer men’s golf, 972 of them offer athletic scholarships. However, these programs operate on an equivalency method, meaning coaches distribute their funds across multiple athletes, making full-ride scholarships rare. And even though NCAA Division 3 coaches can’t offer athletic aid, they tend to create scholarship packages with other sources of money. In this section, we break down everything you need to know when it comes to men’s golf scholarships.
You might notice that men’s golf rosters tend to be smaller, with the average team size being made up of 10 golfers. Here’s why—only the top five golfers travel to tournaments, and once at the event, the best four compete each day. Therefore, when it comes to offering scholarships, coaches typically recognize the top five to seven athletes on their team.
That’s why student-athletes looking to land an athletic scholarship need to know exactly what each coach is looking for in their recruiting. There’s actually an equation that many coaches use to determine who they’ll recruit—they find the average score of their best four players and subtract it by two. So, for example, let’s say a team’s best scores from the top four golfers adds up to 300, making the average 75. In other words, that specific coach will want to recruit student-athletes who score a 73 or better. Of course, in some cases where the college is already extremely competitive, this equation isn’t always foolproof. But it’s a great way for a coach to determine how they can better their program. More importantly, it’s a useful tactic for student-athletes to help them determine where they can be competitive and earn a roster spot. Remember, though, that coaches usually consider scores from courses at 6,600 yards or greater.
Beyond athletics, there are steps recruits can take to get on a coach’s radar:
Know the different division levels: Before reaching out to college coaches, student-athletes need to do their homework and learn about the different divisions. For example, which ones offer golf scholarships? And what scores do you need to qualify? In men’s golf, NCAA Division 1, Division 2, NAIA and junior colleges offer athletic scholarships. See the criteria needed to play at each level.
Academics: An outstanding GPA and high test scores show college coaches that you’re more likely to succeed in a college setting and can possibly earn academic scholarship money. They’re continuously looking for well-rounded athletes who excel academically.
Online profile: To improve your chances of being evaluated by college coaches, you need to build an online profile that showcases your average golf score, tournament experience and swing video. Coaches simply can’t see every recruit in person. Your online profile allows them to evaluate your fundamentals and athleticism.
Tournament exposure: Competing in tournaments is crucial when it comes to men’s golf recruiting. College coaches highly value tournament experience and national rankings over high school experience or achievements. The reason being that college courses are much more difficult than high school courses, which tend to only be 18 holes, and many national tournaments are at least 6,600 yards. So, to conduct full evaluations of potential recruits, coaches overlay their scores with tournament experience. Student-athletes can do a simple search on Junior Golf Scoreboard to find a verified event in their area.
Expand your search: The great thing about golf is that every division level is competitive. The top NCAA Division 3 programs can take on Division 1 and Division 2 teams. Think about what you want in your college experience and don’t limit yourself – there’s a lot of opportunity outside of Division 1.
If a student-athlete wants to be recruited by college golf coaches, they need qualifying scores, extensive tournament experience, solid grades and test scores and the mental toughness to overcome college course difficulty. To be successful, recruits need to research their best college fit and actively market themselves to these coaches by creating an online profile and swing video that highlights their athletic ability and leadership qualities. This section will answer the most common questions families have on how to get recruited for college golf.
Learn everything you need to know about college golf and golf recruiting.
How does the college golf recruiting process work?
You’ll quickly find that the path to college golf isn’t a linear, clear-cut process. You could be in the beginning phases with one college coach, while already establishing a sound relationship with another. Some moments are filled with excitement and evaluations, while others will feel as if you’re recruiting is on pause. But here’s the bottom line: if you put the work in—research schools, build a list of realistic colleges, create an online profile and swing video, get tournament exposure and actively reach out to coaches—you can find a competitive golf program that meets your academic needs and personal preferences.
