Playing college golf is not for everyone. It is a huge commitment, often times one that requires you to compromise your school work or social life. If college golf is your only way to get into a good school or to get a scholarship, then college golf is for you. If you have dreams of playing professional golf one day, college golf is definitely for you.
But if you just want to continue to play the game you love, with way less stress, less time commitments, and no morning workouts, then club golf and the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) is for you!
I played club golf nearly every semester of my undergrad college experience. I have never worked for the NCCGA, but I was my school club team’s President for a year, so I got to communicate and work with multiple NCCGA guys/girls. I am going to write a separate article specifically about being a Club Golf President at your school, because it was a great learning experience. Just so you know, I have no reason to write this review except to give you a clearer picture of what it’s like. This is in no way endorsed or sponsored by the NCCGA.
This information is going to range from very broad info to very specific info. Hopefully it will give you a better understanding of the NCCGA and how great it truly is.
How it Works
Schools are split up into regions. For example, Auburn, University of Alabama, Clemson, UGA, and many other local schools will be in the South Region. You have two regional tournaments. Each team has 8 players from your college club team. If you are a big enough club, you can take 2+ teams if you can afford it. Each day, you take the best 5 scores from your team and add them up. That is your total for the day. There are two days of rounds, Saturday and Sunday.
At the end of the two rounds, unless there is a tie, you’ll have a winning team. Depending on how the NCCGA sets it up each semester, first place, second place, and third place teams get so many points for their section. For example, the first place team might get 6 points, second place gets 3, third place gets 1. Alongside the team competition, there is also individual results. You could theoretically be on the last place team but win 1st place individually. When trying to qualify for the National Championship as an individual, your scoring average is compared to other individuals around the nation.
After two regional tournaments, you might have a tie between teams that both won one regional tournament and got 2nd in the other. It would come down to a tiebreaker that the NCCGA put into place from the beginning. Each school has a Club President, who is responsible for knowing the rules and communicating the rules to their team.
Depending on how the NCCGA sets up the semester, there will be 1 or 2 spots per region that get invited to the National Championship. See the National Championship section below for more details. There will also be wildcard picks and alternates that end up getting in.
You might be confused about Club Golf vs the NCCGA. The NCCGA is simply the organization where college Club Golf teams compete. Club Golf teams are within the colleges/universities, while the NCCGA is the nationwide organization.
Within a typical Club Golf Team, you will have a President, a VP, a Treasurer, and maybe a couple other officer positions. Club Golf teams can range from 5 guys/girls or so to 100 people, depending on the size of your school and where your school is located. Girls are 100% allowed and encouraged to play, but they are a huuuge minority unfortunately. Club teams have two types of players: players that want to play in tournaments, and players that just want to be a part of the club to make friends and have a good time. Obviously the ones that want to play in tournaments are the ones that are going to be more competitive. My club golf team had around 30 players on it, with 3 girls that never wanted to compete. 10-12 of those guys actually took is seriously, while the rest just wanted to meet new people and didn’t want to compete.
Myself and the VP did most of the work, but we let our treasurer deal with collecting dues and tournament fees. Depending on how your club is allocated money, some clubs will have officers dedicated to community service, fundraising, and even social media.
Like all club sports, there are good teams and there are bad teams. There are good players, and there are bad players. There are players that want to play professional one day (not many, but some) and there are players that have played golf only a couple of times in their lives (again, not many but some).
I’m going to use my experience playing in the South Section for the rest of the article, in case you are curious. Overall, the average score that you’d expect to see was around 82-84ish. If someone shot in the 70’s, that was typically a pretty good round. Except for the annoying guys that would make it obvious how upset they were when they didn’t shoot under par. With average conditions, most guys would be a little upset if they shot in the upper 80’s, but it happened all the time.
If you can consistently shoot in the mid 70’s, you’ll probably be one of the best guys in your region. If you shoot in the 70’s half the time, and shoot in the 80’s half the time, you are more than likely to help your team out a good bit. This all depends on how tough your region is, the conditions that you play in, and how good your team is.
There will be some schools that shoot around par on average. There will be some teams that shoot over 90 on average. It varies widely. However, typically the bigger the school, the better the team. There is also a correlation between how good the varsity team is and how good the club team is, as the ones that can’t walk on the real team often play club instead.
If you are curious, I’d say the average winning score for individuals was a couple under par for the tournament. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t think I’ve played in a Club Golf tournament without someone shooting over 100, maybe even 110. Like I said, there is a very wide range.
