After years of study, the USGA and the R&A have announced their proposal to overhaul the rules of amateur status, with plans to give amateur golfers opportunities to make money off their skill and likeness without forcing them to turn pro.
The joint announcement made Feb. 22 indicates the game's governing bodies have recognized changes in the sporting world, particularly at the American collegiate level, which would come into conflict with the game's long-standing rules around amateur status. In particular, the proposed rule changes allow amateur golfers to accept endorsement deals, including accepting golf equipment and cash. The new rules would eliminate the distinction between cash prizes and other awards.
The new rules would establish a prize limit of $750 for a tournament. If a golfer accepted payment beyond that figure, they would immediately forfeit their amateur status. However, a golfer could compete in a competition as a professional and not lose amateur status provided they didn't accept prize money.
This also opens the door for an amateur golfer to make a snap decision to turn pro based on their high finish in a paying tournament and accept the prize money after the tournament. In the past, golfers had to declare before play started if they were competing as an amateur or as a pro, making that a binding decision.
The proposed changes also would remove restrictions for amateurs earning money from competitions like long-drive contests, putting tournaments and skills competitions that are not played as so-called tee-to-hole competitions.
The new Rules of Amateur Status would create three concrete situations in which a player would lose their amateur status:
- Accepting a prize in excess of the prize limit
- Accepting payment for giving golf instruction
- Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers
The proposed changes do, however, create the possibility of sponsor and endorsement money filtering down below the collegiate-age group and into junior golf, which could pose problems for developing players and their families.
A comment period is open on these proposed changes though March 26, with the intention of instituting these changes on Jan. 1, 2022.