Going to College Archive

What are the main differences between junior golf and college golf?

Paving the way for a smooth transition

During my 14 years as a collegiate coach, I observed young players during the development stages of their golf careers. The most critical time in this development occurred during their transition from junior golf to college golf. Oftentimes, some of the top ranked junior players in the country enrolled in college, began their collegiate careers, and were never heard from again. Other juniors, even some of the lower ranked players, developed into top-ranked collegiate players and, in some cases, were able to embark on a professional golf career after college. The key to success during this transition phase is to understand the differences between junior golf and college golf.

Obviously college players are older, stronger, and more experienced than junior golfers. But the differences only begin there. The 36-hole format in college golf (players play two rounds during the first day of competition in college events) is the single most significant change that junior golfers must adapt to. Often, college freshmen are unprepared both physically and mentally to handle the challenges of playing 36 holes in one day. This format may be the worst thing about college golf as well—and something I will never miss.

Another significant difference is the team concept. As junior golfers, young players have the freedom to select which tournaments to compete in, to develop their own schedule for the week of a tournament, and to compete as individuals where consequences only affect themselves. In college, all that changes. Players are told which tournaments and courses they will be playing, what time and where they need to be each day of the event, and oftentimes they have to compromise with their teammates and coach on issues such as where to eat, who to room with, and what time to arrive at the golf course. Playing as a team versus playing as an individual can be a big adjustment for college freshmen.

College players are also told when and where to practice during the season. There are times when everyone on the team is required to work on a specific area in their game and to do so as a team. Clearly, this is a culture shock to freshmen who are accustomed to practicing as they see fit. It’s analogous to the first child in a family having to learn how to share with his siblings after they are born.

College golf is generally more serious than junior golf. Coaches’ jobs are on the line, players’ scholarships are at risk, and school pride is at stake. In junior golf, players spend time socializing with other players, going out to dinner with other families, and playing and practicing in a relaxed mood. In college golf, there is very little socializing among players from different schools. Tournaments are taken very seriously by each team and seldom do players from different schools eat together or spend time on the course or practice facility socializing.

Finally, all college players have a coach (or in some cases two coaches) to interact with at tournaments. Coaches will typically help players design a course management strategy at each course they play and will actively involve themselves during the competition. NCAA rules allow coaches to offer advice during competition. For freshmen, this player- coach relationship during tournaments is a new experience that requires an adjustment period. Good communication is the key to this relationship. Players should always let coaches know in advance what type of information they prefer during competitive rounds.

College golf is a wonderful experience that all junior golfers should look forward to participating in. Understanding the differences in advance will help young players make a smooth and successful transition from the world of junior golf to the NCAA.

Coach Brooks
Red Numbers Golf®


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