3. Prizes
Determining Whether Competition is "Scratch Competition" or "Handicap Competition" Rule 3 (Prizes) differentiates between the types of prizes an amateur golfer may accept when playing in a scratch competition versus those that may be accepted when playing in a handicap competition by allowing the acceptance of prize money in scratch competitions, but not in handicap competitions. As golf is largely self-regulating, restricting the awarding of prize money to scratch competitions is intended to help protect the integrity of the game by minimizing pressure on the Rules of Handicapping. A competition is a "handicap competition" if the Terms of the Competition include any of the following:
  • Form of play: Handicaps are used for scoring purposes, such as to calculate handicap (net) scores in stroke play or allocate handicap strokes in match play.
  • Prizes: If players can win prizes based on handicap (net) scores or on both handicap (net) and scratch (gross) scores.
  • Eligibility: Entry is limited in such a way that it excludes players who have a handicap below a certain threshold (such as only allowing players with handicaps for 5.0 or greater) or the field is broken into divisions or flights through the use of handicaps.
If a competition does not include any of the above Terms of the Competition, it is a "scratch competition". (Updated February 2024)
Scratch Competitions For the purposes of Rule 3, a scratch competition must be conducted using scratch (gross) scores only. A player’s handicap or their handicap index may not be used for any scoring-related functions.
  • The Rules consider the following competitions to be handicap competitions:
    • Competitions where handicaps are used to divide a larger field into divisions or flights, even though only scratch (gross) scores are used to determine placing within divisions or flights.
    • Competitions using scratch (gross) and handicap (net) scoring in the same competition.
    • Competitions using player handicaps as a method to break a tie.
  • But handicaps may be used in a scratch competition to limit who is eligible to enter, such as allowing entry only for players with a handicap index of 5.0 or less.
Competitions May Be Treated as Having Multiple Competitions Under Rule 3 Rule 3 treats each competition as either a “scratch competition” or a “handicap competition” and, for the purposes of Rule 3 (Prizes), a player cannot compete in both at the same time. But the Terms of a Competition can separate players into divisions or flights with each of those [divisions / flights] treated as a separate competition for the purposes of Rule 3 – see Guidance Note on Determining Whether Competition is “Scratch Competition” or “Handicap Competition” for guidance on whether each division or flight is a scratch or handicap competition. Examples of how an overall competition can have separate divisions or flights in which some are treated as handicap competitions and some are treated as scratch competitions, include the following: Example 1 – separating players into separate competitions on entry
  • An amateur competition requires that players designate whether they will play in the open division or the net division upon entry.
    • The open division will use only scratch (gross) scoring.
    • The net division will use handicap (net) scoring.
  • As the players in these divisions are not competing against each other, the divisions are treated as separate competitions for the purposes of Rule 3.
  • If the open division does not include any other Terms of the Competition that result in it being treated as a handicap competition under Rule 3, it is a scratch competition.
  • The net division is treated as a handicap competition under Rule 3 because handicaps are used for scoring purposes.
Example 2 – separating players by handicap

Generally, only one division (or flight) may be a scratch competition under Rule 3 as only the division to which the most skilled players are assigned may be treated as a scratch competition. But see Example 3 for when a competition includes divisions based on player gender and / or age which could result in multiple scratch competitions under Rule 3 based on the Term of the Competition. 
  • The Terms of the Competition for an amateur competition split players into two divisions as follows:
    • Players with a handicap of 5.0 or lower will be put in one division and
    • Players with a handicap on 5.1 or higher will be put in the other division.
  • The division with the more skilled players would be treated as a scratch competition under Rule 3 if it does not have any other Terms of the Competition that result in it being a handicap competition.
  • The division with players having a handicap of 5.1 or higher is treated as a handicap competition under Rule 3 because there is a lower handicap limit used (i.e. 5.0 or lower) to determine eligibility.
Example 3 - separating players into different scratch competitions based on age, gender As noted in Example 2, competitions can have more than one scratch competition under Rule 3 when gender and ages are used to divide the field.
  • An amateur competition uses only scratch scores and the Terms of the Competition split men and women into separate divisions.
  • If neither division includes any other Terms of the Competition that result in them being treated as a handicap competition under Rule 3, both would be treated as scratch competitions under Rule 3.
