Golf’s new Rules of Amateur Status have been published by The R&A and the USGA ahead of coming into effect on January, 1, 2022.
In 2017, The R&A and the USGA agreed in principle to undertake a modernisation initiative for the Rules of Amateur Status that analysed the existing Rules, researched the history of each Rule and established which of the current provisions remain important for the future of the amateur game.
At that time, the principal concerns that had been raised in relation to the Rules were summarised as follows:
- The Rules didn’t reflect the fact that the elite amateur game is a progression for the many young players who aspire to be successful tournament professionals.
- Too many players who were unsuccessful in the pursuit of their goal lost their amateur status through participation on cash prize tours without making any impact on the professional game.
- There were too many barriers for elite amateur golfers seeking funding to participate in elite amateur competition, which is often quite expensive.
- The Rules that cover the use of golf skill and reputation for personal benefit were very difficult to understand and were made even harder to administer by the widespread use of social media.
New Rules of Amateur Status revealed
The current work is the latest step by the governing bodies to make the Rules easier to understand and apply and follows the modernisation process of the Rules of Golf in 2019. The new Rules were informed by golfer and golf industry feedback as part of a comprehensive review, to ensure they continue to reflect how the modern game is played by millions of golfers around the world.
This review, along with global feedback received when the proposals were publicly shared earlier this year, reaffirmed amateur golf's important position in the game and the value in maintaining amateur status Rules.
The result is a set of Rules that removes many of the restrictions that previously applied to amateur golfers, while ensuring that the integrity of the game is protected by limiting the form and value of the prizes an amateur golfer can accept.
Losing your amateur status
As part of the modernisation effort, the new Rules identify only the following acts that will result in a golfer losing their amateur status:
- Accepting a prize with a value exceeding the prize limit (£700/$1000) or accepting prize money in a handicap competition.
- Playing as a professional.
- Accepting payment for giving instruction (although all current exceptions still apply, such as coaching at educational institutions and assisting with approved programmes).
- Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.
The new changes that have been introduced
To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes have been introduced:
- Distinguishing between scratch and handicap competitions in terms of the prizes that may be accepted.
- The prize rule applies only to tee-to-hole competitions played on a golf course or a simulator but no longer apply to long-drive, putting and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee-to-hole competition.
- Eliminating all advertising, expense-related and sponsorship restrictions.
The new opportunities provided by lifting sponsorship restrictions and the ability to accept prize money up to the increased limit of £700 or $1000 in scratch-only competitions will be of significant benefit to elite amateur golfers looking for ways to fund golf-related expenses.
Protecting the integrity of the sport
Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A, said:
“We are delighted to be rolling out the modernised Rules of Amateur Status today. These Rules play an important role in protecting the integrity of our self-regulating sport but the code must evolve to meet the needs of the modern game. This is particularly important for modern elite amateur golf, where many of the players need financial support to compete and develop to their full potential. The new Rules give them this opportunity and will help to make the game even more inclusive.”
Craig Winter, USGA Senior Director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status, said:
“Golf is unique in its broad appeal to both recreational and competitive golfers. This was emphasised in the feedback we received earlier this year and we believe these updates will help simplify these Rules and ensure the long-term health of the amateur game not only to those who compete at the highest level of amateur golf but for the millions of golfers at every age and skill level who enjoy competitive events at their home courses.”
The new Rules are accompanied by guidance notes, an overview document and explanations that detail the rationale for why changes have been made and, in some instances, why they have stayed the same.