Ask the Pro! Should Pro’s & Amateurs Play by the Same Rules?

By Bob Duncan

Question submitted by Carmine Stein. “Ok… Do you think there should be separate rules for Pro’s and the USGA rules for Amateurs…? There seems to even be rules that apply for High School golf as well… !!!”

What a great question!  Each amateur and professional event has a number of ‘local rules’ that help them tailor the competition to their desires, so you will see certain local rules that will apply to their competitions. But, there are still 34 basic rules to the game of golf, and playing by these rules has been a strong tenant of the game.  Fortunately or unfortunately technology and training have advanced to the point of rendering many courses almost obsolete for the most accomplished of players.  Consequently, some course designers have become more creative, making some courses difficult for the average player.  I don’t think this is bad for the game at all.  It requires the designer to try to create different angles and lengths from different tee boxes, creating different shot values.

There are 2 things that might make the game more interesting and competitive for players… The first is something I’ve observed in quite a few match play events.  With courses with multiple tee boxes, event organizers have more opportunities to enhance competition by further varying the length of the holes played.  By significantly shortening several par 4s they can make more risk/reward scenarios.  By shortening par 3s, they can use more difficult pin placements, effectively doing almost the same thing.  By altering the distances of par 5s, they can make some play easier or more difficult.  Courses can be more creative in the tee boxes used and lengths of holes, mixing up the competition on a given day.

The second point has to do with equipment.  Technology and training have allowed the strongest players to hit the ball significantly farther than their predecessors.  Organizers have often lengthened courses to make them harder, but the strongest, longest players have kept up with or eclipsed those changes.  There might be 2 options here.  One might be to use a limited flight ball in certain competitions and on certain courses.  This might be very limited in scope, normally applying to the most accomplished players.  The other option might be to place either a lower limit on the number of clubs players can carry, or provide some sort of option/incentive to carry less clubs.

The pros have altered their sets to the point that they fit the player and the course very well.  Having a method of reducing the number of clubs might add a new element of risk/reward to the level of play.  What would incentivize players to carry less clubs?  Perhaps as a method of breaking ties, or creating a method of scoring based on the number of clubs carried might do the trick.

The great thing about the game of golf is that the same basic 34 rules apply to all manners of competition, and the rules are an integral part of the game.  If anyone has a question about a rule or an unusual situation they have encountered, they can seek the answer through the United States Golf Association, at  Try checking out the Decisions on the Rules of Golf — it’s very interesting reading!

We would like to hear from you — what do you think about playing by the Rules of Golf?  Email your rules comments to

Bob Duncan is a PGA Life Member, has developed the Golfer Positioning System and DP.60 Deliberate Practice Challenge.  He is a Master Clubfitter having custom fit over $1.6 Million in equipment, and has given over 9,000 hours of coaching and instruction.  Reach Bob at, and visit his website at