Member: Not a big time commitment at all. If you make the traveling team, you might have to go to more qualifying rounds or practices, depending on what your president requires. Other than that, you should try to attend all events and practices that you can. Not a big deal if you can’t make all the practices, but that might hurt your chances of playing in tournaments. Overall: roughly 5 hours a week if you have a 4 hour round and attend 1 social event a week on average. And then two-three weekends each semester for regional and the National Championship if you make it.
President: If you are going to be the president of your club golf team, it’s obviously going to be a bigger time commitment. Being president is only what you make it. You can choose to be very hands off, delegating a lot of tasks to VP, treasurer, and other officers. Or you can be very hands on, making most of the decisions, planning events, going to all events, coordinating with officers, etc. You will probably know which style you’d rather do. Personally, I took on a hands on approach. Throughout the semester, I designed t-shits, scheduled practices, scheduled community service events, scheduled fundraising events, attended everything, communicated with NCCGA workers, etc. I spent probably 10 hours a week on average focusing solely on club golf, with 4 of those hours being our weekly club practices on Sundays. Overall: anywhere from 5-15 hours a week. And then 2-3 weekends each semester for tournaments.
Cost for the Club to Operate: The NCCGA charges a flat $300 to each team each semester to start off with. Not a problem, considering the amount of work they put into all of the events. Each tournament costs roughly $1,300 on average for everything including entry fees for 8 guys, 2 hotel rooms for 2 nights at a cheapish place, and gas. Again, pretty fair considering we are talking about a notoriously expensive sport here.
Speaking from experience working with my school to get funding for Club Golf, it can be difficult and time consuming. At my school, how much money we get comes down solely to home much community service hours our team gets and how much fundraising we raised the semester before. This is dumb, as the prior president could have not done anything in those regards. To be clear, this is a problem with my School’s system and has nothing to do with the NCCGA.
We had to present a budget presentation to my schools “Club Sports Board”. Yes, that is actually a thing. My school pays 5 grown men/women decent salaries just to oversee our clubs sports. When I was president, I talked to other club presidents about how much funding they got, and the answers (not surprisingly) varied. Some schools just added a $10 club sports fee to EVERY student’s bill, which ended up being a huge pot split between all of the clubs sports. They could take club vans, they could fly if they needed to, and they could definitely attend the National Championship if they were invited. Other schools had to charge expensive dues to their members just to afford weekly practices and traveling to tournaments.
Costs for Members: If you have no previous knowledge of the NCCGA, I’ll go ahead and explain some basic costs of the club that people need to take into consideration. Most clubs charge dues to their club members (ranging from anywhere to $0-$400ish per semester). This can be used to help pay for weekly practice rounds at a home course, traveling costs (gas, hotels, and flights), team polos, etc. Schools often help out and help pay for part of the costs of the club. Basic costs such as golf balls and golf clubs were to be purchased individually by the members.
Some teams also charge a tournament fee for each tournament, as tournaments are expensive. In my case, we charged each member $300 for the semester, which included 8 rounds of golf, 2 tournaments (if they qualified for it), and a tee shirt. We had an agreement with a local golf course to get a reduced rate. Members had to pay extra each practice round if they chose to ride instead of walk.
National Championship: If your team (or you as an individual) makes it to the National Championship, it’s going to be expensive. They typically end up booking it at a very expensive course and resort. My team played in three Natty’s in my career, and it cost on average $600 each player. That includes 2 rounds at a prestigious course, 2-3 nights at an expensive hotel, a practice round, airfare if needed, rentals, Ubers, gas, etc. It will be much less if you are within driving distance of the course, but that will be rare unfortunately. Luckily, my school gave us a little more money when were invited to play. Each player typically ends up spending anywhere from $100-300 out of pocket for the National Championship, as the club can cover a good bit of it. It just depends on how much money we have in our club account.
There was actually a year that we got invited to the National Championship, but it would have emptied our bank account for the next semester, so we sadly had to decline the invitation. As President at the time, that was not fun to have to tell the rest of the team.
There are tons of great deals when you become an NCCGA member. The ones that stand out in the past are $20/dozen Srixon Q and Z Star balls and $50 for new Cleveland Wedges. They also had great deals on New Balance golf shoes (very underrated shoes in my opinion) and golf shirts from Oxford. As President, I bought all members of our last National Championship team brand new Oxford shirts, and they are still some of my favorite to this day.
