The first definition of an amateur golfer was not made until after the inauguration of the British Amateur Championship in 1885. It was then decided that entries could not be accepted from those who had played for prize money in open events, nor from club and ball makers, those who had taught golf for money or caddies. Later additions to this list were course architects and green keepers and those who had played against a professional for money.
The distinction between amateur and professional players is currently more clearly and sensibly defined. The Amateur Status Committee of The R&A (which is the international governing body for the Rules of Amateur Status) defines an Amateur as a person who, whether they play competitively or recreationally, plays golf for the challenge it presents, not as a profession and not for financial gain.
For details of the limits that apply to the awarding of prizes in Australia, please click here.
Those who accept prizes with higher values than the rules allow enter a no-man's land. They have no official handicap and cannot take part in amateur events, but they do not become professionals.
Yet players may receive expenses to play in competitions, accept golf scholarships and for those who would like to consider a career as a golf professional they are allowed to work in a professional's shop to gain experience before making a final decision and giving up their amateur status, provided they do not give any lessons or infringe the Rules in any other way.
In the modern age, the purpose and spirit of the rules is as much to provide a significant protection mechanism for the integrity of handicap golf so that it can be fully enjoyed by all amateur golfers and remain as free as possible from the abuses which may follow from financial incentive. Golf is unique in that it allows players of all skill levels to play with (and compete against) each other on exactly the same playing field and in a socially appealing setting. Golf’s great drawing power is generated by these characteristics, however they are heavily reliant on effective handicap systems and a self-regulatory rules framework which provides for confidence in an equitable playing field.
In these subsections you will find an array of information regarding amateur status and the various related regulations managed by Golf Australia (which is the governing body for the Rules of Amateur Status in Australia) as we seek to support and protect handicap golf.