Below are common questions related to the Rules of Amateur Status. The Rules in their entirety can be found at www.usga.org/amateurstatus. If you have any specific questions, please contact the USGA Amateur Status Department at 908-326-1025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is amateur status and why does it matter?
Amateur status is a condition used to determine who may play in amateur competitions – see Rule 1-2. Amateur golfers play the game for enjoyment and the challenges it presents, not for reasons of monetary achievement and rewards. Therefore, the purpose of the Rules is to maintain a distinction between amateur and professional golf and encourage amateurs to focus on the game’s challenges and rewards as opposed to financial incentives and other similar motivators – see Rule 1-3.
Do the Rules of Amateur Status apply to everyone?
Generally, yes, the Rules apply to golfers of all ability levels.
However, there is one Rule (Rule 6) that covers things like advertising, promotion and complimentary membership that applies only to highly skilled golfers.
What are the most common examples of breaches of the Rules of Amateur Status?
- Working as a golf professional
- Holding membership in a Professional Golfers’ Association (e.g., PGA of America)
- Entering a competition as a professional
- Playing for prize money, including qualifiers for such competitions
- Giving instruction for compensation
May I play as an amateur in a competition that awards cash prizes?
If you are an amateur golfer and want to play in a competition that awards cash prizes, you can retain your amateur status by submitting an entry to the competition as an amateur golfer or waiving your right to prize money before you play – see Note 2 to Rule 2-1.
Are professional golfers allowed to play in Club competitions?
This is not addressed by the Rules of Amateur Status and is a decision that needs to be made by the Committee in charge of the competition.
What happens if I play for prize money, but don’t win anything?
If you play in a competition that awards prize money, and have not entered as an amateur or waived your right to prize money before you start, you are in breach of the Rules. This is true even if you do not win anything – see Rule 3-1. For example, if you enter your state open as a professional and miss the cut, you have forfeited your amateur status.
What is a prize voucher?
A “prize voucher” includes gift certificates, gift cards, shop credit, travel or accommodation vouchers, and vouchers for other goods and services.
Does the prize limit of $750 mean I may accept cash up to that value?
No. As an amateur golfer, you may not play for or accept a cash prize of any amount. The $750 limit applies to non-cash prizes (such as merchandise prizes or prize vouchers – see Rule 3-2a).
May I accept a cash prize for making a hole-in-one?
Yes. You may accept a prize of any value, including cash, as long as the hole-in-one is made during a round of golf and is incidental to the round – see Rule 3-2b.
However, a prize won for a hole-in-one must still conform to the prize limit of a retail value of $750 in the following formats:
- A contest in which a player is allowed more than one opportunity on a hole to win the prize;
- A contest conducted other than at a golf course (e.g., a simulator or driving range);
- A putting contest.
Am I allowed to accept money from a local business to help pay for my competition expenses?
Yes, but there are some restrictions. You may receive assistance with expenses from an outside source, including a person or a business (except agents, who may not provide expenses). If you receive more than $300 for any one event, a state or regional golf association must oversee the process – see Rule 4-2.
May junior golfers receive money to help pay for expenses?
Yes. Junior golfers may accept expenses directly from an outside source to play in competitions limited only to junior golfers – see Rule 4-2b. For other competitions (i.e., competitions not limited to junior golfers), it is also OK to receive expenses but they must be overseen by a state or regional golf association if the expenses you receive for any one event exceed $300.
May I receive expense reimbursement to play in a sponsored handicap competition?
Yes. You may compete in a sponsored handicap event and accept reasonable expenses to play in its various stages, provided the event has been approved by the USGA (if the event takes place only in the U.S.) or the USGA and the governing body of any other country involved with the competition. This provision applies only to handicap individual or handicap team competitions – see Rule 4-2d.
May I be paid to give instruction?
While there are a few very limited exceptions (e.g., an approved program, such as The First Tee), you must not accept payment or compensation for giving instruction (i.e., teaching the physical mechanics of swinging a golf club and hitting a golf ball) – see Rule 5-1. This restriction does not include giving advice or information related to course management, etiquette or the Rules.
Under what circumstances may I receive compensation for giving instruction in an approved program?
