What you need to know about College Golf Scholarships
27 Aug 2018
by Brendan Ryan of Golf Placement Services

(AJGA photo)
(AJGA photo)

Much has been written about golf scholarships which have led to some confusion. In this article, I am going to go beyond the basics of golf scholarships to provide junior golfers and their families (and maybe even some golf professionals) better insight into scholarships including valuable insights into countable vs. non-countable aid, indexing and the difference between a funded vs. non-funded program.

The Basics

Under the NCAA rules a full scholarship is defined as “tuition, fees, room and board, as well as course related text books”. Under the NCAA rules, the scholarship limits are:

NCAA D1 Men’s: 4.5 / Women’s 6
NCAA D2 Men’s 3.6 / Women’s 5.4

According to data collected last year by Steph Acosta, NCAA Men’s coaches believe that less than 10% of players have full rides. To earn a full ride coaches suggested you would need to be approximately top 100 in your class in Junior Golf Scoreboard or top 250 in the WAGR.

Article: http://www.golfwrx.com/479306/the-numbers-behind-full-scholarships-in-ncaa-mens-college-golf/

It is also important to note that schools can now offer “cost of attendance” which entitles the scholarship player to not only a full scholarship but also about 10% of the cost of the scholarship in bi-annual cheques to spend on extra expenses like food, car insurance or travel home.

Funded vs. Non-Funded

It is important for prospective student athletes and their families to understand that a school’s success is most likely tied to their funding; if you build it, they will come. Over the past decade, golf has seen an drastic increase in the commitment of schools which has resulted in better facilities and more professional coaches at almost every level of the sport. However, this does not mean that all programs are appropriately funded. While it is impossible to know the exact numbers, it is my guess that approximately 60% of Division 1 schools, 20% of Division 2 schools and 10% of Division 3 schools are funded with either the appropriate number of scholarships or the funding to travel and equip the players properly or both. If I was a student athlete, I would rather be at a funded program, regardless of Division.

Countable vs. Non-Countable

In the recruitment process, schools often have access to both academic and athletic scholarships, while student athletes can apply for outside scholarships from organizations like the First Tee. As a prospective student athlete, it is important to understand the difference between countable and non-countable money. So, what are they?

Countable: This is any money that a college coach must count towards their NCAA limits on Scholarships including athletic scholarships and any other scholarships which are not open to each and every other student at the academic institution.

Non-Countable: Institutional based scholarships available to each student at the institution. These are often merit based on a sliding scale which factors both GPA and test scores. They often start small and continue to increase as the numbers improve.

The best way for parents and prospective student athletes to think about non-countable aid is as a rebate system. Most non-countable money comes from private schools who use these tools to woo students, knowing that the original sticker price of the institution does not represent the operating expenses. Instead it is less and therefore, the major of students earns scholarships. These scholarships make the school seem like a better investment and act to nudge students towards making the choice; wouldn’t you rather attend the school who gives you a scholarship? Slick marketing, but buyers should be aware that schools are using this tactic.

If a prospective student athlete has any intention of applying for additional scholarships, outside of golf and academic money through the institution, they should be very up front with the coach as some of this money might not be legal.


Some schools, mostly in the NAIA and Division 2, are engaging in what I will term “indexing”. Indexing is when the coach needs to meet an average cost of tuition number while maximizing numbers to help drive enrollment at the school. For example, if the school costs $10,000, the coach may have to average each player pay $5,000. This means that if he gets one player to pay $10,000, then he could give another player a full ride (as they would average to his index of $5,000).

Schools which use an index model generally have larger rosters, likely 13 or more on the team. Although the rosters can be large, schools which index can still be great options; the large roster usually gives the coach lots of financial resources which leads to better facilities and more opportunities to travel.

Unused Women’s Scholarships

When discussing the subject, it is important to understand and interpret the data correctly. First, one can always argue that non-countable money is going unused because of merit based scholarships and indexing. However, it terms of just golf scholarships, a recent survey of the bottom 10% of NCAA Division 1 teams which include responses from 22/30 programs, demonstrates that 70% of the programs are not fully funded under the NCAA rules (they do not have the full allotment of 6 scholarships).

When these programs were asked if they had unused athletic aid, 2/22 programs did; however, the aid was not giving out due to a lack of candidates but because of a lack of qualified candidates. The heuristic of the full ride has driven players into the game who likely will not get full rides because they cannot compete at the level necessary for Division One Golf. For coaches who have this problem, it is better to sit on the scholarship for a year to try and get a qualified player, then to give the scholarship out to a player for four years which will not help the team get better.

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