There are over 1,300 college golf programs in the country; how will you find the right fit?
The college recruiting process is like shopping for a nice, new pair of shoes. There is an abundance to choose from and you have to find out what fits you best. You may like a pair a shoes, but they might not fit correctly. There may be another pair that fits you right but isn’t the style that you would prefer. This same concept can be applied while looking at college golf programs. There will be a few schools/programs that just don’t feel right and won’t be a good fit. You may also find a school/program that fits you well, but it just might not live up to what you’re looking for.
All coaches, players, and programs are special in their own right. Some coaches run a tight ship where the team will practice together and be around each other six days a week. Other coaches may let their team freewheel a bit more. I have seen some programs that don’t require anything of their players until the day of a tournament. This is a pretty wide ranging spectrum and it is the reason why you need to be aware of what you want out of your college golf experience. Now, I realize that the experience you will receive differs by level. No matter what, every team at each level will have a different “M.O.” or way of doing things. I promise that you will be able to find a school that fits the kind of college golf experience you’re looking for. But before you find that school, you have to know what to expect. I’m going to list the top attributes that I would suggest looking for in a college golf program. Keep in mind that these are the things that I believe are important to look for in a college golf program. It may be different for you depending on what you want out of your future coaches/teammates/program.
Coaches have a huge impact on the college golf experience. They are the ones who run the team, set the schedules, keep everything in order, and most importantly help you grow as a player and person. I am lucky enough to have two fantastic coaches who have helped me exponentially throughout my career. They are always there when I need them and have great knowledge of the game which makes it easier to put my trust in them on the course. They also pour their hearts and souls into the team which is really important to me. This shows me that they care and want to run a tight ship. When you’re going through the recruiting process, pay attention to how the coaches communicate with you. Do they seem to genuinely care about you and what you have to say? Or are they too busy to give you any time of day? If you go on a visit, see how they react around you in person. Check out how the players interact with their coaches and how they get along with them. If it seems like the players don’t get along with their own coaches, or that the coaches don’t communicate well with you or the players themselves, then I would suggest moving your interests elsewhere. You can realize a lot about a program just by communicating with the coaches. These are all key signs to keep an eye on while you’re trying to decide what program you want to invest your college career in.
Do some research on the current players on the roster. See if you know any of them or if any are from your area. If so, it may help you out in the long run. Life is all about who you know, so having a prior relationship with a player on a team will help you know what to expect from the program. If you go on a visit to a school, try to get a good feel for how the players are acting and treating you. Ask them questions about the program and how it is run. If their answers seem disinterested or unsatisfied, then it may be a red flag. The way the players on a team act really shows a lot about a program as a whole. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and if you’re getting a bad vibe from the current players then there’s probably a reason behind it. You just need to be alert and try to gather as much information as possible from the current players while on your visit.
“Life is all about who you know…”
The way a team is organized can determine what kind of college golf experience you will receive. When on a visit ask about the team’s practice schedule or workout routine. See how in-depth the team’s day-to-day happenings are. The NCAA regulates how many hours a team can “officially” practice per week. Check and see how many of these hours the team is utilizing to practice. There are some programs that use the entirety of their weekly allowance, while other programs don’t even have mandatory team practice. If the program you’re looking at does require team practice, see if you can sit in or even play with a few current players while on your visit. This will really help you get a good feel for what to expect when it comes to practice and team camaraderie. A lot of golf programs have implemented workout routines, however not every program may do this. This part is where asking questions is important. If you end up choosing a program that does not require anything of you as a player besides showing up on a tournament day, then you may be missing out on some of the college golf experience. This is all relative, and completely depends on what you want from a college program. You may want to have structured team practices and workouts with more of a team-oriented atmosphere. This is the way the program I play for is run, and I absolutely love it. I enjoy having a daily routine that I can stick to as well as the feeling of improving each day with my teammates. You have to ask questions and determine what you want out of your experience before you make a commitment. I believe this is one of the most important aspects of the college golf recruiting process. Once again, this all boils down to one common denominator: ask questions!
All schools offer academic support, and coaches will always be there to help if you need it. However, check and see if there are any sort of mandatory team study sessions required. My program requires all first-semester freshman and transfers to attend study tables twice a week. This is to ensure that we have designated time set aside to focus on our schoolwork. I know that many teams implement helpful programs like this, but it doesn’t hurt to check while on a visit. I feel as though study tables helped me greatly during my freshman year, and I think it definitely added some value to my experience. This also loops back to the Team Organization topic, and will show you what is expected of you on a team.
This is something that you can go online right now and find out about any team in the country. Every team website will have a schedule posted showing you what courses they play and where they’re at. Check and see if the program you’re interested in lines up with what your ideal schedule is. Do they travel a lot? Are they playing every weekend? How long do the trips last? These are all great questions to ask while on a visit as they can be a big indicator on whether or not a program is right for you. Find out where you’ll be competing, what the conditions are usually like, how often you’ll be competing, and see if there are any cool trips on the schedule as well!
This one is HUGE and I can’t stress that enough. Check and see where the team practices or what facilities they have available to them throughout the year. Some programs are lucky enough to have multiple places to play and practice at, while others may be stuck in a tough situation when it comes to playing privileges. Practice facilities can say a lot about a program, so this is definitely something you need to inquire about. Also, if you’re looking at a school that gets snow in the wintertime, ask about what the team does during the winter months. Some programs have full indoor facilities, while others may hang up the sticks until March. You’re going to have to practice a lot if you want to succeed at the next level, so you should make sure that the program you’re looking at has at least one decent place to grind.
If you’re looking to get the most out of your college golf experience, then you need to pay attention to these attributes. Figure out what you want out of your program, and make sure you ask lots of questions. You DO NOT want to be stuck in a situation where you are not getting the most out of your experience and feel as though you’re missing out. Take your time, do some thinking, and look for whichever attributes you feel are most important in a college golf program.
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