Golf's governing bodies have put forward proposals for significant changes to the Rules of Amateur Status. Steve Carroll has the details

Club golfers could receive cash prizes for winning competitions as the R&A and USGA announced proposals for the biggest shake up to the Rules of Amateur Status in decades.

Players also could benefit from sponsorship, while winning big money long-drive contests and putting competitions would no longer force participants to consider turning professional.

The potential changes are the result of a “modernisation initiative” the two governing bodies undertook to “reflect today’s global amateur game and ensure that the Rules are easier to understand and apply”.

They’re now inviting feedback from golfers and stakeholders, with the new Rules set to come into force on January 1, 2022.

Some of the possible key changes include:

– Keeping a limit on the level of prize that can be accepted by amateurs ($750) but no longer differentiating “between cash and non-cash prizes”. “Cash prizes would be permitted”.

– The prize Rule only applying to competitions requiring “a player to play from the teeing area into a hole (including simulator based tournaments)”. It would “no longer apply to other competitions such as long-drive events, putting competitions and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee to hole competition”.

– No restrictions on how an amateur may “benefit from his or her name, image or likeness”. In fact, all sponsorship restrictions would be eliminated

– Reducing the recommended minimum waiting time to be reinstated as an amateur from a year to six months.

The R&A and USGA have proposed the new Rules will identify only three acts that would result in a player losing amateur status: accepting a prize in excess of the limit, taking payment for giving instruction and accepting a job as a golf club professional, or taking membership of an association of professional golfers.

They add: “Simply identifying oneself as a professional golfer would, of itself, no longer result in a loss of amateur status, including entering and playing in a competition as a professional”.

The review of the Rules of Amateur Status began in late 2017 to “ensure the Rules are in the best interests of the game, reflect the modern game and are easily understood and applied”.

The governing bodies say the proposed set of Rules “redefine the distinction between amateur and professional golf and provide a condition of eligibility – amateur status – for amateurs who compete in golf competitions”.

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,” added 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.”

To have your say on the proposals, visit the R&A’s website.

What do you think of the R&A and USGA proposals for the Rules of Amateur Status? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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