Amateur Status: Great Skill, Great Responsibility June 1, 2016 By Rob Ockenfuss, USGA

Elite amateur golfers draw the interest and attention of fans all around the world. (USGA/John Mummert)

Imagine the thrill of winning the U.S. Amateur or a state amateur championship, or representing the USA in the Curtis Cup or Walker Cup Matches. Achieving this success can provide worldwide exposure.  However, that added exposure also creates additional responsibility.      

Someone who accomplishes this high level of competitive success is considered to possess what the Rules of Amateur Status define as golf skill. Different than simply having the ability to play good golf, this term is an elevated distinction. Individuals with golf skill are subject to greater scrutiny, especially as it relates to personal appearances and promotional activities.

An amateur golfer with golf skill has the ability to be more marketable than other amateur golfers and therefore use his or her name or likeness to promote, advertise or sell something and receive a personal benefit or be paid or compensated as a result. The ability to make money through promotion or advertising is one of the key differences between amateur and professional golf.

Here are some examples of prohibited activities for an amateur golfer of skill:

  • Appearing as a golfer (i.e., lending likeness) in an advertisement promoting a specific product or service.
  • Providing a written endorsement (i.e., lending name) of a product or service, such as equipment.
  • Appearing as a golfer (i.e., lending likeness) in an advertisement to promote a sponsor of an upcoming event in which the player is competing.

It is important to point out that a golfer of skill is considered to have received a personal benefit for appearing in an advertisement as a golfer, even if he or she is not paid or compensated for lending their likeness.

Though there are prohibitions that apply to these players, there are certain things an amateur golfer of skill can do within the Rules. While not an exhaustive list, he or she can:

  • Accept and use free or reduced-cost golf equipment (e.g., golf balls, clubs, clothing, shoes) from an equipment manufacturer, as long as the player does not promote or advertise the equipment or manufacturer.
  • Use his or her name or likeness to promote a golf association, a recognized charity or an event considered to be in the best interests of the game.

To learn more about this topic, you may wish to review Rule 6 (Use of Golf Skill or Reputation).

The complete Rules and Decisions on Amateur Status can be found here or on the USGA Rules of Golf app. For more information, please contact the USGA Amateur Status staff at (908) 326-1025 or amstat@usga.org.

Rob Ockenfuss is Manager, Amateur Status & Rules of Golf for the USGA. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org

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