Amateurs and Golf Prizes: What You Can Accept at Local Tournaments

Rule 3 from the Rules of Amateur Status covers prizes won by amateur golfers

Ike Austin and golf tounament winners. during The Isaac Ike Austin Inaugural Golf Tournament For The Benefit of The Ike Austin Foundation
Trophies — such as these platters for winning a charity tournament — are always OK for amateurs to accept as golf prizes. But what about things with monetary value?. Steve Grayson/WireImage 

You're an amateur golfer playing in a local golf tournament (or any golf tournament, for that matter), and you're good enough and lucky enough to finish on top in your division. There's a prize. Are you allowed to accept it? Can you accept a tournament prize without jeopardizing your amateur status?

The Rules of Golf, written and maintained by golf's two governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, include the Rules of Amateur Status.

And one of those Rules of Amateur Status — Rule 3, to be exact — deals specifically with golf prizes, values, and what is, and isn't, OK for an amateur golfer to accept.

Rule 3 plus the rest of the Rules of Amateur Status, in full-length including definitions and crosslinks, can be viewed on USGA.org or on RandA.org.

Here's a closer look at Rule 3 (Prizes) from the Rules of Amateur Status:

Amateur Rule 3-1: Playing for Prize Money

The first part of Rule 3 from the Rules of Amateur Status deals with amateur golfers playing in tournaments that offer prize money. The gist: An amateur can play in such a tournament, so long as the amateur golfers waives his right to accept cash as a prize; or when any money earned is donated to charity by the tournament (so long as the amateur receives a waiver from the governing body first).

Here is the text of Rule 3-1 by the USGA:

a. General
An amateur golfer must not play golf for prize money or its equivalent in a match, competition or exhibition.

However, an amateur golfer may participate in a golf match, competition or exhibition where prize money or its equivalent is offered, provided that prior to participation he waives his right to accept prize money in that event.

Exception: Hole-in-one prizes - see Rule 3-2b).

b. Prize Money to Charity
An amateur golfer may participate in an event where prize money or its equivalent is donated to a recognized charity, provided the approval of the Governing Body is first obtained in advance by the organizer.

Amateur Rule 3-2. Prize Limits

The second part of the Rules of Amateur Golf dealing with golf prizes lays down limits on the value of prizes, in lieu of cash, that amateur golfers can accept in playing golf tournaments. It also provides an exemption for hole-in-one prizes.

Here is the text of Rule 3-2 by the USGA:

a. General
An amateur golfer must not accept a prize (other than a symbolic prize) or prize voucher of retail value in excess of $750 or the equivalent, or such a lesser figure as may be decided by the Governing Body. This limit applies to the total prizes or prize vouchers received by an amateur golfer in any one competition or series of competitions.

Exception: Hole-in-one prizes – see Rule 3-2b.

Note 1: The prize limits apply to any form of golf competition, whether on a golf course, driving range or golf simulator, including nearest the hole and longest drive competitions.

Note 2: The responsibility to prove the retail value of a particular prize rests with the Committee in charge of the competition.

Note 3: It is recommended that the total value of prizes in a gross competition, or each division of a handicap competition, should not exceed twice the prescribed limit in an 18-hole competition, three times in a 36-hole competition, five times in a 54-hole competition and six times in a 72-hole competition.

b. Hole-in-One Prizes
An amateur golfer may accept a prize in excess of the limit in Rule 3-2a, including a cash prize, for a hole-in-one made while playing a round of golf.

Note: The hole-in-one must be made during a round of golf and be incidental to that round. Separate multiple-entry contests, contests conducted other than on a golf course (e.g., on a driving range or golf simulator) and putting contests do not qualify under this provision and are subject to the restrictions and limits in Rules 3-1 and 3-2a.

Amateur Rule 3-3.Testimonial Awards

A "testimonial award" is one that is given to an amateur golfer for "notable performances or contributions to golf as distinguished from competition prizes," the USGA states. Amateur golfers may not accept money as a testimonial award.

Here is the text of Rule 3-3 by the USGA:

a. General
An amateur golfer must not accept a testimonial award of retail value in excess of the limits prescribed in Rule 3-2.

b. Multiple Awards
An amateur golfer may accept more than one testimonial award from different donors, even though their total retail value exceeds the prescribed limit, provided they are not presented so as to evade the limit for a single award.

(Note: The text of Rule 3 quoted above is truncated in several minor ways. Be sure to check the full rule on the website of the USGA or R&A, links to which appear in the introductory text at the top of the article.)