USGA vs PGA – What’s The Difference?

The golfing environment exists out of a variety of organizations that sometimes it is hard to tell the role that each organization fulfills.

When the abbreviations are as close together as the USGA and the USPGA it can confuse golfers endlessly.

Although they grew from the same basic golf family tree, they fulfill completely different roles and neither of them oversees the day-to-day activities of the other. Neither do they share tournaments even though there are a few where both parties are involved in.

A disagreement about the allocation of money after the final major tournament in July 1968 (PGA Championship) lead to the professional golfers breaking away and forming their own organization called American Professional Golfers, Inc. (APG). The name was later abandoned and replaced with PGA “Tournament Players Division,”


  • The USGA was established on December 22, 1894, to resolve the question of a national amateur championship. Initially, it was known as the Amateur Golf Association of the United States but soon renamed to United States Golf Association. 
  • The first president of the USGA was Theodore Havemeyer after whom the U.S. Amateur trophy is named.
  • USPGA has no authority over the USPGA or their tournaments.
  • As the governing body of all of golf in the United State, it oversees amateur and professional golf. In coordination with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club based in St Andrew, Scotland they review and set rules on a regular basis.
  • Together these governing bodies help to interpret rules that may be ambiguous or cause controversy during any golf tournament.
  • USGA mainly focuses on golf tournaments in the US and Mexico.
  • Handicap calculation and the handicap calculation system are controlled by the governing bodies.
  • Equipment conformity with regulations is conducted by the USGA.
  • Membership to the USGA is open for any person prepared to pay the membership fee. Included in the membership is a rules book, and changes or updates to the rules, and other USGA paraphernalia.
  • Initially, the USGA started with 5 clubs and has grown gradually to the current membership estimated to be more than 9,700 clubs.
  • USGA oversees the 14 national championships, including the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, and U.S. Senior Open.
  • The USGA presents the annual US Open golf championship 
    • That crowns the US national champion golfer
    • Is open to any golfer, professional or amateur, that qualifies for the tournament
    • Is the single tournament sanctioned by both USGA and USPGA


  • The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America) was founded in 1916 for golf professionals.
  • Mainly looks at teaching and growing golf
  • Its premier tournament is the PGA Championship where the top 20 teaching professionals and Tour professionals play side-by-side.
  • PGA Championship trophy is named after an instrumental person that aided in setting up the USPGA, Rodman Wannamaker 
  • They don’t set rules but teach the rules set by the USGA and R&A to other professionals and amateurs.
  • USPGA has approximately 29,000 members made up of men and women.
  • The two arms of the USPGA consist of
    • Playing professionals that play on the PGA Tour earning their livelihood from the Tour
    • Teaching pros teach the game. Although excellent golfers in their own right, they have not managed to endure the rigors of the professional playing tour.


The USPGA started with 7 PGA Sections and have since grown to 41 PGA Sections nationwide

The original sections were

  • Metropolitan
  • Middle States 
  • New England 
  • Southeastern
  • Central
  • Northwestern 
  • Pacific


Although the abbreviations can cause major confusion you can distinguish between the two organizations by looking at the first digit after the US.

A “P” after the US indicates that is the organization that represents Professional Players while a “G” after the US indicates that it is the Governing Body for rules, amateur administration, and arranging the US Open golf tournament.

Either way, they both offer opportunities and entertaining viewing.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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