Amateur Status

An “amateur golfer” is defined as one who plays the game as a non-remunerative and non-profit-making sport and who does not receive remuneration for teaching golf or for other activities because of golf skill or reputation, except as provided in the rules. For more information, check out the USGA's website and click the Amateur Status section.  The following are questions regarding amateur status that we frequently receive:

Q: Does the exception for hole-in-one prizes apply to all formats of hole-in-one contests?

A: No. The Exception applies to a hole-in-one made "while playing golf," a phrase that includes situations where the hole-in-one is incidental to a round of golf (including a partial round).


Q: Does the provision for hole-in-one prizes also apply to closest-to-the-hole prizes? What is the Rule for expenses for sponsored handicap competitions?

A: No. It applies only to hole-in-one prizes. Amateurs competing in sponsored handicap events (e.g., by a company) may accept expenses to play in its various stages, provided the event has been approved by the USGA for US-only events or the USGA and the governing body of any other country involved with the competition. This provision applies only to competitions that are played on a net basis.


Q: What is the difference between Prize Money and Gambling?

A: The distinction between playing for prize money, which violates the Rules of Amateur Status, and gambling, which does not, is often difficult to determine. In general, amateurs should not play for cash prizes of any amount in large, organized events where playing for the money is not optional, there are no prizes other than cash or the fact that cash prizes will be awarded is advertised. Additionally, there would also be a concern if participation in the event were open to the public. If these characteristics are present, participation in these events will likely result in each player forfeiting his amateur status. In view of the above, we would urge groups not to award cash prizes. By awarding merchandise of gift certificates redeemable for merchandise instead of cash, the group would ensure that the amateur status of the players is not even brought into question.


Q: A non-amateur wins an amateur event – should the title be declared vacant?

A: It is recommended that, if the winner of an amateur event is subsequently found to have been a non-amateur, the title be declared vacant for that year.