My freshmen year, 4 years ago, there were even great deals on golf courses. I’m not sure if that is a common thing anymore. My roommate and I (who I actually met through Club Golf!) used to play a small 9 hole course for dirt cheap by showing that we were NCCGA members. Eventually, though, and without a reason, the course stopped accepting it and I had to contact NCCGA about it. The course refused to keep accepting it in the end, denying that they ever had a partnership in the first place. Not really sure what truly happened there. I’m sure there are still some good local course deals out there, though.
The NCCGA staff was incredible. I never worked with or communicated with someone that I didn’t have a great conversation or relationship with. They are all incredible friendly and chill. They take their jobs seriously, in that they make sure your job as a member or President is worthwhile. We had some President conference calls in the past, and they were all very structured and very professional.
Every high up NCCGA employee or intern does a great job of spreading awareness about Club Golf, which is huge for it to be as successful at they want it to be. I’ve seen them multiple times on the Golf Channel and all over social media platforms giving Club Golf a really good name.
The tournaments are a TON of fun. I’ll just be straight forward, as I didn’t know what to expect at my first Club golf tournament. Teams of 8 typically stay in two rooms of 4. Depending on your team, there might (probably will be) alcohol included. Looking back at my undergrad years, these were some of my favorite memories in college.
Tournaments are pretty relaxed. Your team might get there Friday night after classes or early Saturday morning, depending on your first tee time. My team typically drove 2 cars if we planned everything perfectly. There are atypically 1-2 guys that want to drive separately for whatever reason, though. Yes, it is OK for your family to come and watch you play, just make sure they stay calm/quiet and don’t go overboard. Most players don’t have family/friends come, just so you know. But some do.
You get a brand new sleeve of balls at the start of the tournament, and there are typically great snacks from sponsors when you get there as well. You all go to the range on Saturday morning, where teams “claim” parts of the driving range. There are always circumstances when teams claim way too much of the range for theirselves, leaving teams that show up later with none or only one hitting spot. It’s not a big deal, but that was kinda aggravating.
The actual rounds are very chill. There was hardly ever any cursing (ok, sometimes!), arguing about a rule, etc. We play drop-clean-and-place if in damp conditions. We putt everything out, but that’s about as serious as it gets. If someone has a bad round, they always think that their team is going to be really upset with them. Truth is, not many teammates care that much; they won’t be upset. We are all just out there trying to have fun. Of course we want to win, but we enjoy being with our team even more.
After rounds, we typically go out to eat as a team, go back to the hotel, maybe meet up with other teams, and drink some. Not all teams drink, as some teams take it more seriously. We talk about our rounds all day, walking our friends hole-by-hole about what happened, and talking about where everything went wrong. We complain about bad shots and glorify the (few) good ones. We go through the results online, make fun of some of our friends, and show our jealously of the tournament leader. Then…. we crash. After all, golf is exhausting. Someone’s gotta do it though.
Then we do it again the next day. We sometimes get paired with new players, sometimes play with the exact same group. It’s all up to the tournament regional director, who is also a Club President of a competing team. After the second round, we wait around and talk about our rounds. We talk about who probably won. We talk about what scores we need to come in with to have a chance. The rounds are typically shotgun style, so your team comes in slowly but all around the same time.
After the tournament director and some helpers add up the scores, they announce and congratulate the winners. Trophies or awards are given to the top two teams and the top 8 individual players (the all-tournament team). If you are like my team freshman year, we all shotgun a beer in the parking lot after a big win. Then everyone says their good byes and heads back home to their school.
My team has been to three national championships in my 6 semesters playing club golf. We got invited to another one, but we had to turn it down because we simply didn’t have enough money.
The Natty’s has been an incredible experience each time I have gone. It is always played at incredible courses, they always partner with great hotels, and they just put on an awesome event. There are also sponsors there, TV cameras, the whole shebang. You can’t help but feel like a pro golfer, which is a cool feeling. The competition is obviously more fierce, but you still have some teams that can’t bring their normal crew due to finals or costs.
My team finished 9th our first National Championship. We played at a TPC course, and it was the windiest weather I have ever seen in my life. The NCCGA handled it to the best that I could imagine. The other two natty’s were at just-as-awesome courses, and our team had a great time at both.
In the 4 years that I have know about the organization, the NCCGA has exceeded my expectations in every way. They offer the perfect outlet for those that take golf pretty seriously, as well as those that play just to goof off, meet new people, and have a good time. They hire great people, do a great job of bringing golfers together, and just give all of us golf addicts a great way to keep playing the game we love. I hope they know how much of an impact they have had on me. More importantly, I hope they know how many friendships were built all around the US as a result of club golf.