Golf Colleges: Everything You Need to Know
Many of the world's best golfers have college golf experience. Tiger Woods won the NCAA D1 golf individual championship while competing as a Stanford Cardinal in 1996. Jack Nicklaus did the same as an Ohio State Buckeye in 1961. College golf standouts on the women's side who followed national titles with professional success include Annika Sorenstam (Arizona – 1991) and Grace Park (Arizona State – 1999). The top golf colleges today include those four universities as well as several other institutions.
On the men's side, the top golf colleges when considering academics, as well as athletics, include Duke, Stanford, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, California, and USC. The corresponding list of the best women's golf colleges is similar as it includes Stanford, Duke, Notre Dame, Columbia, Harvard, UCLA, and Vanderbilt. Historically, Houston has the most men's team titles with 16 although the Cougars have not won a championship since 1985. Oklahoma State is next on that list with 11. Arizona State is the best golf university amongst women's college golf teams with eight titles.
The majority of golf colleges offer golf scholarships. The limits for D1 golf schools are 4.5 per men's team, 6.0 per women's, while D2 golf teams are allotted up to 3.6 and 5.4 college golf scholarships, respectively. Although D3 golf squads are not allowed to award golf scholarships, they tend to provide a considerable amount of financial aid to their entire student bodies. Meanwhile, NAIA college golf teams can offer up to 5.0 golf scholarships. Junior colleges also tend to provide golf scholarships, but that number varies quite a bit from JC to JC.
A total of 1,203 colleges sponsor men's golf teams while 801 offer women's golf roster spots.
- NCAA D1 Golf – 303 men's teams, 256 women's teams
- NCAA D2 Golf – 215 men's teams, 144 women's teams
- NCAA D3 Golf – 288 men's teams, 168 women's teams
- NAIA Golf – 181 men's teams, 140 women's teams
- Junior College Golf – 216 men's teams, 93 women's teams
The NCAA is involved with overseeing collegiate sport and organizing national championships in a variety of sports since 1910. It has sponsored a national championship in men's golf since 1939 and a women's college golf championship event since 1982. NCAA golf teams are the nation's best, most notably those at the D1 level, while NAIA golf squads are roughly on par with D2 and D3 teams.
The NAIA dates to 1940 and has had a long history of organizing college sports and national championships. Its golf colleges are mostly located in the Midwest and South although teams are also situated in other areas of the country. The NAIA has sponsored college golf championships on the men's side since 1952 while the best NAIA women's golf teams have taken part in national championships since 1995. Oklahoma City has won the most NAIA college golf championships in both sports, and many would say that the Stars would do well against most NCAA D1 competition.
College golf requirements
What does it take to play NAIA or NCAA golf? Understandably, this depends on the quality of the team that you are looking to join as the top college teams will have higher expectations than the rest of the golf colleges. Regardless, all of them will have considerable standards as only a small percentage of high school golfers make the transition to college golf.
Consider some general guidelines so that you can find the best fit for your skill level. For example, if you are looking to play for a top men's college golf team, your handicap should be scratch or better while your 18-hole average should be 72 or under.
The college golf recruiting process can be intense as college golf prospects look to make the transition to recruits and ultimately on to the roster at a golf university. Many are also looking for college golf scholarships as the value of having many or all of your college expenses taken care of is significant.
In order to best navigate the college golf recruiting process, take advantage of as many playing opportunities as you can. This includes camps, summer tournaments, and international junior tournaments. Always play as close to your potential as possible and finish your tournaments. Even if you do not send every result to coaches at golf colleges, if you are being seriously considered, they will likely seek them out on their own and discover ones that you did not send.
Golf college coverage
As you go through the golf recruiting process, it is important to keep up to date on every golf university that you are considering. The benefits are twofold. By doing so, you can better narrow the number of college golf schools that you are considering, and you are able to speak intelligently with the coaching staffs at these programs about how their teams are doing and what college golf stats they are posting. Also read recaps of how they did in their most recent tournaments. Most golf colleges will have those on their websites
Fortunately, you can utilize several resources to do so. ESPN college golf is responsible for overseeing the broadcasting of events such as the SEC Golf Championships, which are shown on its SEC Network. Also, the NCAA Golf Championships are either broadcast on the Golf Channel or streamed on NCAA.com.
