How does college golf work?
The transition from high school to college sports is a big one—but even more so in golf. High school golf tournaments are usually one day and consist of nine or 18 holes. College golf courses, on the other hand, are much more difficult and tournaments typically last three to five days, including travel and practice. In season, women’s golf teams will compete once per week and play in two or more tournaments per month, with each tournament hosting anywhere from 10 to 20 teams. The top five players from each team travel to tournaments and the top four players compete. Typically, there’s an average of eight golfers per team, so not all athletes can travel and compete. National rankings are determined by a program’s win/loss rating and factors, such as scoring average, course strength, and coach evaluations. Teams compete both in the fall and the spring, with the biggest national tournament taking place at the end of the spring season.
When does recruiting start for women’s college golf?
The NCAA establishes a recruiting calendar that regulates when college golf coaches can reach out to student-athletes. Generally, contact begins June 15 after sophomore year when coaches are allowed to call, email, text and make verbal offers to recruits. During this time, top NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 schools set the pace for women’s golf recruiting by offering scholarships to their top prospects. Division 3 and NAIA schools, on the other hand, typically become more active during junior and senior year when test scores start to roll in.
Keep in mind, though, that before this time, coaches are building their list of recruits and evaluating athletes behind the scenes. That’s why it’s so important to get on a coach’s radar before your junior year. You can start by researching schools and division levels that you’re interested in, create an online profile and swing video, and send college coaches an introductory email that highlights your academic and athletic achievements.
How to get noticed by women’s college golf coaches
With all the moving pieces of the process, your recruiting journey might start to feel like a roller coaster. One minute you’re in contact with college coaches and the next—radio silence. Dealing with the ups and downs is a lot easier when you know what steps to take to successfully market yourself and get noticed by coaches. Here are five things that the most sought-after recruits do to secure a roster spot:
- Qualify academically. The NCAA Eligibility Center determines the academic eligibility and amateur status for all NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 athletes. Make sure you know the requirements so you can stay on track. Plus, golf coaches are more likely to recruit student-athletes who excel academically. The better your GPA and test scores, the better chance you have at getting recruited.
- Understand the different division levels. Each division comes with a standard set of average golf scores that coaches look for in recruits. Knowing where you fit in and how you can make an impact on a team is essential to building a realistic target list.
- Attend multiple-day tournaments and become nationally ranked. College golf courses are set up more difficultly than high school courses. That’s why women’s golf coaches usually turn to national golf tournaments and rankings to find recruits. As you pick tournaments and events to attend, prioritize them based on course difficulty and yardage (6,000 and above). You can visit Junior Golf Scoreboard to find tournaments that contribute toward your national ranking.
- Create an online profile. Make it easy for women’s golf coaches to evaluate you. They can’t see every recruit play in-person, so your online profile is a great way to garner some interest and secure a second look. Make sure it showcases your golf scores, handicap, swing video, contact information and academic history.
- Contact coaches—and follow up. We can’t reiterate this enough: proactively reach out to college coaches. Send an introductory email that includes your online profile, swing video, academic information, outstanding athletic achievements and personal interest in the program. It’s important to personalize your emails and never copy and paste—coaches overlook generic emails. Then continue to follow up with noteworthy updates throughout the year.
What do college coaches look at when recruiting college golfers?
When making scholarship decisions for their team, women’s golf coaches prioritize prospects based on average golf scores, tournament experience and national rankings. While each division has its own set of standard scores, one of the quickest ways you can determine a coach’s needs is by visiting their team roster. Look at the four best players, figure out the average golf score and subtract it by two—this is what you need to shoot to get noticed by that college coach. In college golf, the best five players travel to tournaments and once there, only the top four players compete. So, coaches don’t want to recruit someone who blends into the overall team average; they want a player who can make an impact right away.
Furthermore, college golf tournaments are significantly more difficult than high school ones. Therefore, college coaches typically overlook high school scores when evaluating performance. Instead, they highly value national tournament results from multiple-day events that are at least 36 holes, or 6,000 yards. They also look at a recruit’s “tournament score differential” by analyzing how they played each day. Basically, they want to determine if a recruit can hold the lead, come back from a bad day and consistently succeed under pressure.
Do golf coaches care about academics?
The short answer—yes, college coaches care a lot about academics. Think about it like this: if a coach is comparing two recruits with similar golf scores and tournament experience, they’re almost always going to pick the one who is stronger academically. Plus, a solid GPA and high test score says a lot. It shows coaches that the student-athlete works hard, is responsible, and will most likely have a smooth transition to college. Student-athletes with good grades qualify for more academic aid, easing the burden on the coach to provide athletic funding. Bottom line: grades are important in college golf recruiting.
Attend women’s golf camps and tournaments to gain exposure to college coaches
Individual tournament play is the number one factor college coaches consider when making their roster and scholarship decisions. College golf courses and tournaments are much more difficult than high school golf tournaments, so coaches are most interested in average scores from multiple-day events that are at least 36 holes, and they typically overlook anything less than 6,000 yards. 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. 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.
What women’s golf tournaments should I compete in?
