Talented young golfers in the US are likely to have an eye on their preferred college or university as the time approaches to submit their applications. But what’s the deal with golf scholarships?
You’ll be pleased to hear that golf scholarships are widely available for students hoping to apply to colleges throughout the United States. But as we explore in this article, golf scholarships are competitive and require high levels of skill to acquire.
To help you look for the perfect golf scholarship, we introduce some secrets and answer many important questions regarding the current golf scholarship landscape, in order to prepare you for the application process and ensure you’re one step ahead of your competitors.
But let’s first begin by looking at the availability of golf scholarships in America, before ascertaining how difficult it is to acquire one.
Can You Get a Scholarship for Golf?
Like many other sports played competitively in the US, you can apply for a college scholarship in golf. Athletic golf scholarships are awarded to talented, highly skilled, and capable students based on several factors and part or fully fund their tuition fees at American colleges and universities.
Golf is regarded as an equivalency sport, meaning that coaches are given a pool of money to award to recruits and roster players.
This means that the majority of golf scholarships are partial as opposed to a full ride, as we introduce in detail below.
Is it Hard to Get a Scholarship for Golf?
Getting a golf scholarship is competitive and can be difficult. According to Next College Student Athlete, of all the levels that offer golf scholarships, there are more than 8,300 student-athletes competing for 4,545 scholarships.
These scholarships are split into the following categories:
- Division 1 men – 4.5 scholarships available per team, 292 teams in total.
- Division 2 men – 3.6 scholarships available per team, 218 teams in total.
- Division 1 women – 6 scholarships available per team, 249 teams in total.
- Division 2 women – 5.4 scholarships available per team, 154 teams in total.
- NAIA men – 5 scholarships available per team, 93 teams in total.
- NAIA women – 5 scholarships available per team, 143 in total.
- NJCAA men – 8 scholarships available per team, 212 teams in total.
- CJCAA women – 8 scholarships available per team, 98 teams in total.
As you can see, scholarships are available, but they’re certainly competitive. Students who are hoping to get a golf scholarship have to achieve an outstanding GPA, develop an online profile or portfolio, and have tournament exposure to attract coaches’ attention.
Can You Get a Full Ride Scholarship for Golf?
Golf is recognized as an equivalency sport, which means full-ride golf scholarships are rare. Typically, coaches elect to split their scholarship money into partial scholarships to fund multiple athletes on their teams.
For instance, on a D1 team of ten, usually five or six players are recognized for their talent with a partial scholarship, as there is only 4.5 available per team.
This often means golf students are required to supplement their financial package while in college by finding another source of income. Like everyone else, they can self-fund, apply for need-based aid, or look for academic scholarships to go alongside their athletic fund.
So, while full-ride scholarships for golf are available, you might struggle to find them, and you should plan for additional ways of funding your college education in addition to a partial golf scholarship.
What Handicap Do You Need for a Golf Scholarship?
As you might expect, you need to possess a low handicap to be considered for any type of golf scholarship, it varies depending on the tier but the minimum handicap you are looking at is 4.
Below is a table that expresses the handicap requirements for a golf scholarship in the US:
|Tier 1 |
|Tier 2 |
|Tier 3 |
(D2 & Top NAIA)
(D3 & Low NAIA)
|Tournament Handicap||0 to +2||0 to +2||3.5/4 & below||3.5/4 & below|
|Scoring Average||72 & under at +6,700 courses||74 & under at +6,600 courses||74-76 & under at +6,600 courses||80-74 & under at +6,600 courses.|
Of course, there are exceptions to the handicaps listed above, as scholarships are granted based upon other considerations, including GPA and character.
Colleges will often make exceptions and consider players with slightly higher handicaps, providing the other aspects of their applications are at an exceptionally high standard.
How Hard is it to Get a Girl’s Golf Scholarship?
Just like men, women hoping to get a golf scholarship in the US faces an extremely competitive process. There are more than 7,000 female golfers competing across 996 teams in US colleges. Of these players, there are more than 5,200 women competing for just 3,776 scholarships.
Another aspect that makes it difficult for women to get a golf scholarship is that the NCAA rosters a significant number of international golfers.
Presently, more than 11% of current NCAA golfers are international students, which makes the competition for scholarships even more challenging.
Who Has the Best College Golf Program?
The best colleges for golfing programs for top-performing men are UCLA and Georgia Tech, while the best women’s programs are at Duke and UCLA.
Below is their ranking of the best college golf programs by division:
|NCAA D1||UCLA/Georgia Tech||Duke/UCLA|
|NCAA D2||Rollins College/Florida Southern||Rollins College/Florida Southern|
|NCAA D3||St Johns||University of the Redlands|
|NAIA||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma City|
|NJCAA D1||Midland College||Daytona State College|
While these are recognized as some of the best college golf programs, the reality is that excellent programs exist at colleges right the way across the US, from Stanford to the University of California.
When you’re conducting your research into colleges that you might like to attend, it’s a good idea to cast your net broadly and consider programs offered by a range of institutions.
It stands to reason that focusing only on the best golf programs will limit your chances of attaining a golf scholarship, so the more colleges you consider, the better your chances are of success.
Can You Apply for Scholarships in Junior Year?
It’s recommended* that you begin researching and applying for college scholarships after your junior year of high school. But there’s an important caveat to consider. Every college has slightly different rules and regulations, while individual scholarships will also vary.
* more information on the recommendation.
You also need to consider the NCAA rules around college recruiting, as these may affect your chances of connecting with a coach at the college of your choice.
The most important rule to consider is that coaches can’t contact a potential recruit before June 1 of their junior year.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t reach out and connect with a coach. Many high-performing athletes will reach out to coaches and speak with them before the junior year for informal discussions about their future.
This can be done through unofficial campus visits and video calls, and you will find that golfers who have developed an impressive reputation at the national level have potential scholarships lined up before their junior year.
Ultimately, the earlier you can begin your research and connect with potential coaches, the better, as the world of college golf scholarships is highly competitive!
Are you Ready to Apply for a Golf Scholarship?
If you’re a talented, low handicap golfer about to embark upon college study, you have a great chance of applying for a golf scholarship to fund your education at college or university.
And while golf scholarships are competitive for both men and women, it’s well worth doing your research to find the best golf scholarships available at institutions across the country.
Thousands of golf students every year receive partial scholarships to fund their studies, and while full-ride scholarships are rare, they do exist and are available in certain conditions.
But remember, as with any scholarship, you need to focus on more than your golf swing to attract the attention of college coaches, so you should invest equally in your GPA and extra-curricular exploits to ensure you’re regarded as an attractive candidate by your chosen college.