The USGA and The R&A have announced proposals for significant changes to the Rules of Amateur Status that govern the game worldwide.
These proposals result from a modernization initiative that has identified a clear need to bring the Rules up to date to reflect today’s global amateur game and ensure that the Rules are easier to understand and apply.
The proposed Rules, along with explanations to key changes, have been posted on usga.org and randa.org and the organizations are now inviting feedback from golfers and stakeholders. Comments will be accepted through Friday, March 26, with the new Rules scheduled to be adopted on January 1, 2022.
A comprehensive review of the Rules of Amateur Status began in late 2017, focusing on three main goals: to ensure the Rules are in the best interests of the game, reflect the modern game, and are easily understood and applied.
This review reaffirmed amateur golf’s important position in the game and the value in maintaining amateur status Rules to safeguard all the ways golf is played and enjoyed.
The result is a set of Rules that redefine the distinction between amateur and professional golf and provide a condition of eligibility – amateur status – for amateurs who compete in golf competitions.
As part of the modernization effort, it is proposed that the new Rules will identify only three acts that will result in a golfer losing their amateur status:
- Accepting a prize in excess of the prize limit
- Accepting payment for giving instruction
- Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers
To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes are proposed:
- Eliminating the distinction between cash prizes and other prizes.
- Using the prize limit as the only way an amateur can lose amateur status through their play (meaning that entering or playing a competition as a professional would not, of itself, result in the loss of amateur status).
- Removing restrictions from the Rules surrounding competitions such as long-drive events, putting competitions and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee-to-hole competition; and
- Eliminating all sponsorship restrictions.
“Golf is unique in its broad appeal to both recreational and competitive golfers,” said 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.”
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.”
“Today marks another important step in the process to modernize the Rules of Amateur Status,” said Akash Patel, Rules and Competitions Manager at Golf Canada. “A great amount of work has gone into making the Rules easier to understand and apply for both the recreational and competitive golfer. We are confident that the proposed changes reflect the modern game and will help with our continued efforts to grow the game.” The proposed new Rules are accompanied by an overview document and explanations that detail the rationale for why changes are being proposed and, in some instances, why they have stayed the same.”
An Active Season is the period of time when acceptable scores from a specified area should be submitted for handicap purposes. The Rules of Handicapping stipulates that every player is responsible for submitting all acceptable scores into one’s scoring record for rounds played on courses during the active season.
It is the responsibility of authorized provincial golf association to declare active and inactive seasons, with area clubs and players required to observe these dates for score posting purposes. To make this process easier, the Golf Canada Score Centre automatically considers the active season of the course being played when a score is posted and whether it should be included in calculating a player’s Handicap Index.
In Canada, the active season in each province is as follows:
BC = Mar.1 – Nov.15
AB = Mar.1 – Oct.31
SK = Apr.15 – Oct.31
MB = Apr.15 – Oct.31
ON = Apr.15 – Oct.31
QC = Apr.15 – Oct.31
NS = Apr.15 – Oct.31
NB = May.1 – Oct.31
PE = Apr.16 – Nov.14
NL = Apr.1 – Nov. 30
Scores made at any golf course observing an inactive season are not acceptable for handicap calculation purposes. This is because course conditions during inactive seasons are not consistent with the way that the Course & Slope Ratings were determined, which can impact the accuracy of a player’s Handicap Index.
Scores made at a golf course in an area observing an active season must be posted for handicap purposes, even if the golf club where the player is a member is observing an inactive season. The club’s Handicap Committee must make it possible for a player to post these away scores at the beginning of the active season.
It’s important to note that if you are travelling to other countries or regions, you should confirm their active seasons to ensure all acceptable scores are posted. Your home club needs all acceptable scores (even if played during a Canadian “off-season”) to ensure that your Handicap Index is accurate and reflects your demonstrated ability.
