USGA Rules of Amateur Status

Over the course of a season, the MGA receives a number of calls from clubs and leagues seeking clarification and guidance on the USGA Rules of Amateur Status, primarily the rules related to offering or receiving cash prizes for a golf competition.  Most amateur status violations occur because tournament sponsors and players are unaware or uninformed about the purpose or content of the rules. 
 
Rule 3 clearly states that playing for cash prizes in a match, tournament or exhibition is contrary to the definition of an amateur golfer and is cause for forfeiture of amateur status. 
 
Prizes awarded in the form of merchandise, gift cards, etc., may be accepted up to a retail value not exceeding $750 in any one tournament.  (The only exception to this rule is that a prize, including a cash prize, for a hole-in-one made while playing golf may exceed the above $750 limit).  
 
It’s important to understand that the Rules do make a distinction between playing for prize money and gambling or “wagering”.  When individual golfers and teams of players know each other, participation is optional and limited to only the players, the sole source of all money is from the players themselves, and the amount involved is such that it’s not the primary purpose for playing, the Rules consider this informal “wagering” and not playing for prize money.
 
On the other hand, organized amateur events open to the general public, designed to create a cash prize pool, and where cash prizes are promoted, are not approved by the USGA.  Golfers participating in such events without irrevocably waiving their right to cash prizes are deemed by the USGA to be playing for prize money.
 
The best rule to follow is to remember an amateur golfer is one who plays the game primarily for enjoyment and the fun of competing and that any reward for good play must comply fully with USGA Amateur Status rules.  Honesty and integrity in complying with the Rules of Golf are what make golf the greatest game of all.
 
If there are any further questions or concerns, please go to www.usga.org to view and search the complete Rules of Amateur Status and corresponding decisions, or call Tom Ryan at the MGA office 952-345-3971.