The R&A and the USGA have proposed changes to the rules of amateur status.
The new proposed rules, which aim to modernize those currently in place, are set to be implemented in 2022.
The two organizations began a review of the Rules of Amateur Status in 2017, with the goal of ensuring the rules are in the best interests of the game, reflect the modern game, and are easily understood and applied.
The proposed rules redefine the distinction between amateur and professional golf, proposing that only the following three acts will result in a golfer losing their amateur status:
- Accepting a prize in excess of the prize limit (USD $750).
- Accepting payment for giving instruction.
- Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.
To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes are proposed:
- Eliminating the distinction between cash prizes and other prizes.
- Using the prize limit as the only way an amateur can lose amateur status through their play (meaning that entering or playing a competition as a professional would not, in itself, result in the loss of amateur status).
- Removing restrictions from the Rules surrounding competitions such as long-drive events, putting competitions and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee-to-hole competition; and
- Eliminating all sponsorship restrictions.
The proposed changes would mean that amateur players would be able to accept sponsorship, prizes (now including cash) up to USD $750, or assistance with expenses related to playing, and still maintain their amateur status.
The new rules would also make it easier for a professional to regain their amateur status. While a non-amateur player would still have to submit an application to their national golfing body to be reinstated as an amateur, the minimum recommended waiting period would be reduced from one year to six months. Every national golfing body would ultimately have the authority to extend or reduce this waiting period case by case.
Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A, said, “The Rules of Amateur Status play an important role in protecting the integrity of our self-regulating sport but the code must continue to evolve. This is particularly so in relation to the modern elite amateur game, where many of the players need financial support to compete and develop to their full potential, and the proposed new Rules will give much greater scope for this.”
“Golf is unique in its broad appeal to both recreational and competitive golfers,” said Craig Winter, USGA Senior Director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status. “We understand and value how important amateur status is, not only to those who compete at the highest level of the amateur game, but for the millions of golfers at every age and skill level who enjoy competitive events at their home courses. These updates should help simplify these Rules and ensure the health of the amateur game.”
The proposed Rules, along with explanations to key changes, have been posted on www.RandA.org and www.usga.org and the organisations are now inviting feedback from golfers and stakeholders. Comments will be accepted until Friday, 26 March 2021 with the new rules scheduled to be adopted on 1 January 2022.