Going to College Archive

Am I good enough to play Division I golf?

Targeting schools where you can play as a freshman will enhance your college experience!

College golf involves two components – academics and athletics. Finding a “best-fit” college that meets your academic needs is essential. Finding a college that matches your golfing abilities is just as crucial, but perhaps more difficult to identify. As you consider the “golf” aspect of the college placement process, let’s look at some potential pitfalls and useful tools that you should be aware of. Being informed can help you find a team you’ll enjoy playing for from day one.

High-school prospects and their parents need to understand that the college coaches of today are usually interested in signing players who can contribute on the road sooner rather than later. Large team rosters that offer developing players a chance to move up the ranks are no longer common. Incoming college golfers face pressure to “make the cut” upon arrival. Therefore, to find a more appropriate competitive fit, and very likely a more fulfilling college golf career, families should keep in mind that playing college golf isn’t just about being a member of a team. Making the travel roster and gaining tournament experience as a freshman should be a priority.

So, why do junior golfers and their parents diverge from this philosophy as they evaluate opportunities in college golf? In my experience, several reasons exist. One powerful motive is the enticement of getting a roster spot on the highest ranked team possible. Quite often, pride associated with the thought of playing for a big-name school versus a lesser-known team becomes misleading for families. Additional tendencies that cause families to get off-track when searching for a competitive fit include inaccurate assessments of their youngster’s talent level and unrealistic expectations for improvement. Overestimating a junior golfer’s ability can result in wasting precious time and energy pursuing schools that don’t have room on their roster. Consequently, more appropriate opportunities may be missed. Prospects and their parents also buy into the fallacy that being around better players and good coaching is more important in accelerating development than competitive experience. Obviously, the opportunity to learn from accomplished players and coaches is helpful, but sitting at home during the early phase of a college career with limited tournament exposure may lead to discouragement and discontent in the long run.

As families manage the college placement process, it is natural to consider schools that may be a competitive reach. However, if a junior golfer is genuinely interested in being an impact player for a college team, then the majority of schools on their best-fit list should match their current athletic ability. Employing this strategy helps ensure that junior golfers will find an encouraging home as they begin playing college golf. Freshman that possess abilities on par with the top players of a college roster are more effectively positioned to adapt to a new school setting, qualify for team travel and balance academic and athletic responsibilities. Challenges will exist for any student-athlete, but it’s all about “stacking the deck in your favor”, giving yourself some breathing room for mistakes and finding the right stepping-stone to allow for progress in the game.

At the end of the day, young golfers and parents need to keep an open mind when researching golf programs. Opportunities can be found at Division I, II, III and NAIA colleges. Two resources in particular can be very helpful in identifying schools that match the athletic ability of a junior golfer. The Ping American College Golf Guide allows families to generate a customized list of “best-fit” schools based on scoring average and other specific criteria that are entered. In addition, Golf Stat provides junior golfers and parents the ability to get a comprehensive look at collegiate tournament results and become more familiar with the level of play at specific programs. By maintaining a realistic assessment of a junior golfer’s current skills while using these tools, families will come up with a collection of colleges that can provide a fulfilling golf experience.

If you want to do everything possible to make sure that you actually get to “play” college golf, I encourage you to follow the suggestions in this article. If you do, you will likely find yourself getting in the travel van more often during your first season. Who knows, maybe you’ll be stepping into a luxury van, airplane or private jet. No matter what, it’ll be a sign that you’ve done your homework.

nicky goetze


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