USGA Senior Amateur Golf: Your Guide to Competitive Golf

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Maybe you were a competitive amateur or professional when you were younger, or maybe you got the golf bug later on in life. If you like to compete and you are a competitive person, there is really nothing better than tournament golf. 

Let’s face it, with team sports, there is always an excuse, and with golf, there are none. It’s all on you, which makes it that much more fun. (To win, at least!)

I’ve played competitive golf for over 20 years, and I love encouraging people to compete, teaching them to compete, and watching them realize their goals. It’s fun to shoot 72 or 75 as a senior golfer, but it’s even more fun to do it when it means something! 

Take a look at how you can get involved in USGA Senior Amateur golf and whether or not it’s the right fit for your game. 

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What Competitive Opportunities do Senior Golfers Have? 

Pro golfers playing on the Senior Tour on the green on the En-Joie Golf Course in New York

We all know about the club championship that your local club has, but there are competitive opportunities outside of that for interested golfers. In fact, if you are serious about competitive golf as a senior, there are plenty of events to keep you busy. 

I’ll cover some of the top options to consider and look into. For the exceptional players, of course, there is the Champions Tour. We covered that in great detail here; take a look and see if this is something that could fit the needs of your game. 

⛳️ Related: Find out more about Champions Tour Golf for Seniors!

Overview of USGA Senior Amateur Championship

A friend made it through qualifying for the USGA Senior Amateur, and it was a lot of work. He’s a great player and on the younger side of the age requirement (which is 55). 

The tricky thing about a USGA Senior Amateur Championship is that you won’t be able to just sign up; you first have to make it through levels of local qualifying. You also need a handicap index of less than 7.4. 

I’ll tell you now, the guys that play in these events are incredible ball strikers, even into their 60s. 

The yardage for the final event plays to about 7500 yards, so if you are a 7.4 playing from closer to 5800 yards or even 6000, you will have your work cut out for you here. 

If you can pull off a win at the USGA Senior Amateur, in addition to your gold medal, you will also get the following: 

  • Exemption from local qualifying for the 2024 US Open 
  • Exemption from local qualifying for the 2024 US Senior Open Championship 
  • Exemption from qualifying for the 2024 and 2025 US Amateur Championship
  • Exemption from qualifying for the 2023 and 2024 US Mid Amateur Championship
  • Exemption from qualifying for the next 10 US Senior Amateur Championship

In other words, you are going to be busy! 

Golfweek Senior Amateur Tour 

Golfweek Senior Am Tour score card shown in a close up on a golf cart wheel.
You don’t need a low handicap to play in Golfweek

The Golfweek Senior Amateur Tour has been around since 1999, and it gives all golfers over 50 years old (is that a senior now?) the ability to play in competitive events all over the United States. The Senior Amateur Tour has 26 Local Tour events, and in the year 2022, they hosted more than 350 tournaments. 

When you play golf in the Golfweek Senior Am Tour events hosted by your local tour, you can earn points based on where you finish. 

The flights for the Golfweek Senior Amateur Tour are: 

Golfweek Senior Am Tour FlightsUSGA Handicap Index
A Flight4-8.9
B Flight9-13.9
C Flight14-18.9
D Flight19+ 

If you end up with a great season and collect plenty of points, you can get an invitation to the Senior Amateur Tour National Championship. This is a huge event, with more than 450 golfers playing 36 holes. 

The great thing about this Golfweek tour is that you can compete and be a champion even when you have a higher handicap. 

⛳️ Read Next: Your Golf Handicap Simplified (Calculated)

Interclub Golf 

Interclub golf is run by your state golf association, and it is intended for a member of a club in good standing with a proper course rating and handicap compliance. If you are an active dues-paying member with a GHIN number and your club is involved, you can certainly see if you can qualify to play. 

Interclub is designed for golfers of all ages, although in some local areas, you may find that it is more senior based than junior based. Players typically have to be 21 years of age. 

Interclub matches will pair you up to play against golfers with similar handicaps. The lowest two handicappers from your club will play with the lowest two handicappers at another club. 

Interclub golf gives you a great opportunity to meet other people, stay competitive, and get to play other golf courses.

State Golf Association Opportunities 

Check with your state golf associate to find out more details on their senior amateur championship. Most states have a very competitive senior amateur field, and this will be similar to events conducted by the USGA. 

British Senior Open for Amateur Golfers 

If you haven’t already noticed, the USGA and R&A do many things the same. Therefore, if the USGA Senior Amateur is not for you, you can consider the British Senior Open for amateur golfers.

The British Senior Open for Amateur Golfers is for ages 55 and above. 

