College Golf 101
What is the college golf experience like? Depending on your school, division or coach, answers will vary greatly. However, there are many commonalities. Let’s understand some of the basics of college golf across seasons, tournaments, practice schedules and a ‘week in the life’.
Most college golf programs play two seasons: fall and spring. The fall season lasts from September to early November and the spring season lasts from late February to late May. Most schools play roughly 4-5 tournaments in the fall and anywhere between 4-8 tournaments in the spring. The spring season is generally regarded as the more important of the two seasons as it contains your conference tournament which is the most important tournament of the year and can lead to a NCAA tourney bid. Lastly, in the off season most programs strongly encourage the team to both workout and practice on individual time over the winter months and play a competitive summer tournament calendar.
Two words come to mind as it relates to practice: Big Commitment. Many golf teams will practice 5 times a week, for roughly 3-6 hours at a time at the home course or practice facility the team uses. Technically the NCAA specifies 20 hours of total practice time per week however here at the Hub we’ve heard rumors that the time commitment can exceed this. Practices can vary greatly depending on the coach and the facility being used, but most practices consist of 1-2 hours of player chosen practice on either full swing, short game or putting, then 2-4 hours of playing on the golf course. Over the weekend, many programs will allow both days to be off, and others will make either Saturday or Sunday a ‘Play Day’ to a course a little farther away that allows more time for players to travel and play 18 holes for their practice. This is often optional, but encouraged from coaches. One day a week on the weekend is typically reserved as a rest and recovery day.
When a tournament is approaching, or to set the lineup at the beginning of the golf season, teams will hold inter-squad qualifying for the starting five. This can vary for schools, but typically schools will hold a three-round qualifier for available spots. Teams and coaches develop a system to determine which spots in the starting five are available when and to which people on the team.
The starting five (plus any individuals chosen by the coach) travel to the location of the tournament. There is almost always a practice round for players, on either a Friday, or a Sunday (typically). The next day is 36 holes of stroke play, shotgun start. You will play with two to three other players, all from separate teams and you all will carry your own bag for 36 holes. The day after this is 18 holes of stroke play, same format, and the winning team is announced after that round. After each round, the low four scores from the starting five are taken and added together. This process is repeated for each of the three rounds, and the team with the lowest three round aggregate score is crowned the champion. There is also recognition given to the individual winner of the tournament. In all tournaments except the conference championship, the tournament goes toward the school’s record, however if a team wins Conference, they advance to Regionals. If the team wins Regionals, they go to the National Championship for their Division.
For almost every golf program out there, if a college golfer scores well in a tournament, they will be rewarded by staying in the starting five for the next tournament. If they didn’t play very well, their spot may be up for qualifying, and they will have the opportunity to earn a spot again.
Given the importance of golf fitness, most teams will adhere to some golf specific workout program throughout the year. However, workout programs can vary tremendously between teams and depending on the season. The amount of times a week will vary depending on the time of year with the winter time experiencing the most workout time and in season experiencing the least. For example, at some programs the in-season workout is typically one hour long and only once a week, while out of season workouts last one hour and can be two to three times a week. Workouts are typically early in the morning before class. Most teams will work with a specific workout instructor with workouts incorporating a mixture of flexibility, mobility, and strength exercises. We recommend asking your coach about the workout program both in season and out of season and in particular whether the team has a certified coach familiar with expertise in golf conditioning.
Going to college also has a huge academic component that college golfers can’t forget about. If you drop below a certain GPA, you can become academically ineligible. Coaches can also have individual team standards for GPA and class attendance that if not followed could result in being kicked off the team or not being in the starting 5. As a result, time management and serious effort needs to be made toward academic work.
For many college golfers, their classes will necessarily fall from 8:00 am to roughly 1:00pm Monday through Friday. Classes will vary based on the day, and the number of classes per day will depend on your major, number of classes taken, and class choices. After practice (typically around 7-8pm) homework and studying is expected from student athletes. Weekends are also prime times to do homework, study, and prepare for the classwork or tests in the week ahead. For many freshmen and even sophomores, a designated amount of study hall homework or studying is required. This involves a college golfer going to the designated study hall building, signing in, and doing homework or studying for the required study time and then signing out. Coaches will check this study hall time, so don’t slack on this.
When you start in as a collegiate athlete you are given four academic years of eligibility to play college golf. Unless you redshirt your freshman year, your eligibility coincides with this four-year rule. If you take extra semesters resulting in more than four years of eligibility that means you can no longer play for the team.
Week in the Life
To give you an idea of what a typical weekly schedule is like based on the components talked about in this article, see the graph below. It may seem like a lot, but once you get used to it and use tips talked about in our time management article, it becomes very manageable and a fun time!