If you are interested in complete golf rankings of D1 teams, a great resource is the Golfweek/Sagarin college golf rankings. This set of college golf rankings includes every D1 squad, which is useful as most teams are not in top 25 polls. However, those polls are useful too. The WGCA Coaches Poll provide some women's golf rankings to peruse while the Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Poll offers men's golf rankings.
Of course, the best way to research who the best college golf teams are is by seeing who did the best in their respective championships and what golf scores were recorded there. The NCAA website offers quite a bit of information on that and accompanying golf stats.
It also helps to peruse college golf rankings such as the ones that College Factual have compiled.
NCAA golf schedules
The NCAA golf season is a long one with both a fall season and a spring one. The first college golf tournaments of the campaign are usually held in September, and the fall season generally lasts a couple of months. After taking November-January off from competition, teams usually return to action in February and play in a series of college golf tournaments from then until April. The best college golf teams then participate in their respective NCAA Championship events in May.
At the D1 level, around 70-80 teams plus 25-45 individuals who are not on those teams will be selected to compete in regional championships. From there, about 25-30 teams and 5-10 additional individuals will advance to the championship site. Other regional and national championships have similar formats. In most cases, a combination of stroke play and match play is likely to happen at these events.
The most recent champions included:
- NCAA Division 1 – Stanford (men's) and Duke (women's)
- NCAA Division 2 – Lynn (men's) and Florida Tech (women's)
- NCAA Division 3 – Illinois Wesleyan (men's) and NYU (women's)
- NAIA – Texas Wesleyan (men's) and British Columbia (women's)
Throughout the season, one of the best resources for keeping up on college golf scores is Golfstat. Also make sure to check out the official athletics department websites for teams that you are considering so that you know when to look up corresponding live scores or, if they will be playing near you, possibly attend.
One of the best ways to navigate the golf college recruiting process is by assessing where you stand with others who are also looking to improve their college golf resumes. An excellent resource to do so is the NHSGA player rankings.
Otherwise, you should take part in college golf camps as they help you improve your game as well as your visibility amongst those who will be deciding who to offer spots on college golf teams. Some are even held on college campuses, so you might be able to play on a course that you are hoping to do so regularly after signing with that school.
Some of the better golf camps to consider are:
One of the other things that you can do to improve your chances of playing college golf is putting time into weight and flexibility training. Doing so will have a tremendous impact on the quality of your game.
Also, ensure that you keep your composure on and off the course. This includes always putting in your best efforts, even when you are having an off day. College coaches want to see that you stay as level-headed as possible when things are not going your way as well as when they are. And take note that the benefits of having a strong mental game will have a direct impact on your overall scores.
It also helps to be proactive. It is necessary to be active in nearly all cases. One way to do so is by sending emails to coaching staffs. In them, including information on why you believe that this program and university might be a good fit for you. Also, include your college golf resume and video links to your play.
As you navigate the golf recruiting process and continue to research the top golf colleges, also consider some of the golf-specific programs that many of them offer. A couple of examples are the Keiser University College of Golf and Clemson University's PGA golf management program. These are great if you want to remain involved with the sport after your days of being in the college golf rankings are over.
One of the best ways that you can strengthen your candidacy as a top golf college recruit is by taking advantage of the resources that NCSA has to offer. This organization has assisted prospective student-athletes in every sport since its founding.
NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) was started by Chris Krause in 2000. Decades earlier, he had been a high school linebacker confusingly navigating the college football recruiting process. Fortunately, he ended up finding his match at Vanderbilt, but the experience resonated with him, and he founded NCSA to ensure that nobody would need to experience being recruited without having a firmer grasp on what was happening and how to get the most out of it.
As a result, NCSA has helped tens of thousands of student-athletes sign on to college golf rosters and with other sports programs throughout the country. The company is also dedicated to the 35,000 college coaches in its network as it wants to create the best fits possible on both sides of the equation. You want to play college golf. Every coach wants to create the best team possible while ensuring that it also fits into the culture of the university.
Over the years, more and more people have voiced positive reviews of NCSA. It has received a Google Reviews score of 4.9 stars out of 5 based on 2,000 reviews. Also, more than 90% of American colleges that sponsor intercollegiate sports teams have had at least one NCSA student-athlete earn a spot on one of those rosters. Just in the past year, 24,000 have made the transition from recruit to a collegiate athlete after receiving assistance from NCSA.
If you would like to join this ever-increasing number, start your free profile today. Should you have any questions as you progress through that profile about what NCSA can do for you, call (866) 495-5172.