If you’re thinking of playing golf in college, is a gap year a good idea? If you’re a late bloomer or are competing against full rosters, a gap – or post-grad – year has many benefits.

Junior Golf Hub explains how to have a successful gap year and its benefits if you choose to go down this path. We’ll also share some of the negatives of taking a gap year, though we list preventative measures you can take to give yourself the best chance of success.

First, let’s learn more about a gap year and why college golfer recruits are considering it. Then we’ll dive into some other factors to consider, like cost and NCAA eligibility.

What Is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a year off between high school and the start of college. The year off allows the prospective student-athlete to continue to develop his or her physical form, emotional maturity and golf skills.

Is a Gap Year Right for Me?

There are several reasons to consider a gap year. First, the gap year may improve your chances of playing on your favorite or target college golf program. 

Because the additional year of maturation and development can move your scores closer to the target scoring range of the men’s or women’s college program of your choice, you may find the gap year as a productive means to your end of playing collegiate golf. This situation often applies to players who are late comers to the game of golf but have seen rapid progress in their golf scores and could greatly benefit from an additional year of skill development.

Another reason to consider a gap year for golf is roster spot availability. College golf programs often have limited spots available on an annual basis, and the roster may be full for your graduating class at your programs of interest. Deferring your admittance for a year can allow you to enter college during a year where roster spots are open for the team.

Lastly, some people may feel that they are just not ready mentally or emotionally for college life. Another year of maturation and development can help with overall college readiness.

How Can I Have a Successful Gap Year?

There are many keys to experiencing a successful golf gap year. Finding the best college golf program for you will take a ton of hard work, and with a solid plan and open communication, you can increase your chances of becoming a college golfer.

1. Having a Sound Development Plan During Your Gap Year for Golf

Without a thorough, sound development plan – otherwise known as working on the right things for your game – the gap year could turn into wasted time, and that won’t help your college golf prospects.

Junior Golf Hub recommends you find a credible golf academy with a great gap year golf program. At The Golf Performance Center in Ridgefield, CT, for example, you can find certified and trained coaches to help oversee your physical, mental and golf skill development. In fact, we’ve interviewed an alumnus who spent his gap year at The Golf Performance Center, and he shares his success story and how he benefited from an extra year to develop.

2. Create a Competitive Junior Golf Tournament Schedule

College coaches will be heavily evaluating your junior golf tournament performance during your gap year. Junior Golf Hub recommends playing a full calendar of 12-18 events filled with both 36-hole regional and national tournaments.

Many junior golf tours still allow post-grad – or gap year – students to compete after high school graduation, although the AJGA is a notable exception. Touch base with junior golf tours, local PGA sections and other regional events to determine your gap year eligibility.

3. Manage Your Calendar Effectively

A gap year can involve lots of unstructured time, and you’ll need to turn this period into a productive daily, weekly and monthly schedule. This is particularly critical if you’re outside a golf gap year program environment.

Developing these time management skills will greatly benefit you later in life, both in college and if you choose to play golf professionally.

4. Be Proactive with College Coach Outreach

It’s critical to talk with college coaches about your plan to take a gap year and let them know you’ve officially decided to do so; it’s also important to share your detailed development plan.

Don’t leave the coaches in the dark – keep them up to date with your development and tournament results regularly and let them know how you’re progressing toward your goals.

5. Embody Hard Work and Self-Discipline

Hard work and self-discipline are going to be the oil that keeps your development engine running during your gap year. In order to achieve your goal of improving, embodying these traits will serve you well during your gap year and beyond.

What Are the Negatives to Taking a Gap Year?

There are certain drawbacks to consider when taking a gap year. Socially, your friends may already be at college so your day-to-day social circle may change.

Moreover, without a concrete development plan in place, the gap year may not be productive. A simple solution to this concern is attending a golf gap year program at an academy; however, this course of action will have a cost, as will having another year of entry fees and travel for junior golf tournaments.

While a productive gap year can increase your chances of attending a more competitive college golf program, there are no guarantees. Open communication with interested college coaches is a must.

How Do College Golf Coaches View Gap Years?

In Junior Golf Hub’s experience, golf coaches often view gap years favorably. Taking a year off can often help both the player and the school’s golf program. However, we highly recommend talking with the interested college coaches to get their views on a golf gap year.

How Do Golf Gap Years Affect NCAA Eligibility?

Taking a gap year will not compromise your NCAA eligibility. However, it’s important to make sure you have met all NCAA eligibility requirements prior to graduating your senior year of high school. You also need to stay aware of doing anything during your gap year that could jeopardize your NCAA eligibility.

Additionally, students will often take a few college classes during their gap year at a local institution or community college to stay sharp academically. This is perfectly fine, though we recommend checking with the NCAA first to ensure you are not exceeding certain thresholds and deemed a full-time student; you could then lose a year of competitive eligibility.

Only you can determine whether a gap year is right for you and your goals. Evaluate the pros and cons, talk to college coaches and begin thinking of what your development plan could look like. College golf is a big decision, so take your time considering all your options and strive to make the best decision given the available information.

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