Professional golfer

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Tiger Woods hitting a drive in 2007. Tiger Woods drives by Allison.jpg
Tiger Woods hitting a drive in 2007.

A professional golfer is somebody who receives payments or financial rewards in the sport of golf that are directly related to their skill or reputation. A person who earns money by teaching or playing golf is traditionally considered a "golf pro," most of whom are teachers/coaches. The professional golfer status is reserved for people who play, rather than teach, golf for a career. [1]


In golf, the distinction between amateurs and professionals is rigorously maintained. An amateur who breaches the rules of amateur status may lose their amateur status. A golfer who has lost their amateur status may not play in amateur competitions until amateur status has been reinstated; a professional may not play in amateur tournaments unless the Committee is notified, acknowledges and confirms the participation. It is very difficult for a professional to regain their amateur status; simply agreeing not to take payment for a particular tournament is not enough. A player must apply to the governing body of the sport to have amateur status reinstated.


Historically, the distinction between amateur and professional golfers had much to do with social class. In 18th and 19th century Britain, golf was played by the rich, for pleasure. The early professionals were working-class men who made a living from the game in a variety of ways: caddying, greenkeeping, clubmaking, and playing challenge matches. When golf arrived in America at the end of the 19th century, it was an elite sport there, too. Early American golf clubs imported their professionals from Britain. It was not possible to make a living solely from playing tournament golf until some way into the 20th century (Walter Hagen is sometimes considered to have been the first man to have done so).

In the developed world, the class distinction is now almost entirely irrelevant. Golf is affordable at public courses to a large portion of the population, and most golf professionals are from middle-class backgrounds, which are often the same sort of backgrounds as the members of the clubs where they work or the people they teach the game, and educated to university level. Leading tournament golfers are very wealthy; upper class in the modern U.S. usage of the term. However, in some developing countries, there is still a class distinction. Often golf is restricted to a much smaller and more elite section of society than is the case in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Professional golfers from these countries are quite often from poor backgrounds and start their careers as caddies, for example, Ángel Cabrera of Argentina, and Zhang Lian-wei who is the first significant tournament professional from the People's Republic of China. In various countries, Professional Golfers' Associations (PGAs) serve either or both of these categories of professionals. There are separate LPGAs (Ladies Professional Golf Associations) for women.


Under the rules of golf and amateur status, except for hole in one prizes, the maximum value of a prize an amateur can accept is £500, [2] or $750. [3] If an amateur accepts a prize of greater than this they forfeit their amateur status, and are therefore by definition a professional golfer.

Professional golfers are divided into two main groups, with a limited amount of overlap between them:

PGA of America

In the United States, the PGA of America has 31 distinct member classifications for professionals. Many of the classifications also have corresponding apprenticeship positions. [6]

Member ClassificationApprentice ClassificationDescription
A-1B-1Head Professional at a PGA Recognized Golf Course
A-2B-2Head Professional at a PGA Recognized Golf Range
A-3N/AExempt PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions, Korn Ferry Tour, LPGA Tour and Epson Tour players
A-4B-4Director of Golf at PGA Recognized Golf Facilities
A-5N/APast Presidents of the Association
A-6B-6Golf Instructor at a PGA Recognized Facility
A-7B-7Head Professional at a PGA Recognized Facility Under Construction
A-8B-8Assistant Golf Professional at a PGA Recognized Facility
A-9B-9Employed in Professional Positions in Management, Development, Ownership Operation and/or Financing of Facilities
A-10B-10Golf Clinician
A-11B-11Golf Administrator
A-12B-12College or University Golf Coach
A-13B-13General Manager
A-14B-14Director of Instruction at a PGA Recognized Facility
A-15B-15Ownership or Management of a Retail Golf Facility
A-16B-16Golf Course Architect
A-17B-17Golf Course Superintendent
A-18B-18Golf Media
A-19B-19Golf Manufacturer Management
A-20B-20Golf Manufacturer Sales Representative
A-21B-21Tournament Coordinator/Director for Organizations, Businesses or Associations
A-22B-22Rules Official
A-23B-23Club Fitting/Club Repair
A-24N/AEmployed within the golf industry and not eligible for another Active classification
HMN/AHonorary Member
INN/ANot eligible for classification as Active, Life Member or Retired Member
LM/LMMN/ANot eligible for classification as Active Member and who have held a minimum of 20 years in an Active Classification (whether continuous or not)
LMA/LMMAN/ANot eligible for classification as Active Member and who have held a minimum of 20 years in an Active Classification (whether continuous or not)
MPN/AMaster Professional
RMN/AMembers who are fully retired (cannot be working in either a golf or non-golf position) and who have achieved a combined 65 years of age and Active membership and who are not eligible for Life Member
FN/AFailure to meet the requirements of the Professional Development Program

See also

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  1. "Golf Pro vs. Pro Golfer".
  2. "The Rules of Amateur Status | Rule 3–2 Prize Limits". The R&A. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  3. "The Rules of Amateur Status | Rule 3–2 Prize Limits". USGA. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  4. "Definitions". Rules of Amateur Status. United States Golf Association. Retrieved August 11, 2017. Instruction does not cover teaching the psychological aspects of the game or the etiquette or Rules of Golf.
  5. "Highest Paid Athlete Golf". Archived from the original on 2011-01-31.
  6. "PGA of America Member Classifications |" . Retrieved 22 July 2017.