USGA, R&A finalize modernization of Rules of Amateur Status

USGA, R&A finalize modernization of Rules of Amateur Status
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Golf’s governing bodies have finalized their new Rules of Amateur Status.

After revealing their initial proposals to modernize and simplify their amateur rules last February, the USGA and R&A published the changes on Tuesday morning following a feedback period. The update will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and strips away many of the restrictions that have applied to amateurs for years.

“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 modernized amateur rules most importantly eliminate all advertising, expense-related and sponsorship restrictions, a move that will clear hurdles for amateur players and make the game more affordable to play at a high level. The simplistic approach also makes it easier for the new rules to be understood.

In short, players will only lose their amateur status if they:

• Accept a prize with a value exceeding the prize limit in a scratch competition ($1000/£700) or accepting prize money in a handicap competition. 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.

• Play as a professional.

• Accept payment for giving instruction (although all current exceptions still apply, such as coaching at educational institutions and assisting with approved programs).

• Accept employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.

The USGA and R&A are finally modernizing their rules of amateur status, and it should be a net positive for the game.

Many of the changes were part of February’s announcement, including the ability of a national governing body to shorten the minimum period awaiting amateur reinstatement to as little as six months. The only notable tweaks were raising the prize limit from $750 to $1,000, adding the distinction between scratch and handicap competitions, and removing the proposal that wouldn’t restrict amateurs from playing as professionals.

Further relating to instruction, the USGA/R&A stated, “an amateur will be allowed to receive compensation for providing instruction in digital forms (such as social media), provided the instruction is ‘one-way,’ meaning the amateur is showing how to perform a skill but  is not giving instruction by using two-way communication to a specific individual or group (such as  occurs in a traditional lesson).”

In the past year, dozens of states across the country have passed – or are working on passing – legislation regarding name, image and likeness for college athletes. The NCAA in June adopted a temporary policy that waives most of its NIL-related restrictions, essentially leaving those rules to the states, many of which have already put their NIL laws in place, and individual schools until blanket federal legislation is established. The USGA did the same for college players in July while it worked on its new amateur rules.

“The float-all-boats analogy is what we really see happening here, opening it up and not having these rules to navigate,” Winter said back in February. “…We do believe that this is a better way forward.”

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