This golf tournament has been around since 1969, and you will have to have no higher than a 2.4 index to enter. One of the most interesting facts I found when looking into this tournament opportunity was the fact that Charlie Green won this event 6 out of 7 years that he played. 

Talk about knowing how to win as an amateur player! 

USGA Senior Women’s Amateur 

Senior women’s amateur golf can be just as competitive, especially when it comes to the Senior Women’s Amateur hosted by the USGA. 

In addition to having your amateur status, you will also need a USGA Handicap Index showing that you are not higher than 18.4. In addition, all women golfers playing in the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur need to be older than 50 years old. 

Local qualifying is hosted as stroke play, and the finals are a match play situation. 

Are There Options For Super Seniors (Age 65 & Older)? 

The US Senior Amateur, Golfweek Senior Am Tour, and even Interclub golf will not keep you from participating if you are older than 65 years old. 

However, if you want something specifically geared to the super senior golfer, has a section  with tournaments for super seniors over 65 years of age. 

Even into your 70s and 80s you can play in events like Society of Seniors National Super Senior Championship. Golf handicap requirements and tee positions will get friendlier as you age so you have that benefit to look forward to. 

⛳️ Related: Super Senior Golf & Why We Love It

How to Become an Amateur Golfer?

If you have never accepted money for playing golf or teaching golf, your amateur status is intact. 

If you were previously a professional, you can have your amateur status reinstated; you have to go through a process with the USGA. This process typically requires you to wait a certain amount of time from the last time you violated amateur status. 

However, if you were not in the golf business your entire life, you should be eligible from an amateur status standpoint to play in any of these events. 

Senior Tour Age & Requirements

PGA Tour Champions Golf Event in 2023 showing Bohn on the tees
PGA TOUR Champions 2023 Event

As I mentioned above, with each of these tours, you can expect that there is an age requirement. Some associations and institutions consider 50 to be a senior; others call it 55. 

The good news is you don’t have to wait until 65 to be labeled a senior golfer. 

The PGA Tour Champions call golfers seniors when they turn 50. Some of these players are working harder and harder to stay young and will likely try to remain on the PGA Tour as long as they possibly can. 

Others are happy to make the switch and put some money in their pocket. 

As a side note, Tiger Woods is 47. I’ll be watching how this one develops!

Should I Play in a Golf Tournament?

Playing in a golf tournament is fun, and it’s a way to keep you mentally sharp as you get older. 

The tournament gives senior golfers something to look forward to, something to prepare for, and a way to challenge your brain (and your nerves!). 

I suggest playing in a tournament at your club or at the local level before you pursue state wide events. You will get comfortable and figure out if you like the concept of competing. 

Benefits of Competitive Golf

Making friends is one of the benefits of USGA Senior Amateur Golf showing a ladies golf group eating lunch after their golf tournament - everyone is dressed in red.

The benefits of competitive golf are far reaching, and they are also unique to an individual player.

Here are a few convincing benefits if you are still on the fence:

  • Networking with other people in your area and throughout the nation 
  • Building character (it’s never too late for that!) 
  • Setting goals and reaching them 
  • Self discipline and routines 
  • Fun, enjoyment, and a workout for your brain! 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the minimum age to play on the PGA Senior Tour?

The minimum age to play on the PGA Senior Tour is 50 years of age. 

Who is the oldest player on the senior tour?

One of the oldest players on the Senior PGA Tour (PGA TOUR Champioins) is Hale Irwin. Bernhard Langer isn’t too far behind him, and he still competes and wins.

Can senior PGA players use a cart?

There are certain eligibility requirements for senior PGA players to use a golf cart, but the majority still walk the golf course. 

Can 80-year-olds play golf?

An 80-year-old person can and should play golf; many 90-year-olds still play the game. The whole point of picking up golf when you are young is so that you can play it your entire life! 

What is a senior golfer?

A senior golfer is someone that is eligible to play golf among older golfers. For the Senior Tour or PGA Tour Champions professional golfers, they become eligible when they turn 50. The Legends of LPA on the other hand eligibility is at age 45. Amateur golfers this age is usually 50 or 55 depending on the golf association.

Final Thoughts on USGA Senior Amateur Golf

Getting involved in USGA Senior Amateur Golf and other senior amateur events is an experience that many senior golfers are not aware of. I hope you learned that there are opportunities at every level, and you can continue to compete if it’s something you love to do. 

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Brittany Olizarowicz is a Class A PGA Professional Golfer with nearly 30 years of experience. Many of her teaching years were spent training senior golfers. In recent years, Britt's career has moved to golf writing, where she shares her knowledge with a global audience. Britt is still a scratch golfer and enjoys playing golf with her husband and two young children several times a week.

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