The college golf landscape in the USA has fostered some of the greatest talents in the sport’s long and storied history and is continuing to grow in both popularity and competitiveness.
Athletes from across the globe see collegiate golf as not only a way to cut their teeth against the very best and like-minded competition, but it also provides a unique opportunity to gain a world-class education at the same time as playing the sport they love. It truly is the best of both worlds.
NCAA Division I men’s golf programs have historically been responsible for producing the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, and current World No.1 Scottie Scheffler, who recently continued his hot streak all the way to a green jacket at the 85th edition of The Masters. In fact, over 60% of all men’s PGA Tour players have come through the college system as student-athlete.
The women’s golf scene is also jam-packed with former college talent, with the likes of Danielle Kang, who won the PGA Championship back in 2017 and top-20 world ranked Jennifer Kupcho, fresh off a win at the LPGA Chevron Championship last month.
The competitive landscape of college golf
With an average team size of around 10 golfers per college or university, the competition for a place in the team is notoriously fierce. Across the top three NCAA divisions, there are around 820 institutions that offer golf scholarships, meaning less than 9,000 places are up for grabs across the entire continental United States.
Golf scholarships are awarded on an equivalency basis, which means each golf program have an allocated pot of money they can draw from to recruit and award percentage-level funding to prospective student-athletes each season. Athletic scholarship limits within NCAA Division I and II are set at around 4.5 and 3.5 respectively, so the probability of any golfers on the team being awarded a full-ride is close to zero, and NCAA D-III relies solely on academic and need-based funding, with no athletic budget available.
The fundamental requirements to compete at each level
At the highest level of NCAA D-I men’s golf, prospective student-athletes will be required to have a tournament handicap of between scratch and +5. There’s generally also a minimum tournament experience required for the most prestigious D-I programs, with top finishes expected at national competition and experience of a full-summer schedule and events spanning multiple consecutive days. For women’s golfers, for top D-I universities, a similar level of national competition is required, with a handicap of between scratch and 2 would be the expected level required.
Less competitive D-I programs have a little more flexibility on eligibility requirements, but you’ll still need to be at the very top of your game and have experience competing in recognised regional events with a respectable ranking on the national listings.
For D-II and top-level NAIA programs, a tournament handicap of around 3 or 4 for women and 1 or 2 is expected, and have similar first-hand experience to that over the lower D-I teams, with competition experience in regional ranked events and multi-day tournaments.
D-III, lower-ranked NAIA programs and NJCAA colleges present the most accessible requirements, with a similar handicap of between 3 and 4 and some experience competing at local events and tournaments on the men’s side, and a handicap of between 5 and 6 required for women’s players.
Securing a golf scholarship with FirstPoint USA
As the world’s leading sports scholarship consultancy, we have over 20 years’ experience in recruiting and placing golfers in some of the top programs in the United States, including 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett and Russell Knox – a winner on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, as well as a vast array of top current and former NCAA golfing alumni.
FirstPoint USA has a dedicated team of specialist talent management consultants who have assisted thousands of young athletes to propel their athletic and academic careers through successful partnerships with top U.S institutions. In addition to this, we also have robust processes and support tools in place to help you understand the intricacies of your scholarship options, so we’re with you every step of the way.
In fact, our very own Head of Talent Management, Craig Hughes is a former multi-discipline student-athlete client, having graduated from Webber International University as part of their illustrious golf team. Our office golfing talent doesn’t stop there, however. Callum Macaulay, who heads up our sports consultancy team is a graduate of NCAA Division I powerhouse; the University of Mississippi, and a former two-time European Tour veteran who led Scotland to a historic Eisenhower Trophy win back in 2008.
For more information on the life-changing opportunities for young men and women that a golf scholarship in the USA can provide, why not schedule a call with one of our specialist consultants today.
FirstPoint USA is an international scouting service, providing recruitment services to hundreds of NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA member institutions seeking to identify the very best in overseas talent, both male and female.
The company was founded in 2001 by former University of Cincinnati All-American and Hall of Fame inductee, Andrew Kean, and evaluates over 100,000 prospective student-athletes, competing in over 20 different sports, across 187 countries each year.