There are more than 1,000 men’s golf colleges across the country. And while most recruits have their eye on NCAA Division 1, you’ll find competitive opportunities at every level. Plus, there are a lot of factors that go into making the college decision—like scholarship opportunities, location, school size and academics—and each division has something to offer its student-athletes. This section breaks down the most important considerations, from NCAA Division 1 to NJCAA.
Learn more about golf colleges and the golf recruiting process.
There are 1,318 total colleges offering men’s golf—NCAA is home to 814 of them, while the NAIA governs 250 schools with men’s golf. Student-athletes interested in competing outside of these divisions have about 200 junior college options to choose from.
Golf scholarships are offered at the NCAA Division 1, NCAA Division 2, NAIA and NJCAA levels. All of these divisions consider men’s golf to be an equivalency sport. That means that college coaches have a maximum number of scholarships they can award each year and they’re allowed to divide up the funds however they like. For this reason, most golf scholarships are partial scholarships and full rides are rare.
NCAA Division 1 has 4.5 scholarships per team (the average team size is 10 players); NCAA Division 2 has 3.6 scholarships per team (the average team size is 10 players); NAIA has five scholarships per team (the average team size is 10 players), and NJCAA has eight scholarships per team (the average team size is eight players). Keep in mind that not all golf programs are fully funded, so it’s important to establish a relationship with college coaches early on to fully understand the athletic aid available.
The top NCAA Division 1 golf colleges set the pace for men’s golf recruiting. These coaches are extremely selective and make offers to the best junior golfers in the country who have a high national ranking and several years of multiple-day tournament experience under their belt. The top 100 NCAA Division 1 golfers have an average golf score of 71 or lower. Only two percent of high school athletes go on to compete at this level. While academic scholarships are available, most athletes are on partial scholarships, as golf is an equivalency sport and coaches are limited to 4.5 scholarships per team.
NCAA Division 2 offers the least amount of opportunity in the NCAA with 218 schools. Like Division 1, these college coaches go after highly-ranked junior golfers with competitive scores. In fact, if you compare the average golf scores between the top 100 Division 1 athletes and the top 100 Division 2 athletes, you won’t find much variance. Many of the top Division 2 golf colleges are situated in popular golf states, like Florida, California and South Carolina. They also follow the equivalency method when it comes to distributing athletic scholarships. Coaches have a maximum of 3.6 scholarships per team and typically award athletes with partial scholarships. While this level offers a balanced college experience with more free time for academics and social life, Division 2 athletes follow rigorous training schedules.
We’ve said it once before and we’ll say it again—don’t overlook NCAA Division 3. Here’s why: This level offers the greatest opportunity with more than 300 men’s golf schools, and from a competitive standpoint, coaches will call Division 3 “top heavy,” meaning there are several excellent programs fighting for the top spot. While they don’t necessarily offer athletic scholarships, the majority of student-athletes are on some form of financial aid. Division 3 coaches can offer appealing scholarship packages made up of merit-based aid, academic scholarships and grants to cover college costs. Student-athletes with solid grades and high test scores may benefit from this the most.
An alternative option to competing in the NCAA is looking for golf schools in the NAIA. There are 250 men’s golf colleges in the NAIA and the top programs are most often compared to NCAA Division 2 and Division 3. However, student-athletes will find a greater range in average scores from program to program, with the low end being in the low 70s and the high end being in the high 80/low 90s. Like the NCAA, NAIA coaches have a maximum number of scholarships they can award each year (five per team) and typically distribute their funds as partial scholarships across multiple athletes. NAIA coaches don’t have restrictions when it comes to contacting athletes and they can reach out to recruits at any point in high school. But they typically recruit into senior year, making it an especially great option for student-athletes who start their recruiting journey later in high school.
Another route student-athletes take to compete in college is to join a team at a junior college. There are 235 junior colleges supporting NJCAA or CCCAA men’s golf programs. These two-year institutions provide an opportunity for student-athletes who want to improve their academic or athletic ability before transferring to a four-year institution. Plus, it’s an effective way to ease the burden of college costs. Speaking of, there is scholarship opportunity at this level as well—coaches have a maximum of eight scholarships per team, but the average JUCO team size is seven players.
Every year we analyze thousands of schools to create a comprehensive list of the top athletic programs in the country. These Power Rankings don’t only look at athletics, but also take into consideration the college desirability among current student-athletes, academic performance and affordability. Here are Power Ranking’s top 10 men’s golf schools.
This list can be a starting point for student-athletes as they research colleges they’re interested in. Check out the complete list of best men’s golf colleges.
For rankings based solely on athletic performance, a good resource to consult is Golf Stat. They post both team and individual rankings for men’s golf in every division level, from NCAA Division 1 to NJCAA.