Competing at the national level gives student-athletes a chance to play in front of college coaches, improve their national ranking, and see how they measure up to top recruits across the country. Even more, independent tournament play is the most important factor coaches consider when recruiting student-athletes. Families have a few options to help them identify golf tournaments that will garner coach interest:
- National Golf Tours: The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), Future Collegians World Tour (FCWT) and the International Junior Golf Tour (IJGT) offer multiple-day competitions across the country and attract top recruits and college programs alike. Though, they can be expensive and require a membership to attend.
- Junior Golf Scoreboard: A quick search on Junior Golf Scoreboard will populate a list of verified multiple-day tournaments that can contribute to your national ranking. While Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, California and Arizona host several competitive tours, there are more than 2,000 tournaments on Junior Golf Scoreboard. We suggest zoning in on ones that are at least 6,000 yards or more because college coaches typically discard scores from anything lower.
- United States Golf Association (USGA) Championships. The most prestigious junior and amateur golf competitions are conducted by the United States Golf Association (USGA). Student-athletes must pass a rigorous qualifying process for these events and only the best junior golfers in the country do.
How to use a golf recruiting video to get noticed by college coaches
Swing videos are becoming more important in college golf recruiting. With thousands of tournaments taking place every year, coaches don’t have the opportunity or budget to see each student-athlete play in person. And even when they do attend tournaments, the length of the course can make it difficult to jump from golfer to golfer.
That’s why you should create a swing video and email it to college coaches. It can help you secure a second, more in-depth evaluation. Your video should capture a wide variety of swings and club selections from different parts of the course, including:
- 2 or 3 swings with a short iron/wedge from a “down the line” angle and a “face on” angle
- 2 or 3 swings with a mid/long iron from a “down the line” angle and a “face on” angle
- 2 or 3 swings with a driver from a “down the line” angle and a “face on” angle
- Several chips, pitches and bunker shots from both angles
- Short, medium and long putts from both angles
- Straight putts from five to 10 feet from both angles
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.
Research golf schools and create a target list
To successfully be recruited, student-athletes need to build a list of target schools that meet their academic needs, athletic ability and personal preferences. But with almost 1,000 golf colleges, figuring out the best place to start can be tricky. Here are a few steps you can take to research schools and create a solid list:
- Learn the differences in the division levels. Pick a couple of schools and visit the team’s roster online to learn more about the athletes’ golf scores, tournament experience and where they were recruited from. You want to make sure that you’re the right athletic fit and have a chance at getting recruited. After all, you’ll be emailing a lot of college coaches and you don’t want to waste your time on schools where you don’t qualify athletically.
- Consider your free time and goals outside of your sport. Look at the training schedules, financial aid opportunities and time commitments (especially in the offseason) at every division level when considering which is best for you. For example, typically the top five golfers on each team travel to tournaments and compete. If competing is important to you, then you’ll want to consider what it would take to make the travel team at a specific college. Furthermore, some divisions, like NCAA Division 3, offer more balance and free time, while Division 1 is considered a full-time job.
- Don’t overlook academic requirements. Women’s golf coaches are extremely selective when it comes to academics. Having a good GPA and high test scores will help you secure a roster spot. Coaches know the transition from high school to college can be tough and they want to recruit student-athletes who will excel in a college classroom setting.
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 women’s golf, which is based on a number of factors, including cost, academics, size and location, to help student-athletes identify schools.
When is the best time to contact college golf coaches?
There’s a balance you want to strike when contacting coaches. On one hand, you don’t want to wait too long, but you also don’t want to reach out to them when you’re not ready. Before you initiate any contact, do your research. Learn what average score and tournament experience you need to get a particular coach’s interest, and then double check that your grades and test scores meet the college’s expectations. After you feel confident that you have a list of realistic programs, start to send college coaches introductory emails that showcase your online profile and swing video.
If you’re looking to compete at an NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 school, you’ll need to establish relationships with coaches during your sophomore year. The top golf programs in the country will make verbal offers to recruits during the summer after their sophomore year. But generally speaking, 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. This is a peak time in recruiting. That being said, several coaches, including NCAA Division 3, NAIA and NJCAA coaches, continue to recruit into senior year, so there is opportunity later in high school, as well.
What’s my high school coach’s role in the recruiting process?
Remember that you’re not alone in your recruiting journey. You can lean on your swing coach or high school for support along the way. For example, here are a few ways student-athletes rely on their coaches throughout the recruiting process:
- As a character reference. When college coaches want to learn more about a recruit, including their leadership qualities and attitude, they call the student-athlete’s private coach, swing coach or high school coach. They’ll ask about mental toughness, work ethic and behavior both on and off the course. That’s why it’s important to keep your high school and private coach in the loop on which colleges are on your target list.
- For honest feedback. More likely than not, your coach knows the college landscape and might even have connections. Don’t hesitate to turn to them when you’re looking for feedback during your college search. Their expertise and insight can also help you create a college list of realistic programs that are a good match for you.
- When creating a swing video. Whether they’re giving you tips or just holding the camera, your coach is a great resource to use to gather film. Plus, they’ve probably helped student-athletes before you create video as well.