How much better do you think a scratch golfer that played college golf is compared to a scratch golfer who didn't play college golf? What do you think college competition affords you that would hurt a golfer who didn't play in college?
I think college golf can be a very important source of experience and learning for a young, aspiring amateur. They get to play and train regularly, on a variety of courses, competing against many of the best young golfers in the world.
Luke Donald played college golf. He's world number one now. Tiger Woods did too and he's an all-time great. Compare them to somebody like Justin Rose (who is still worldclass but not on the same level). At 17, Rose was arguably as talented as Tiger was at the same age, but he turned pro too soon, got chewed up on tour and it destroyed his confidence. It set him back five years, and probably damaged his whole career.
Tiger could have earned millions in sponsorship alone if he turned pro when he was 18, but he played a couple of years of college golf and I think it allowed him time to develop. He was able to play in several majors and tour events and prepare for the world of pro golf at a steady pace.
Of course, the majority of college golfers don't end up on tour. Some become club or driving-range pros and some remain as lifelong amateurs. Either way, college golf granted them the time to gain experience and strengthen their game without the pressure that comes with professional golf. And in most cases, they were able to achieve an academic qualification which can't be a bad thing.
I've become sidetracked slightly. To answer your question more directly: I think a college amateur has a tremendous advantage over a non-college amateur. If you want a future in golf, and you have the academic faculties necessary, then I think opting for college golf is a no-brainer.
Thanks Doc Wordinger for your fantastic response. To further the discussion, I'd like to ask you whether you think a scratch golfer can develop the abilities that a college golfer gains at college, without going to college?
I'm not sure Luse. A non-college amateur would presumably have to work to make a living, so a lot would depend on how much free time they have.
The college golfer is only balancing their golf with their academic studies. Academia is generally less intense and more flexible than full time employment. The non-college scratch golfer has to earn a living and unless they are self-employed, they must commit to rigid hours. Where I live, in the middle of winter, it doesn't get light till after 8am, and it's dark again by 5pm. So that makes it difficult to practice outdoors before and after work between late October and late March (assuming you're a nine-to-fiver). You can go to the driving range but you're limited to working on your medium to long game off a synthetic surface. So you're instantly at a huge disadvantage to your college golf playing friend who has been out on the putting/chipping green and course all afternoon. They have the option of working their studies around golf, whereas the non-college golfer doesn't have the luxury of working their job around the game.
If the non-college player practices wisely and regularly, then they can probably compete with the college golfer in game development. But they'd need an excellent practice regime and a good coach.
In terms of tournament experience, I can't really say. I expect that tournaments on the college golf circuit are better organised and more akin to professional tournaments, than those on the local non-college amateur circuit. You should seek out somebody who has experience of both of worlds. But for simply tuning their mental game to the rigours of competitive golf, the college golfer is probably at an advantage again.
Why don't you do some research and write a hub about it? It's a pretty interesting topic for a golf fan.
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