For example, if a player belonging to a golf club in Ontario plays golf in Florida (which observes a year-round active season) during January, any score(s) made in Florida are acceptable and must be submitted to the player’s scoring record. If the player is also a member of a golf club in Florida and Ontario, it is important to remember that all acceptable scores must be posted to each scoring record. The Golf Canada Score Centre has tools available to link Canadian and USGA accounts, so that a score posted to one account is automatically transferred to the other. For more information, or to set up this link, please contact email@example.com or phone 1-800-263-0009 X399.
For a detailed list of active and inactive schedule in the United States, click here.
For more information on handicapping, click here.
CLICK HERE FOR COVID-19 RULES OF GOLF AND RULES OF HANDICAPPING GUIDANCE
* Updated July 13, 2020
The COVID-19 global pandemic is a difficult time for Canadians and Golf Canada stands with our entire golf community during this unprecedented time.
We all love the game for the escape it provides and its positive impact on our physical, social and mental well-being.
We continue to urge golfers to follow the guidelines from health and governmental officials to keep you and those around you safe, and to minimize any possible exposure to coronavirus. This is especially true on a golf course, where golfers, workers and operators should heighten their level of awareness on exposure to surfaces like flagsticks, golf balls, bunker rakes, tees, carts and scorecards. We all need to do our part to respect expert advice and make the right decisions to protect each other.
It is not the intended purpose of the below guidance to either encourage or discourage anyone from playing the game, but rather, in our governance role, to help golf course operators, committees and golfers better understand how the Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping apply to the various questions received by the governing bodies.
The Modernized Rules of Golf were drafted to offer each Committee the flexibility to make decisions as to how golf is played at their course or in competition and the Committee Procedures section of the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf (available online here) offers a significant amount of guidance and recommendations on how to address circumstances unique to each course or competition.
This flexibility will prove to be very helpful as Committees look to address many of the challenges they are facing within the current environment. While the Committee Procedures section is a tremendous resource and has much to offer, many of the current questions were not originally contemplated under the Rules of Golf and therefore there is no history or guidance provided. To better address the questions that have come about because of these unique circumstances and the related challenges, additional guidance can be accessed by clicking here. This will continue to be updated as additional questions are received.
As active seasons start to open across the country, we would like to discuss impacts on Handicapping. From the perspective of the Rules of Handicapping, the most frequent questions received are primarily related to the acceptability of scores for posting to a player’s scoring record. In particular, to modifying the hole and not requiring the player to “hole out” as required under the Rules of Golf. These are founded in a desire to minimize the possibility of exposing golfers to coronavirus and have included leaving the hole liner raised above the putting surface or placing various objects into the hole so the ball can be more easily removed. In these specific cases, ensuring guidance from health and governmental officials is being followed, a temporary measure is in place in Canada to accept scores played under these conditions for handicap purposes using the most likely score guidelines (Rule 3.3, Rules of Handicapping), even though the player has not holed out.
Please remember that this temporary measure is now in effect within Canada until advised otherwise by Golf Canada.
For more information and detailed guidance, please contact your Provincial Golf Association or Golf Canada.
The USGA and The R&A have issued the Distance Insights Report, which provides comprehensive research and analysis on the contributors to, and long-term impacts of, hitting distance in golf.
After extensive stakeholder research, the report features more than 100 years of data, informed by a library of 56 supporting documents. It is accompanied by a 15-page conclusions paper from the governing bodies that summarizes their perspectives on the long-term implications for the sport.
The reports and library have been publicly released and can be found at usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights.
To facilitate input from manufacturers and other stakeholders in the golf community, specific topics of further research will be identified and published within 45 days. It is expected that this important step in gathering input could take approximately nine months to one year.
Key findings of the project include
- There is a 100-year trend of hitting distance increases in golf, as well as a corresponding increase in the length of golf courses, across the game globally the USGA and The R&A believe this continuing cycle is detrimental to the game’s long-term future.
- The inherent strategic challenge presented by many golf courses can be compromised, especially when those courses have not or cannot become long enough to keep up with increases in the hitting distances of the golfers who play from their longest tees. This can lead to a risk of many courses becoming less challenging, or obsolete.
