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.
You’ll quickly find that the path to college golf isn’t a linear, clear-cut process. You could be just 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:
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.
The NCAA regulates when college golf coaches can reach out to student-athletes. Generally, contact begins June 15 after sophomore year. At this point, coaches can call, email, text and make verbal offers. NCAA Division 1 and top Division 2 programs usually set the pace for the golf recruiting timeline. Student-athletes may find that Division 3 and NAIA schools become more active during junior and senior year when ACT and SAT scores become available.
However, don’t read that as “recruiting starts after sophomore year.” Before this time, coaches build their list of potential prospects and evaluate athletes behind the scenes. That’s why the more proactive a student-athlete is in their recruiting journey—by researching schools, creating an online profile and swing video, and emailing coaches—the better their chances of getting recruited.
Recruiting can be an emotional, tedious roller coaster. But one thing that makes the ups and downs of the process easier is knowing what steps you should take to create a communication strategy and market yourself. Here are five things that all successful recruits do to secure a scholarship:
There’s actually an equation that college coaches use when determining which student-athletes to recruit. They find the average score of their best four college 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.
Furthermore, 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. Therefore, coaches really only focus on scores from multiple-day tournaments that are at least 36 holes.
Then, to conduct full evaluations of potential recruits, coaches overlay their scores with tournament experience, course difficulty and national rankings to see how athletes perform against top golfers in the country. They also look at a recruit’s “tournament score differential” by analyzing how they played each day. For example, they want to recruit athletes who can take and hold the lead or have the mental discipline to come back from an off day.
The easiest way to determine a coach’s recruiting needs is by looking at their current roster. What are the athlete’s average scores and tournament experience? Taking time to study a team’s roster can provide insight into a coach’s recruiting strategy and help you gain a competitive edge.
College coaches for all sports prioritize recruits who have strong grades and high test scores, even more so in men’s golf. The average college golf team is 10 players and coaches typically only need to recruit a few student-athletes each year, so they tend to be selective. Put it this way—if college coaches are looking at two recruits with similar golf stats and experience, they’re going to pick the student-athlete who has a solid academic background. When they see a focused athlete who works hard in the classroom, they assume they’ll have an easier college transition. Plus, this recruit can qualify for more academic aid, easing the burden on the coach to provide athletic funding. Bottom line: your grades matter just as much as your golf game.
Individual tournament play is the number one factor college coaches consider when making their roster and scholarship decisions. As a recruit, you need to know which tournaments attract the schools on your target list and what scores will garner interest from that coach. In general, college coaches want to see average scores from multiple-day events that are at least 36-holes. They typically overlook any results that are from less than 6,600 yards. One of the best ways to explore independent tournaments is by searching on Junior Golf Scoreboard. Any of these events will contribute to your national ranking, which will improve your college coach interest as well.
Competing at the national level is one the best ways junior golfers can garner coach interest. Men’s golf coaches typically overlook high school competition and turn their attention to these events instead. More importantly, competing nationally gives student-athletes a chance play in front of college coaches and improve their national ranking, while seeing how they stack up against top talent. Student-athletes have a few options to identify national golf tournament opportunities:
Creating a golf swing video can be a highly effective way of establishing a relationship with a college coach. They give coaches an opportunity to learn more about you as a player without having to travel to see you in person. This is key in men’s golf recruiting as many coaches—especially at the NCAA Division 2 and Division 3 levels—don’t have the budget to see all the recruits on their list compete in person. And even when they do attend tournaments, the length of the course can make it difficult to jump from golfer to golfer.
Your video should capture a wide variety of swings and club selections from different parts of the course, including:
All your swings should be at a normal speed and if done correctly, your video will fall around 10 minutes long. There’s no need to add music, or any audio really, to your video.
One of the best ways to get on a college coach’s radar is by sending them a golf recruiting video. For players who may not have new footage from tournaments or camps, a golf skills video is key for showing coaches your athleticism and technical ability. In the video below, former D1 golfer Abby Phillips shares her tips for creating a men’s golf skills video that will get you noticed, like:
There are a lot of factors to consider when making the college decision. Student-athletes should build a list of target schools that meet their academic expectations, athletic ability and personal preferences. But where’s the best place to start?
Once you have a good grasp on the athletic and academic landscape, you can start to add schools to your target list. NCSA has developed a list of the top colleges for men’s golf, which is based on a number of factors, including cost, academics, size and location, to help student-athletes identify schools.
It depends—you don’t want to wait too long to contact college coaches, but you also don’t want to reach out to them before ready. The first thing you should do is research schools and understand the average scores and tournament experience needed to play at each one, as well as the GPA and test scores required to be admitted. Once you feel confident that you have a list of realistic programs in mind, you can start to email college coaches your online profile and swing video.
The top golf programs in the country will make verbal offers to recruits during the summer after their sophomore year, so if you’re looking to play at an NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 school, you’ll need to establish relationships with coaches during your sophomore year. Typically, the second half of sophomore year through the end of junior year is when recruits want to be at their best golf game and proactively reaching out to college coaches. The earlier you start contacting college coaches, the more opportunity you’ll have. That being said, several coaches, including NCAA Division 3, NAIA and NJCAA coaches, continue to recruit into senior year.
You don’t have to tackle your recruiting process alone. Your swing coach or high school coach is there to support you along the way. From recommendations to video assistance, here are a few scenarios where they’d be especially helpful:
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.