There are over 1,000 men’s and 700 women’s college golf programs in the United States ranging from Division I, II, III, NAIA and NJCAA. With that many options, it is crucial that you come up with a list of factors to consider when looking at potential college programs. This week, I am going to go over what I consider are the five biggest impacts on choosing a college program.
1. Location, location, location – The city and geographic area where you go to college is going to become your home for four years. You want to make sure that you pick a location that you are going to like. Do you want to go to a school in a warmer climate so that you could play golf for most of the year? You probably should not be looking at schools in the upper Midwest like my home state of Wisconsin. Does it matter to you if you are in driving distance to your home or if it requires a plane ride? Do you want a big city environment where you will have access to lots of entertainment options and restaurants? Or do you mind being in a quieter setting? All of these are things to consider when looking at colleges. When I was looking at schools, it was a simple way to focus my search by knowing what I did and didn’t want.
2. Golf program’s competitiveness – As a prospective student-athlete, one of your main areas of focus when looking at schools will be on their golf program. The school’s athletic department website is going to be a great tool for you in this evaluation. You want to take a look at the team’s past tournament schedule as well as the future schedule if it is available online. From there, you will be able to see how the team performed. It is important to be realistic with yourself when evaluating programs and whether or not you would be a good fit. If your scoring average is in the low 80s and you are looking at a program whose players consistently shoot in the low 70s, then perhaps that program may not be a great fit for you if you want to play and score for the team.
3.Academics/scholarships opportunities – In the sport of golf, it is very rare to get a full-ride athletic scholarship. Many students will supplement any athletic scholarship with another type of financial aid. Academic scholarships are a great topic to explore at the school(s) of your choice. There could be academic scholarships dedicated to a specific program of study that may be of interest to you. Or you may be able to qualify for a general academic scholarship at your school based off your scores on the SAT or ACT.
4.Coaching staff and team – When you join a college team you are in many ways joining a family. Your coach and teammates are going to be your support system throughout your college career and beyond. You want to be sure that they are going to be able to foster an environment for you in which you will feel comfortable and you can grow as a person and an athlete. Your interaction with the coach and the type of relationship you want to have with your coach is all based on personal preference. The way the coach interacts with the team is a great topic to bring up when on a visit – you may be able to speak with current team members too. If you think it is a system where you will flourish then great, keep that school on the list! Otherwise, you may want to look at other schools.
5. Team size/class breakdown – When researching potential programs, look at see how big the golf team is and how many student-athletes are in each class. Are there a lot of upper classmen and few under classmen? If this is the case then the coach will probably be looking to recruit a larger class because he/she is going to lose a portion of their team due to graduation. On the flipside, are there a lot of freshmen and sophomores already on the team? This may limit the amount of spots that are going to available for the year you want to enter college. In addition, team size may also play a role in how much playing time you will receive. Are there only five players? Then you will probably be able to compete in every tournament. However, if there are 10 players on the team, you may have to play qualifiers against your teammates in order to determine who travels to the tournaments.