Golf is different to many sports in that it is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee. It also has a unique handicapping system that allows individuals to play together, irrespective of ability – probably helping to explain why the sport has such a keen sense of amateurism. As amateur golf is essentially self-regulating with regard to Rules and handicapping, it is considered necessary to safeguard the sport so that it can be fully enjoyed by all amateur golfers.
According to the Rules of Amateur Status, an amateur golfer, whether he plays competitively or recreationally is one who plays golf for the challenge it presents, not as a profession and not for financial gain.
The purpose and spirit of the Rules is to:
Focus on the game’s challenges and inherent rewards, rather than financial gain
Maintain the distinction between amateur golf and professional golf
Keep the amateur game as free as possible from the pressures that may follow from uncontrolled sponsorship and financial incentive
Amateurism does not mean second class or imperfect. It simply allows players to be categorised into those for whom golf is a profession and those for whom it is not.
Most golfers do not have the time to devote themselves to golf full-time. For most, golf is a recreational sport or hobby, albeit one that can be all-consuming. That is not to say that there are not some elite amateurs who spend significant amounts of time playing and practising; there are many who do just that and, as a result, they are subject to very particular Rules regarding things like advertising, expenses or scholarships.
The Rules of Amateur Status – one of the game’s hidden strengths – have helped preserve the challenge and traditions of the game over many years. They cover matters such as amateurism and professionalism, prizes and prize limits, expenses, bursaries and scholarships, giving instruction in playing golf and advertising.
Whilst the actual Rules are revised and amended by The R&A’s Amateur Status Committee, the national golf union or association in each country is responsible for their enforcement and application.
In Great Britain and Ireland, The R&A is the governing body.