It’s official, the revised Rules of Amateur Status have taken effect as of January 1. How will this affect amateur golfers in 2022 and beyond?
As to why the rules are evolving, according to the official press release by the USGA and the R&A:
“The work is the latest step by the governing bodies to make the Rules easier to understand and apply and follows the modernization process of the Rules of Golf in 2019. The new Rules were informed by golfer and golf industry feedback as a part of a comprehensive review, to ensure they continue to reflect how the modern game is played by millions of golfers around the world.”
For the majority of the millions of golfers who tee it up every day, accepting prize money or being paid for use of image and likeness is only a dream -- and the risk of losing “amateur status” is meaningless. But for the hundreds of thousands of golfers who compete at the serious amateur level (particularly in state and USGA amateur events) being “freed up” to receive a little cash will have an impact. Traveling the country playing amateur golf is expensive.
Key points from the new rules follow:
Only the following acts will result in a player losing their Amateur Status.
* Accepting a prize with a value exceeding the prize limit ($1000/£700) 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 programs).
* Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers
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 last point is the one that will allow rising stars to potentially earn significant income for allowing their use of name and likeness in advertising campaigns. It was just a short time ago that the young California phenom Lucy Li caused a bit of stir by appearing in an Apple Watch commercial. That type of activity would be permissible now, even if she was getting paid for it.
The press release went on to say:
“The new opportunities provided by lifting sponsorship restrictions and the ability to accept prize money up to the increased limit of $1000 or £700 in scratch-only competitions will be of significant benefit to elite amateur golfers looking for ways to fund golf-related expenses.”
“Golf is unique in its broad appeal to both recreational and competitive players,” said Craig Winter, USGA senior director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status. “This was emphasized 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.
These materials can be found at www.usga.org/amateurstatus
At AmateurGolf.com, we advise dozens of tournaments on their operations, while running a Tour of our own in California and golf resorts like Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, and Cabot Links. We have evaluated the option to provide cash prizes, and have elected to continue to issue golf shop gift certificates to top finishers of all divisions in 2022 and beyond. We certainly see the benefit of allowing players to accept cash prizes. In making this decision, we also considered the industry impact of paying cash in lieu of pro shop gift certificates, as well as the fact that our competitions contain both scratch and net divisions.