Whether you’re a nationally ranked player or still improving your game, you’ll find competitive college golf opportunities at every level, from NCAA Division 1 to NJCAA. Plus, there are a lot of factors that go into making the college decision—like scholarship opportunities, location, school size and academics—and each level has something to offer its student-athletes. You can use this section to understand the differences among the divisions and help you build a realistic target list.
There are 996 total colleges offering women’s golf—NCAA is home to 727 of them, while the NAIA governs 143 schools with women’s golf. Student-athletes interested in competing outside of these divisions have more than 100 junior college options to choose from.
NCAA Division 1, NCAA Division 2, NAIA and NJCAA offer women’s golf scholarships. All of these divisions consider women’s golf to be an equivalency sport, meaning college coaches have a maximum number of scholarships they can award each year. However, they’re allowed to distribute this money across several athletes. So to make the most of their funding, most coaches opt to award partial scholarships, making full rides rare.
NCAA Division 1 has six scholarships per team (the average team size is eight players); NCAA Division 2 has 5.4 scholarships per team (the average team size is eight players); NAIA has five scholarships per team (the average team size is five players), and NJCAA has eight scholarships per team (the average team size depends on the school. It nets out to five players per team, but some JUCO colleges can only sponsor one to three individuals, while other colleges in popular golf states, like California, actually average close to 7.5 players per team). Keep in mind, though, that not all golf programs are fully funded, especially at the Division 2 level, so it’s important to establish a relationship with college coaches early on to understand the athletic aid available.
The top NCAA Division 1 golf colleges set the pace for women’s golf recruiting. These coaches offer scholarships early in the process to the best junior golfers in the country, most of which have a high national ranking and several years of multiple-day tournament experience. Only 2.8 percent of high school athletes go on to compete at this level. Even more, there’s an additional layer of competition as 20.1 percent of NCAA D1 golfers are international students. The top 100 NCAA Division 1 golfers have an average golf score in the mid-70s or lower. While academic scholarships are available, most athletes are on partial scholarships, as golf is an equivalency sport and coaches are limited to six scholarships per team.
NCAA Division 2 offers the least amount of opportunity in the NCAA with 154 schools. Like Division 1, these college coaches go after highly ranked junior golfers with competitive scores. For example, the top 100 Division 2 golfers shoot in the mid-70s, while the average D2 player is closer to the mid-80s. Families will find that many of the top Division 2 golf colleges are situated in popular golf states, like Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. This level also follows the equivalency method when it comes to distributing athletic scholarships. Coaches have a maximum of 5.4 scholarships per team and typically award athletes with partial scholarships. While student-athletes are required to follow a rigorous practice schedule and train in the offseason, there’s more balance and time for a social life and internships at this level compared to Division 1.
With 324 NCAA Division 3 schools across the country offering women’s golf, families shouldn’t overlook this level. While the top Division 3 golfers are shooting in the high 70s and low 80s, recruits will find a bigger range in average golf scores from program to program (typically in the mid-90s). At this level, coaches are very thorough in finding recruits who are right for their program. Not only do they want to identify student-athletes with potential, but they also want to make sure the recruit is interested in the college. While Division 3 schools can’t offer athletic scholarships, the majority of student-athletes are on some form of financial aid. Division 3 coaches often work with the admissions department to offer appealing scholarship packages made up of merit-based aid, academic scholarships and grants. Recruits 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 143 women’s golf colleges in the NAIA and the top programs are most often compared to Division 2 and high-ranked Division 3 teams. However, student-athletes will find a greater range in average scores from program to program at this level. 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. Furthermore, NAIA coaches can reach out to recruits at any point in high school and don’t have restrictions when it comes to contacting athletes. But they typically recruit well into senior year, making it an especially great option for student-athletes who start their recruiting journey later in high school.
Junior college is another route student-athletes take to continue competing in a post-high school setting. There are 123 junior colleges supporting NJCAA or CCCAA women’s golf programs. These two-year institutions are a great option 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. Coaches have a maximum of eight scholarships per team, but the average JUCO team size is five 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 the NCSA Power Rankings for the top 10 women’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 women’s golf colleges.