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Can Amateur Golfers Earn Salaries?

Updated on July 14, 2012

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

The compensation of golfers is defined by the United States Golf Association, in consultation with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland. Both organizations share authority over the Rules of Golf and its decisions. The current rules apply from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2016.


The USGA governs golf worldwide. Its rules define an “amateur golfer” as “one who plays golf for the challenge it presents, not as a profession and not for financial gain,” whether or not he plays “competitively or recreationally.” Such a player concentrates on golf’s skills and challenges, and personal rewards, rather than money. As such, amateur golfers cannot earn a salary if they want to keep their non-professional status. The organization sees amateur golf as primarily self-regulating. Any “uncontrolled financial incentive” could add pressure to this self-regulation, which could negatively affect the “integrity of the game.”


A golfer who plays the game as a profession, works as a professional or enters a golf competition as a professional is no longer considered an amateur, and becomes ineligible to pay in amateur competitions. However, amateurs can compete in qualifying competitions to be eligible for membership in a Professional Tour. However, they must waive their right in writing to any prize money to maintain amateur status. Amateurs may also participate in golf matches, competitions or exhibitions where prizes are offered, but only if he states in writing that he is declining any prize money


Amateur golfers can work in a professional’s shop and receive salaries or wages, if that compensation does not infringe on the rules. They can also ask about becoming a professional and apply for such a position, but remain an amateur if the application is rejected. Amateur golfers can accept prizes under certain conditions, such as for hole-in-one competitions, as long as the prize does not exceed $750, or other amount determined by the USGA. This is the total amount allowed in any one competition or series of competitions. Testimonial awards from different donors can exceed this limit, if the money has not been split up just to evade the limits.


In general, amateurs are not allowed to accept expenses for playing in competitions or exhibitions. Some exceptions exist. For example, he may receive expenses from family members or legal guardians. If he is under 18, he can be compensated for expenses from other sources, but only if the competition is solely for junior golfers. Golfers who want to receive expenses for participating in individual events may do so only with the previous approval of the relevant country, state, regional or national golfing association. As a member of a golf team, amateur golfers can receive expenses but only if he is representing his country, a golf association, his golf club, or his industry. These expenses can apply to team competitions, practice sessions and training camps. He may also receive expenses if he is invited for reasons that are not related to golf, such as being a celebrity or business associate.


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    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      As many people as I know who play golf regularly and are actually decent at it, it doesn't surprise me why they don't bring home a paycheck. I've considered going and golfing myself at times, why I haven't picked up a club to do it is beyond me. I think I would enjoy the challenge of the game, I wouldn't be in it for the money. Good hub that gets you thinking, voting up.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting info, something I didn't know. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      They truly have to do it for the love of the game, Tammy.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      And I thought freelance writers had it tough. :) I once knew an ammature golfer that needed money so he got certified to take care of golf courses. He was able to be a caretaker and manager of a course. Golf is some big business. Great hub with some great research!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      A very clear explanation .. and it makes sense that it is set out that way too. I've known a pro golfer, he made a fortune quickly, but unfortunately it went to his head and it didn't last ... ending up massively in debt. That said, I also know a small boy out here in Thailand that is already playing for money and getting sponsors at 12 years old ... maybe we will see him on TV in the future lol.

      Thanks for SHARING, up and interesting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi alocsin, I was sure I had already commented! lol! this was great info, I don't have anybody in my family who play golf, but its certainly helpful to anybody going into this sport, voted up! and thanks for sharing! nell

    • greeneryday profile image

      greeneryday 5 years ago from Some tropical country

      Talking about informative, this hub is well written as well as well presented... I am not a golf fan but reading this hub makes me want to know more about golfing... well done!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I heard about it before that you explained this more detail. I am glad to know this from you. Thanks for writing and shared with us. Voted up :-)

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      I am the daughter of a golf nut who would find this extemely inteesting...very cool Aurelio!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I had no idea that there were such stringent rules to maintaining an amateur status when it comes to the playing of golf, but I guess it makes sense. Thanks for adding to my base of knowledge this morning. Always fun learning new things. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      fpherj48, I believe hiring yourself out as an instructor is allowed, but I'd advise the amateur to check with his local golf association to confirm that.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Interesting article Alocsin. I didn't know it was that bad to be an amateur golfer. I figured that they would make a little money. I actually thought about taking it up. Thanks for the info.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This is a well written and researched topic. I am glad that this standard holds for amatueru golfers as well as in other sports. It would be too unfair to the pros.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      alocsin......I don't golf. I don't even like to watch golf. I read your hub because I like your writing and I haven't visited for awhile! Didn't want you to think I was ignoring you!! lol. Been very busy....not playing golf.

      I do have a question.....what if an amateur golfer wanted to hire himself out as an instructor? There would be money that in violation of any rule?

      Good hub...even for a non-golfer! UP++

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well researched with great information.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Huh. I had no idea that there were so many rules regarding professional and amateur golfers. Sounds complicated. I think I'll stick to writing. :) Thank you for a great hub, alocsin! :) Voted up and more.