Certain programs, such as The First Tee, have been approved by the USGA under Rule 5-2b, allowing amateur golfers to receive compensation for giving instruction.
May I coach golf at the high school where I teach and remain an amateur?
If you are an employee of an educational institution, you may be compensated for giving instruction to students provided your total time spent giving instruction is less than 50% of the total time in your duties as a school employee.
For example, a high school golf coach is also a history teacher at the school. As part of his time with the golf team, he gives instruction to players on the team. His other duties with the school include all other duties with the golf team, such as conducting team meetings, transporting students, scheduling matches, and all other duties related to his job as a history teacher. If the time he is giving instruction is less than 50% of everything else he does as a school employee, he may be compensated specifically for his coaching duties.
Golf Skill or Reputation
What does it mean to have “golf skill or reputation”?
It’s up to the Governing Body (e.g., USGA) to decide whether an amateur golfer has golf skill or reputation. Golf reputation can only be gained through golf skill. An amateur golfer is very likely to possess golf skill if the following is true:
- he or she has competitive success at a regional or national level, or
- he or she has been selected to represent a national, regional, state or county golf association, or
- he or she competes at an elite level (e.g., competes at national championships).
How does having golf skill or reputation affect me?
If you have golf skill or reputation, you may not leverage that skill or reputation as a golfer, through promotion or advertising, to receive a financial or other kind of benefit – see Rule 6-2. For example, you may not appear as a golfer in an advertisement for a company, including your own, even if you are not paid or compensated.
May I accept free equipment?
Yes. Even if you have golf skill or reputation, you may accept a reasonable amount of golf balls, golf clubs, clothing, shoes and other merchandise from a company or source dealing in these types of equipment (e.g., equipment manufacturer or golf shop). However, if you are considered to have golf skill or reputation, you must not advertise or promote the source of the equipment.
Policy on Gambling
What is the difference between playing for prize money and gambling?
As an amateur golfer, you may not play for prize money (i.e., cash) in a competition.
However, you may participate in informal gambling or wagering when it is incidental to the game and it is not an organized cash game. Features that would be consistent with such gambling or wagering include:
- the players know each other;
- participation in the gambling or wagering is optional and is limited to the players;
- the sole source of all money won by the players is advanced by the players; and
- the amount of money involved is not generally considered to be excessive .
Further, if there is a primary competition where you are playing for conforming prizes (i.e., prize vouchers, merchandise, gift cards valued at $750 or less), there may then be an optional secondary competition (e.g., skins) where cash is awarded. In addition, the optional secondary cash competition should not be advertised as a primary feature to attract participants to the competition. You must be permitted to participate in and win prizes in the primary competition without having to participate in the secondary competition.
In general, you should not play for cash prizes of any amount in large, organized events where playing for the money is not optional and there are no prizes other than cash.
For more information, please review the Policy on Gambling.
How do the Rules of Amateur Status apply to "skins" games?
If participation in the "skins" portion of the competition is not optional (i.e., the players are required to pay an entry fee to be used to award cash prizes in the skins game), those playing in the competition would likely be considered to be playing for prize money and thus in violation of Rule 3-1.
If participation in the "skins" portion of the competition is optional (i.e., there is an optional cash side pool in which players could contribute if they wished in order to be eligible for the "skins" prizes), it involves a nominal amount of money, and is not advertised, the arrangement would appear to constitute permissible gambling, which is permitted by the Rules.
What is the USGA's policy regarding Committees that host events offering non-conforming prizes or do not uphold the gambling policy?
The USGA works alongside allied golf associations to ensure that Committees and amateur golfers are aware of the Rules of Amateur Status and the effect that playing for cash prizes or accepting non-conforming prizes may have on someone’s amateur status.
Reinstatement to Amateur Status
How was my reinstatement date determined?
Your wait period is based on two things: 1) the date of your last act in breach of the Rules, and 2) how long you were in breach of the Rules.
All applications are subject to a 1 or 2 year wait period, based on your time in breach of the Rules (under 6 years = 1 year; 6 years or more = 2 years) – see Rule 9-2b. This wait period begins on the date of your last breach of the Rules.
While a majority of applicants for reinstatement will wait either 1 or two years, it is possible for an applicant’s wait period to be longer due to playing extensively for prize money or having significant experience on a major tour.