So you want to play college golf (or have a son or daughter who wants to)? We’ve got good news: Across NCAA Division I, II and III institutions, NAIA schools and junior-college programs, there are more than 1,300 places of higher learning in the United States that have golf programs, meaning there are ample opportunities to extend a competitive golf career beyond high school.
But with that comes the daunting part: With so many places to search from, how do you keep the process from becoming too overwhelming?
For this week’s Golf Digest Podcast, we talked with John Brooks, who coached the men’s golf team at the University of North Florida for 17 years before starting run Red Numbers Golf, a company that helps families navigate the college placement process.
During our conversation, Brooks offers lots of helpful tips to make the search process manageable. We discuss when to start the process, what tournaments you should be playing in to get noticed (hint: you don’t have to fly all across the country in national events), the truth about scholarships opportunities and more.
Some are Brooks’ tips are fairly intuitive but still extremely important. They include:
• Identify what level of competition you’re really interested in playing and where golf fits into your overall college experience.
• Reach out to schools that appear to be a match for your golf and academic levels, geographic fit and type of school (large state university vs. urban private school). You need to sell yourself.
• Let the coach know you’ve done your homework on their program. “It’s very similar to an interview process for a job,” Brooks explains. “The candidate needs to convince the coach that they have the work ethic the attitude and the skill level necessary to help the team progress.”
• Have the junior golfer run the process. “Let this be something the kid is taking control of and not necessarily the parent,” Brooks says. “They need to be writing the emails. They need to be leading the phone calls. They need to be answering and asking the questions on the campus visits.” Coaches who have to deal with well-meaning but obtrusive moms and dads are less likely to want to sign the player.
• Practice proactive patience. The college search process is something that will take time to play out. Don’t wait until the last minute to do your homework, but at the same time don’t worry about the process feeling like it drags on.
More good news? With all the opportunities available, you don’t have to be a scratch golfer or better to play college golf. Brooks says that you can have be upwards of a 9-handicap and still find a place to play at the Division III level if you want to.