From a coach’s perspective, here’s a quick overview of how they find student-athletes:
Identify potential recruits: At any point in high school, coaches can send general materials, such as recruiting questionnaires, to student-athletes, and they usually send them out to a large number of freshmen and sophomores to gauge their interest in the program. It’s important to respond promptly to these materials if you receive them, but you can also visit an athletic program’s website to complete them on your own. These initial evaluations help college coaches build their list of interested prospects.
Second, in-depth evaluations: This is the stage where most families think the recruiting process begins. However, athletes who’ve made it this far have already passed an initial evaluation and shown some interest in the school. At this point, coaches focus on ranking their prospects and narrowing down their list. National golf tournaments and rankings are essential for them to do this. They thoroughly analyze a recruit’s average golf scores and tournament experience and then make in-person evaluations whenever possible. They also evaluate online profiles and swing videos that student-athletes have emailed to them when they can’t see a prospect play in-person. Beyond athletics, they evaluate how each recruit’s grades and test scores measure up and exclude student-athletes who don’t meet their school’s expectations.
Verbal offers and visits: After coaches have their list of ranked prospects, they extend offers and lock down verbal commitments. Top NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 golf programs make offers to student-athletes the summer after their sophomore year, while some coaches extend offers throughout junior and senior year, especially after test scores are available. Many recruits who are being seriously recruited will partake in unofficial and official visits during their junior year as well.
The most important thing student-athletes can do in their recruiting journey is be proactive. Don’t wait for coaches to contact you. Think about it this way—golf coaches are probably only recruiting a few student-athletes each year as their rosters tend to be smaller (about 10 players total). But in the beginning phases of their process, they’re compiling a list of hundreds—even thousands—student-athletes to consider. The best way to stand out among the competition is to actively reach out to them and show your personal interest in their program.
NCAA Transfer Rules
Although the intent from both coach and student-athlete is to have the player be there for four or five years, play for four years and graduate from that school within that time span, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, a player will realize that a school or a team was not at all what was anticipated. Perhaps the coach was not pleased with the fit. Whatever the reason, players sometimes leave. When they do, they must follow NCAA transfer rules. They’re also sport specific; for example, there are NCAA football transfer rules specific to that sport.
NCAA transfer rules are often reported on in mainstream media when high-profile players in sports such as football and basketball decide to play elsewhere. Many know that NCAA football transfer rules and NCAA basketball transfer rules require D1 players to sit out a season, being red-shirted while attending classes full-time at the new school before being eligible to play. However, it’s not quite that simple. Some exceptions exist even in those situations, and athletes moving between schools in most other sports and between other divisions are often not held to that need to take a year off from playing.
These NCAA transfer eligibility rules also change from time to time. For example, the NCAA announced new NCAA transfer rules on June 26, 2019, stating that four of its guidelines had been changed. These new NCAA transfer rules were altered with the intent to clarify them. As a result, documentary evidence must be made available in relation to an athlete no longer being able to participate on a team at the former school or had their health “health, safety or well-being” undermined. The same is true for transferring due to medical reasons related to the athlete or an athlete’s family member.
The bottom line is that if you’re transferring from one institution to another, you should check the NCAA rules for transfer and possibly contact the compliance officer at your previous or future school. In some cases, these will apply even if you weren’t involved with the athletics department at your old school. The one clear exception where they are irrelevant is if you’re transferring somewhere and won’t play intercollegiate sports again.
Also take into account that conferences sometimes have rules that are more restrictive than the NCAA’s, and regularly keep abreast of any new NCAA transfer rules that are passed prior to you becoming a college athlete.
When is the best time to start the transfer process? It depends. Generally, you want to start it as soon as you realize that you’d like to depart and attend a new school. However, you should be cautious.
The main reason for this is because entering the NCAA transfer portal, a phrase that is quickly becoming one of the common sports terms in NCAA athletics, might have an effect on your scholarship or your playing time at your current school. Of course, this is not important if you are 100% sure that you’re transferring, but if you might stay at your current school, you may want to be wary about taking this step. Your current athletic scholarship, if you have one, will not be affected, but it could be rescinded for future terms.
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