(Updated February 2024) Currency and Prize Limits Rule 3 refers to prize limits expressed in pound sterling (£) and US dollars (US$). However, the national governing body in a country may set the prize limit for its own country, provided it does not exceed the local currency equivalent of the limit of £700 and US$1000 in Rule 3 at the time the limit is established. It is recognized that £700 and US$1000 are unlikely to be exactly the same value at any given time. A national governing body has the choice of which currency it uses to align its own limit. While it is not realistic to realign the local currency equivalent on a day-to-day basis, it should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is not significantly out of line with the limits in Rule 3. Meaning of Tee-to-Hole Golf Competitions Rule 3 applies only to a tee-to-hole golf competition involving a score for a hole, regardless of where that competition is played (for example, on a golf course or golf simulator). Rule 3 also applies to any skills competition where the shot is played during a tee-to-hole golf competition. For example, longest drive or nearest the hole competition when it is contested while playing a hole from tee to green as part of the competition round. However, Rule 3 does not apply to competitions that are not part of a tee-to-hole golf competition, even when they take place on a golf course or a golf simulator. Common examples include, longest drive competitions, nearest the hole competitions, putting competitions and skills competitions where the stroke or strokes do not count as part of a round of golf. These competitions, where Rule 3 does not apply, can be conducted in conjunction with a tee-to-hole golf competition. Prize of Expenses Provided by Competition Organizer to Subsequent Stage of Competition When a competition organizer awards a prize for the winner or a select number of participants to receive expenses to play in a subsequent stage of the same competition, the prize limit in Rule 3 does not apply. All or any portion of actual expenses may be paid on behalf of the player or reimbursed, including, but not limited to, entry fees to subsequent stages, travel, accommodation, meals and caddie fees. In addition to covering actual expenses, a competition organizer may also award prizes provided they are within the limits set in Rule 3. Deferring or Indirectly Accepting a Prize An amateur golfer may not defer or delay the acceptance of a prize that is not allowed under Rule 3 in order to retain their amateur status. Deferring or delaying acceptance would be treated as if the prize had been accepted at the time it was won. Additionally, an amateur golfer is not able to avoid losing their amateur status by indirectly accepting a prize through another person or redirecting a prize through their golf club or business. However, in certain circumstances the donation of a prize to charity is allowed (see “Donation of Prize to Charity”) Meaning of Prize Money For the purposes of Rule 3, prize money may come in many forms, and includes cash, physical or digital currency, cheques, bank deposits, and shares, stocks and bonds. Gift cards and debit cards that may be redeemable for cash or can be used to withdraw cash are also considered prize money. Prize money does not include vouchers, gift certificates and gift cards that can be exchanged for products and services in retail outlets and/or a golf course or club. Donation of Prize to Charity An amateur golfer who wins a prize that is not allowed by the Rules may choose not to accept that prize, but instead offer to donate that prize to a recognized charity. It is up to the Committee in charge of the competition to decide if it will allow prizes won by amateur golfers to be donated to a recognized charity. Policy on Raffles, Prize Draws, etc. Rule 3 does not apply to a raffle prize or a prize draw run in conjunction with a golf event provided it is not being used to circumvent the prize limit. Team Competitions Each individual player in a team competition may accept a prize up to the prize limit in Rule 3. For example, in an 18-hole team handicap competition, each player on a four-person team may accept a prize, other than prize money, up to the prize limit. Multiple Competitions Being Conducted at the Same Time The prize limit in Rule 3 applies on a per competition basis and includes the primary competition as well as any secondary contests (such as longest drive or nearest to the hole competitions while playing a hole from tee to green as part of the competition round). The prize limit in Rule 3 also applies to the total prizes won in multiple competitions being conducted at the same time (such as individual and team events), even if there is a separate entry fee for each one.
  • For example, in an 18-hole individual competition, where gross and net prizes are awarded, a player who wins $700 in shop credit for the gross competition may accept only $300 in additional shop credit for the net competition.
If a competition has one or more stages of qualifying, each stage is considered a separate competition provided there is an entry fee at each stage. In the case of an aggregate competition where the winner is determined based on the combined results of two separate competitions, the prize limit applies to the aggregate prize plus the total value of any prize won in the separate competitions.
  • For example, Competition A and Competition B are both 36-hole scratch (gross) competitions played on two consecutive weekends, each with its own entry fee. Competition C is a 72-hole aggregate competition based on the results of Competitions A and B together. A player who wins a prize of $700 in either Competition A or B may only accept up to $300 for Competition C.
Order of Merit An amateur golfer may accept a prize up to the limit in Rule 3 for winning an “Order of Merit” or “Golfer of the Year” award, in addition to any other competition prizes won during the order of merit period. Trophies Trophies and other symbolic prizes that are permanently and distinctively engraved may be accepted even if the value exceeds the prize limit in Rule 3. Trophies made of gold, silver, ceramic, glass or similar materials that are not permanently and distinctively engraved are subject to the prize limit. Items such as a rare watch or vintage jewellery must not be used to circumvent the prize limit in Rule 3. Policy on Mementoes and Gifts A sponsor or competition organiser may give a memento or gift to the players competing, irrespective of their value, provided it is not used to circumvent the prize limit. Testimonial Awards Testimonial awards are prizes awarded for notable performances or contributions to golf and are distinguished from a competition prize. The prize limit in Rule 3 does not apply to such awards.