Rules of Amateur Status changes will help introduce the game to underserved demographics
“The Rules of Amateur Status.” “Growing the game.”
In the past, those phrases were seldom mentioned in the same breath.
But let’s give credit where it’s due. The Rules of Amateur Status are essential for preserving the integrity of the game by clearly delineating the difference between an amateur golfer and a pro. For example, amateurs must not accept payment or other compensation for giving instruction. (Golf instruction involves teaching the mechanics of swinging a club and hitting the ball.) That mandate belongs to PGA of Canada members.
But recent changes to those Rules offer an exception if the instruction is part of a program that has been approved in advance. To date, two programs—First Tee Canada and Iron Lady Golf—have been approved. Each application is reviewed jointly by Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada.
“This change provides a great opportunity to show how the Rules of Amateur Status can be a positive to support amateur golfers and grow the game, especially in underserved demographics,” says Mary Beth McKenna, Golf Canada’s Director of Amateur Championships and Rules. “It allows approved programs to compensate amateur golfers for their time when helping introduce people to the game.”
The Rule change doesn’t mean amateurs now can make a fulltime living doing this, McKenna emphasizes. What it allows is a reasonable amount of compensation for their time spent helping beginners, not teaching the game. Being an approved program means that the hours spent on instruction is restricted to ensure they fall within the approved parameters.
First Tee is Golf Canada’s multi-tiered youth development program. Iron Lady Golf is a well-established private initiative designed to introduce women to the game. (So far, more than 20,000.) The goal is to help make women feel more comfortable by having female coaches. But with women making up only a small fraction of the PGA of Canada’s membership, having a female pro in every session is nearly impossible.
So Iron Lady Golf’s founder, Lindsay Knowlton, a Class A PGA of Canada professional, relies on what she calls “ambassadors”, experienced amateurs who assist with the basic fundamentals of etiquette, rules and how to navigate your way around a golf course.
“When I got the news that our program had been approved, I was ecstatic because it meant we have the opportunity to introduce more women to golf in Canada,” Knowlton says. “We are passionate about helping more women say ‘yes’ to golf, making it more accessible and less intimidating. Our focus is working with beginner to intermediate golfers. When someone shows an interest in wanting more swing coaching, we can pass them along to a PGA pro.
“We provide encouragement, a sense of community and inclusion. That’s what keeps people in the game.”
The object of this specific Rule (Rule 4) is two-fold. First, to expand the wide end of the funnel to welcome more people, from more demographic segments, into the game. Second, to provide support and guidance to beginners from more experienced golfers who, in the case of Iron Lady Golf, look like them, i.e, female.
“This can be inspirational,” says McKenna. “To see an accomplished amateur or pro who is a woman means a lot and the comfort level goes up exponentially, especially for a beginner.”
For Knowlton, this Rules change is literally game-changing. And, she says, “it’s proof Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada are 100-per-cent committed to growing the game in Canada.”
Do you have a program you think would qualify? The modernized Rules of Amateur Status with helpful guidance note are available here.
The R&A and USGA announce 2023 Rules of Golf update
The R&A and the USGA have unveiled a regular update to the Rules of Golf as they continue to make the Rules easier to understand and apply. The new Rules will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
The 2023 edition continues the modernisation process, with an emphasis on both inclusion and sustainability. For the first time, the modified Rules for players with disabilities have been fully incorporated into the playing rules without the need to adopt a local rule. The governing bodies, supported by longstanding partner Rolex, will also promote digital and mobile app access to the Rules while significantly reducing the production and distribution of more than four million printed books.
Several penalties have been relaxed and language has been clarified to help golfers at all levels of play.
Key changes include:
Modifications for Players with Disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who are classified in the categories covered in Rule 25.
Handicap Usage in Stroke Play: With the continued growth of score-posting technology following the adoption of the World Handicap System™, players are no longer penalised for failing to put their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The committee will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap.
Club Damaged During Round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse.
Ball Moved by Natural Forces: A new exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced.
Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped.
Golfers will be able to learn more about the major changes and review the official 2023 Rules of Golf by visiting randa.org and usga.org/rules. Full updates to the official Rules of Golf digital applications will be available starting on 1 January.
Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A, said, “We are continuing to improve and adapt the Rules of Golf to ensure they are in line with the way the modern game is played. That means making the Rules easier to understand and access for all golfers and making the sport more inclusive and welcoming for golfers with disabilities. We are also working to ensure golf has a sustainable long-term future and making more resources available digitally is key to achieving that goal.”
“The growing popularity of golf continues to guide our decision-making and modernising the Rules to promote inclusivity and accessibility is clearly a great step in the right direction,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA Chief Governance Officer. “This latest evolution is especially important to the community of golfers with disabilities, and we hope it will encourage more people to play and enjoy the game.”
Players are reminded that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2019) still applies when playing or posting scores for the remainder of 2022.
As an extension of its support of the Rules of Golf worldwide, Rolex has made a commitment to support The R&A and the USGA’s efforts to modernise golf’s Rules. The Swiss watchmaker’s contribution to excellence in golf is based on a rich heritage stretching back more than 50 years, forged through pivotal partnerships at every level of the game, from the sport’s leading professional and amateur competitions and organisations, to players at the pinnacle of their sport worldwide.
R&A, USGA introduce Model Local Rule to further limit use of green-reading materials
Golf’s governing bodies have made available a Model Local Rule (MLR) to further limit the use of Green-Reading Materials.
