Below are common questions related to the Rules of Amateur Status. The Rules in their entirety, including Guidance Notes, 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?
The Rules of Amateur Status define who is eligible to compete as an amateur golfer. The purpose of the Rules is to maintain a distinction between amateur and professional golf and protect the integrity of the game by minimizing pressure on the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Handicapping – see Rule 1.
What are the most common actions that make someone a non-amateur?
- Accepting a prize that is not allowed – see Rule 3
- Playing in a golf competition as a professional – see Rule 2
- Accepting payment or compensation for giving instruction that is not allowed – see Rule 4
- Holding employment (including being self-employed) as a golf club or driving range professional – see Rule 2
- Holding membership of an association for professional golfers (such as the PGA of America) – see Rule 2
May I enter and play in a competition as a professional?
You may submit an entry to a future competition as a professional and retain your amateur status. However, once you play in a competition as a professional, you lose your amateur status, even if you don’t finish the competition for any reason.
May I enroll in a professional golf management program?
Yes, provided you do not hold membership of an association for professional golfers or do anything else that would result in loss of amateur status, such as play in a competition as a professional or give instruction for compensation.
May I work at a course of club as a shop assistant?
Yes, an amateur is allowed to accept this type of employment, provided you do not hold membership of an association for professional golfers or do anything else that would result in loss of amateur status.
Are non-amateurs allowed to play in club competitions?
This is not addressed by the Rules of Amateur Status. The Committee in charge of the competition must decide who is eligible to play.
What is a tee-to-hole golf competition?
The prize rules and limits only apply to tee-to-hole golf competitions, which means players are making a score for a hole as part of a round, whether on a golf course or golf simulator.
However, longest drive, nearest the hole, putting and skills competitions where the stroke or strokes do not count as part of a round of golf are not considered tee-to-hole competitions, and the prize limits do not apply.
What happens if I play in a competition offering prize money, but don’t win anything?
Acceptance of a prize is the standard for determining when a player has lost their amateur status, which means playing in a competition with prize money (for example, cash) is not automatically an issue (unless you enter and play in the competition as a professional).
For example, if you play as an amateur in a scratch competition that offers prize money, you will not lose your amateur status unless you accept a prize above the limit allowed by Rule 3.
Does the prize limit of $1000 mean I may accept prize money (for example, cash) up to that value?
An amateur golfer may accept prize money up to the limit when playing in a scratch competition only.
The $1000 limit applies to non-cash prizes in a handicap competition.
What is a non-monetary prize?
A non-monetary prize is distinguished from prize money (see Meaning of Prize Money), and consists of vouchers, gift certificates and gift cards that can be exchanged for products and services in retail outlets, including a golf course or club.
This type of prize may also be credited to a course or club account and used for items such as a bar bill, club dues, payment of entry fees, and other goods and services at the Club.
Is an amateur golfer allowed to accept a prize over the limit for making a hole-in-one?
The prize limits do not apply to a prize for a hole-in-one made either outside a tee-to-hole golf competition or during a tee-to-hole golf competition (but the length of the shot must be at least 50 yards if made during a tee-to-hole golf competition).
May I be paid to give instruction at a camp or clinic at my club?
While there are a few very limited exceptions, an amateur golfer must not accept payment or compensation for giving instruction. Instruction is specific to teaching the physical mechanics of swinging a golf club and hitting a golf ball – see Rule 4.
However, instruction does not include giving advice or information related to course management, etiquette or the Rules. You are allowed to assist with the general administration of the camp or clinic.
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, allowing amateur golfers to receive compensation for giving instruction as part of those programs.
May I work as a coach at a high school, college or university and remain an amateur?
If you are employed by a school other educational institution, including as a teacher or coach, you may receive payment or compensation for golf instruction to students at the school, provided that the total time devoted to that instruction is less than 50% of the time spent in the performance of all duties as an employee, such as conducting team meetings, transporting students, scheduling matches and teaching classes, if applicable.
Am I allowed to accept money from a local business to help pay for my competition expenses?
Yes, you may receive financial assistance with competition or other golf-related expenses from an outside source, including a person or a business.
May I accept free golf equipment?
Yes, you may accept 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).
May I accept a prize of expenses to play in a subsequent stage of a competition?
Yes, you may accept reasonable expenses, such as travel and accommodation, awarded by a competition organizer to players competing in a subsequent stage of the same competition. The prize limits do not apply to these types of expenses.
What is the difference between accepting prizes in a competition and gambling?
As an amateur golfer, you may accept prizes up to a limit of US$1,000 in value, including prize money (for example, cash) in a scratch competition.
Participating in informal gambling or wagering when playing golf is allowed, provided that the gambling or wagering does not lead to abuse of the Rules of Golf and/or the Rules of Handicapping. Forms of gambling or wagering that are considered acceptable are where:
- The players generally know each other.
- Participation in the gambling or wagering is not required.
- All money won is contributed by the participants
Additionally, if there is a primary competition where you are playing for prizes allowed by Rule 3 (for example, prize vouchers, merchandise, gift cards valued at $1000 or less), there may also be an optional secondary competition (e.g., skins) where cash is awarded.
In general, organized events where there are no prizes other than cash are generally considered a competition under Rule 3.
How do the Rules of Amateur Status apply to "skins" games?
If participation in the "skins" portion of the competition is not optional (such as when the players are required to pay an entry fee to be used to award cash prizes in the skins game), the prize limits in Rule 3 would apply.
If participation in the "skins" portion of the competition is optional (such as when 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 would be considered gambling.
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 accepting prizes may have on someone’s amateur status.
How is an applicant’s reinstatement date determined?
Each national governing body has the sole authority to require a waiting period prior to reinstatement.
It is recommended that the national governing body require a waiting period of at least six months from the date of the applicant’s last action that was not allowed by the Rules, such as the date the person was last employed as a golf professional or last played in a competition as a professional – see Rule 5.
It is possible that an applicant’s waiting period will be longer than the minimum period as a result of playing performance and success.