What does team practice look like?
It’s no secret that practicing with great players is one of the best ways become a better player yourself. Unlike junior golf or professional golf, college golf provides a unique opportunity to practice alongside great players on a daily basis. College coaches want to take advantage of this, but with only 20 hrs/week allotted by the NCAA for team practice, they have to be deliberate with how they use their time.
Every team is different, but expect some combination of qualifying, play days, and structured practice. This is a good question to ask coaches as you begin your recruiting conversations since it varies so much between programs. That said, it’s safe to assume much of your practice will be “on your own”.
The purpose of qualifying is to simulate tournament pressure and see how players stack up against one another. Qualifying is done differently at almost every program so make sure to ask coaches how they qualify during the recruiting process.
Some teams qualify for every event separately…some qualify for multiple events at once. Some teams qualify for as few as one spot…some qualify for all 5 spots. Some teams have exemptions based on tournament finishes…some don’t.
Each coach will have a good reason for doing qualifying the way they do, but make sure it’s a system that works for you since that will be your path to playing in the lineup.
Play days are when a coach wants to get the team together on the course without the pressure of qualifying. Sometimes this is to play a game with a specific goal (irons only, rough is OB, purposely miss greens, etc.) and sometimes it’s for players to compete more casually with each other.
Structured practice is usually conducted at the practice facility and focuses on skill development. This is the time for players to showcase their ability to hit specific shots as well as to learn new shots (usually around the greens).
While some coaches are happy to be your swing coach, most prefer that you have your own. Generally speaking, college coaches spend a lot more time talking about shot selection and course management than they spend teaching fundamentals.