First Tee Rules and Rants

Rules of Amateur Status changes will help introduce the game to underserved demographics

“The Rules of Amateur Status.” “Growing the game.”  

In the past, those phrases were seldom mentioned in the same breath. 

But let’s give credit where it’s due. The Rules of Amateur Status are essential for preserving the integrity of the game by clearly delineating the difference between an amateur golfer and a pro. For example, amateurs must not accept payment or other compensation for giving instruction. (Golf instruction involves teaching the mechanics of swinging a club and hitting the ball.) That mandate belongs to PGA of Canada members. 

But recent changes to those Rules offer an exception if the instruction is part of a program that has been approved in advance. To date, two programs—First Tee ​Canada​ and Iron Lady Golf—have been approved. Each application is reviewed jointly by Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada.

“This change provides a great opportunity to show how the Rules of Amateur Status can be a positive to support amateur golfers and grow the game, especially in underserved demographics,” says Mary Beth McKenna, Golf Canada’s Director of Amateur Championships and Rules. “It allows approved programs to compensate amateur golfers for their time when helping introduce people to the game.” 

The Rule change doesn’t mean amateurs now can make a fulltime living doing this, McKenna emphasizes. What it allows is a reasonable amount of compensation for their time spent helping beginners, not teaching the game.​  Being an approved program means that the hours spent on instruction is restricted to ensure they fall within the approved parameters.​

First Tee is Golf Canada’s multi-tiered youth development program. Iron Lady Golf is a well-established private initiative designed to introduce women to the game. (So far, more than 20​,000.) The goal is to ​help ​make ​women​​ feel more comfortable by having female ​coaches​​. But with women making up only a small fraction of the PGA of Canada’s membership, having a female pro in every session is​ nearly​ impossible.

So Iron Lady Golf’s founder, Lindsay Knowlton, a Class A PGA of Canada professional, relies on what she calls “ambassadors”, experienced amateurs who assist with the basic fundamentals of etiquette, rules and ​ how to navigate your way around a golf course.​

“​W​​hen I got the news that our program had been approved, I was ​ecstatic because it meant we have the opportunity to introduce more women to golf in Canada,” Knowlton says.​ “We are passionate about helping more women say ‘yes’ to golf, making it more accessible and less intimidating. Our focus is working with beginner to ​​intermediate​ golfers. When​ someone ​shows an interest in ​​wanting ​more ​swing coaching, we​ can ​ pass them ​along​​ to a PGA pro. 

“We provide encouragement, a sense of community and inclusion. That’s what keeps people in the game.” 

The object of this specific Rule (Rule 4) is two-fold. First, to expand the wide end of the funnel to welcome more people, from more demographic segments, into the game.  Second, to provide support and guidance to beginners from more experienced golfers who, in the case of Iron Lady Golf, look like them, i.e, female. 

 “This can be inspirational,” says McKenna. “To see an accomplished amateur or pro who is a woman means a lot and the comfort level goes up exponentially, especially for a beginner.”

For Knowlton, this Rules change is literally game-changing. And, she says, “it’s proof Golf Canada and the PGA​ of Canada​ are 100-per-cent committed to growing the game in Canada.” 

Do you have a program you think would qualify? The modernized Rules of Amateur Status with helpful guidance note are available here.

Have a Rules questions? Contact our experts.