MLR G-11 enables a committee to limit players to using only the yardage book that it has approved for use in the competition.
This local rule is intended only for the highest levels of competitive golf and, even then, only for competitions where it is realistic for the committee to undertake an approval process for yardage books. It will be available starting January 1, 2022.
The local rule gives a committee the ability to establish an officially approved yardage book for a competition so that the diagrams of putting greens show only minimal detail (such as significant slopes, tiers or false edges that indicate sections of greens). In addition, the local rule limits the handwritten notes that players and caddies are allowed to add to the approved yardage book.
The purpose behind the local rule is to ensure that players and caddies use only their eyes and feel to help them read the line of play on the putting green.
The USGA and The R&A developed MLR G-11 in response to feedback from several professional tours.
As the local rule should only be adopted at the highest levels of competitive golf, all other golfers will continue to be able to use green-reading tools so long as they meet the requirements established in 2019.
For more information on the current rule, click here.
Golf’s modernized Rules of Amateur Status published
Golf’s new Rules of Amateur Status have been published by The R&A and the USGA ahead of coming into effect on January 1, 2022.
The work was the latest step by the governing bodies to make the Rules easier to understand and apply, and follows the modernization process of the Rules of Golf in 2019. The new Rules were informed by golfer and golf industry feedback as a part of a comprehensive review, to ensure they continue to reflect how the modern game is played by millions of golfers around the world.
This review, along with the global feedback received when the proposals were publicly shared earlier this year, reaffirmed amateur golf’s important position in the game and the value in maintaining amateur status Rules.
The result is a set of Rules that removes many of the restrictions that previously applied to amateur golfers, while ensuring that the integrity of the game is protected by limiting the form and value of the prizes an amateur golfer can accept.
As part of the modernisation effort, the new Rules identify only the following acts that will result in a golfer losing their amateur status:
Accepting a prize in excess of the prize limit ($1200 CAD) or accepting prize money in a handicap competition.
Playing as a professional.
Accepting payment for giving instruction (although all current exceptions still apply, such as coaching at educational institutions and assisting with approved programs).
Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.
To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes have been introduced:
Distinguishing between scratch and handicap competitions in terms of the prizes that may be accepted.
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.
Eliminating all advertising, expense-related and sponsorship restrictions.
The new opportunities provided by lifting sponsorship restrictions and the ability to accept prize money up to the increased limit of $1200 CAD in scratch only competitions will be of significant benefit to elite amateur golfers looking for ways to fund golf-related expenses.
Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A, said, “We are delighted to be rolling out the modernised Rules of Amateur Status today. These Rules play an important role in protecting the integrity of our self-regulating sport but the code must evolve to meet the needs of the modern game. This is particularly important for modern elite amateur golf, where many of the players need financial support to compete and develop to their full potential. The new Rules give them this opportunity and will help to make the game even more inclusive.”
“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. “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.”
“A great amount of work has gone into making the Rules easier to understand and apply for both the recreational and competitive golfer,” said Kevin Blue, Chief Sport Officer of Golf Canada.
The new Rules are accompanied by guidance notes, an overview document and explanations that detail the rationale for why changes have been made and, in some instances, why they have stayed the same. These materials can be found here.
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
(NOTE: Some Lower mainland and Vancouver Island courses may observe a year-round active season). For a list of clubs observing a year-round active season, please contact BC Golf
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.
The R&A and USGA announce new model local rule option for limiting club length
LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. and ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The R&A and the USGA have announced that a new Model Local Rule (MLR G-10) will be available beginning on 1 January 2022 to provide those running professional or elite amateur golf competitions with the option of limiting the maximum length of a golf club (excluding putters) to 46 inches.
The proposal was announced in February 2021, which opened a notice-and-comment period to allow the industry the opportunity to provide feedback as part of the equipment rulemaking procedures. The comments received from the golf industry, including players, professional tours and equipment manufacturers, were carefully considered before the decision to proceed with the new MLR was reached.
The R&A and the USGA issued an Area of Interest notice in 2014 indicating that research was being conducted into the impact of club lengths of more than 48 inches on hitting distance and whether that limit remained appropriate. A proposed change to the limit was subsequently put forward in 2016 but was put on hold in 2017 when the Distance Insights project got underway.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have taken time to consult fully with the golf industry, including players, the main professional tours and equipment manufacturers, and have considered their feedback carefully. We believe this is the right thing for the game at this time and it will provide tournament organisers with the flexibility to choose for themselves within the framework of the Rules. We are working hard to maintain an open, collaborative and considered dialogue with these key stakeholders as we continue to evolve the Equipment Standards Rules to ensure they reflect the modern game.”
Mike Whan, Chief Executive Officer of the USGA, said, “We’ve worked closely with our industry partners to ensure the future for golf remains strong. Admittedly, this is not the ‘answer’ to the overall distance debate/issue but rather a simple option for competitive events. It’s important to note that it is not a ‘Rule of Golf,’ and as such, it is not mandated for the average, recreational golfer. Rather, this is an available tool for those running competitive events.”
The proposals submitted in February for changes to the testing method for golf balls and the testing tolerance for spring-like effect are still under consideration. The governing bodies plan to consider feedback on these proposals in line with the responses to the broader Area of Interest – Research Topics notification, which are due by 2 November.
The R&A and the USGA modernize Amateur Status Rules
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.”
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.
R&A and USGA release key findings on impacts of distance in golf
PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, 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.
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.
Course rating allows handicaps to be portable to any golf course
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.