Student-athletes looking to compete at the college level need qualifying scores, tournament experience, solid grades and test scores, as well as a strong mental game. If you want to be successful, you need to research which colleges are the best fit for you and create a communication strategy to garner coach interest. This includes creating an online profile and swing video that highlights your athletic ability and leadership qualities. In this section, you’ll find answers to the most common questions student-athletes ask on how to get recruited for college golf.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 the 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 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:
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:
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.
A women’s golf skills video is becoming more essential than ever to showcase your athleticism and technical skills to college coaches. Fortunately, creating a skills video doesn’t have to be difficult! Former D1 golfer Abby Phillips says that one of the best parts of skills videos is that they can be shot anywhere, anytime—even without access to a golf course.
Check out her video for an overview of what recruits should include in their golf skills video, including multiple angles—coaches favor face-on and down the line footage—what clubs to use, how many yards you hit and tips for getting creative, like showing your putting skills indoors.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.