- Increased hitting distance can begin to undermine the core principle that the challenge of golf is about needing to demonstrate a broad range of skills to be successful.
- If courses continue to lengthen, it is at odds with growing societal concerns about the use of water, chemicals and other resources.
- Longer distances and courses, longer tees and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction and are not necessary for a challenging, enjoyable and sustainable game.
- A concern has been identified that many recreational golfers are playing from longer tees than is necessary relative to their hitting distances, and, in particular that the forward tees on many golf courses are very long for many of the golfers who play from them.
“This is not about the last few years or the next few years but rather about the long-term future of the game,” said Mike Davis, chief executive officer of the USGA. “This report clearly shows a consistent increase in hitting distance and golf course lengths over the last 100-plus years. These increases have had a profound impact on costs to build, modify and operate golf courses and they have impacted golfers at all levels. We believe this problem will continue unless this cycle is brought to an end. With collaboration from the entire golf community, we have an opportunity to stem this tide and help ensure golf remains sustainable and enjoyable for generations to come.”
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said, “We believe we have reached a pivotal moment in golf. The publication of this report is highly significant. The impact of long-term hitting distance increases on some of golf’s essential elements are now clear – including changing the strategic challenge of the sport, altering the balance of skills needed to be successful and risking courses being less challenging or obsolete. Our objective as governing bodies is to work with the key stakeholders in golf to address this issue in a way that brings the sport together and which ensures it continues to thrive for many years to come.”
No solutions have been determined as yet. The USGA and The R&A will now enter the next phase of their work by assessing potential solutions that can help end the cycle of increased distance. It is expected that the main topic for research and assessment will be potential changes in the Equipment Rules, along with further inquiry into the effects of course design, conditions and setup on hitting distance.
With this background in mind, a broad review of both clubs and balls will be conducted to understand and assess a full range of options for addressing these issues relating to hitting distance. Without limiting the scope of topics that may be considered, this review is expected to include the following:
- The review of overall conformance specifications for both clubs and balls, including specifications that both directly and indirectly affect hitting distances. It is not currently intended to consider revising overall equipment specifications in a way that would produce substantial reductions in hitting distances at all levels of the game.
- The assessment of the potential use of a Local Rule option specifying the use of reduced-distance equipment. Such an option could be available as a choice at all levels of play for competitions, courses and individual players.
- Guidance on the availability of short enough forward tees and the appropriate tee-to-hole playing distances for golfers of all levels.
- Several other topics including equipment testing processes, potential guidance on how design, agronomy and setup can affect hitting distance, and others.
All research and any work regarding potential changes to Equipment Standards in golf are guided by the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures, which were agreed upon and published by the USGA and The R&A in 2011 to ensure a transparent and collaborative process among key stakeholders in the game. These procedures can be found here: Equipment Rulemaking Procedures.
Slope rating is the difference between the course rating for a ‘scratch’ golfer and the course rating for a ‘bogey’ golfer multiplied by a factor. The Slope rating indicates the difficulty of a golf course for the ‘bogey’ golfer relative to the scratch player.
Click here for more information on the World Handicap System.
The World Handicap System is designed to offer golfers plenty of opportunities to submit scores for handicap purposes. The more acceptable scores a player submits, the more accurate their handicap index will be.
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The maximum Handicap Index has changed. Where previously there were different values for men and women, now there is one maximum Handicap Index regardless of gender. The maximum Handicap Index is 54.0.
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Under the new World Handicap System, will analyze how players have performed that day compared to their expected performance on that golf course. It will naturally include weather and course setup (reflected in the scores), and if expected results fall outside a tolerance level, an adjustment will apply to all scores played on that course for that day.
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Under the World Handicap System, a limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). Net Double Bogey will replace the existing Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) procedure for determining the maximum hole score.
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The World Handicap System will ensure handicaps are calculated consistently around the world.
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