Sponsor exemptions are a unique feature of professional golf tournaments, allowing players to enter without having to go through the traditional qualifying methods. Given out by the tournament’s sponsors, these exemptions are intended to increase the event’s visibility and attract top talent. While they can provide a great opportunity for players to showcase their skills. They have also been the subject of controversy and criticism in the sport. In this article, we will delve into the world of sponsor exemption in golf, exploring their impact on the game and examining both their benefits and drawbacks.

But what is a sponsor exemption in golf? And how can you have it work in your favor? Keep reading to find out! 

What Is a Sponsor Exemption in Golf?

what is a sponsor exemption in golf

In golf, sponsor exemption is when the sponsor invites a golfer who did not qualify for the tournament to play. 

Professional golf tournaments have a limited field size and are filled based on rankings. However, sponsors can ask for a few extra spots for players who did not qualify. Then the tournament’s sponsor can then ask any player who was not selected to compete.

If you are wondering why these sponsors get a free pass to do so, it is because they invest a lot. They pay huge sums of money to get their names in the tournaments, which is why they have such liberty.

So, if you are a player who has been wanting to enter a competition, a sponsor exemption might be the key!

Why Give Sponsor Exemptions?

Sponsor exemptions are primarily for players who did not qualify to play. But why do they get this opportunity even after they did not qualify?

Well, a lot of the time, sponsor exemptions are used for players who are ready for an upcoming tour but lack the proper credentials. However, this is also done for several other reasons. Let us look at a few here:

Local Resident

If a local golf player in your area is considered an excellent player but isn’t quite a professional yet, they can get exempted. It is because sponsor exemptions of local players can get more people interested.

The local player attracts more people to the event and inspires people to support and attend the players. Hence, if tournaments come to town, they allow local players to get an exemption from a sponsor.

Local University Player

Tourists will sponsor exemptions for local college and university players for similar reasons to letting residents play. So, if you are a top amateur playing for your university and looking for ways to get into a tournament, you might get a sponsor exemption.

Club Member

If a golf tournament is held at a private country club, and a member is a remarkable player, they have a high chance of getting the exemption.

Former Champion

Not all golfers cut some events, not even champions. There are times when a former champion will not qualify for a tournament. Still, the tournament administrator can invite them to play on a sponsor exemption.

Previous Star

Golfers who were previously very famous can get sponsor exemptions as well! If there is a fan favourite, for example, Tiger Woods, there is a chance you will see them in the tournament. Do not be surprised, though. They are probably there due to their exemption.

Signing With Tournament Sponsor

Large companies that sponsor golf tournaments can support expert players on PGA Tours. And, if the company hosts an event where their sponsored player does not cut. They can give out a sponsor exemption in golf. But it puts a ton of pressure on the golfer since it usually means that this is their only opportunity to shine.

Despite these reasons, sponsor exemptions cannot just be given to anyone. There are a set number of spots available for each tournament. Also, PGA Tour members can accept unlimited sponsor exemptions among sponsors. Non-PGA Tour members can only take seven exemptions in a season.

PGA Tour Priority Rankings List

To further understand what is a sponsor exemption in golf and how sponsor exemptions work, allow us to explain how the PGA Tour tournament teams are filled. 

So, the PGA Tour has 39 categories, which you can view in their 2022-23 priority ranking list. The fields for the PGA Championship are determined using this list. So this means winners who have won the first four categories in the last five years get to choose which PGA Tour events they play.

Since close to 215-220 players are fully exempted in any given year, and the event field sizes accommodate 132 to 156, many exempted players do not get to play. However, this is where sponsor exemptions step in and help out those unable to join in on the fun.

Are Sponsor Exemptions Hard to Get?

sponsor in golf

Often people compare the difficulty levels of getting into the PGA Tour to getting a sponsor exemption. They think getting a sponsor exemption is much easier than qualifying for the tournaments. So, if you are one of those people, think again- these exemptions require a lot of hard work and dedication.

To get recognized for a sponsor exemption, you need to earn the attention of your local people. You have to be recognized as a good player; to do so, you must get your name out there and have high ranks.

So, if you are new to golfing, it would be better if you try to work towards getting into the Korn Ferry Tour instead.

How Can Golfers Get Exemptions?

Getting sponsor exemptions is complicated, and you must be a recognized player to get one. Not only that but these exemptions are mainly based on luck, so there is never a guarantee that the sponsor will pick you.

One way to guarantee a sports exemption is to win the PGA Championship. Since it is a major tournament, winning gets you exemptions for the next five years! Let’s say there is a player who wants to keep their tour card active without going back to qualifying school. So, winning the PGA Championship can get them a chance to compete in the major tournaments for a guaranteed five.

Another way to get exemptions as non-PGA Tour members is to write sponsor exemption letters to tournament directors. After doing so, all they can do is wait and hope they get accepted. But the tournaments do not just take anyone. Golfers who are popular in the area where the game is held will get priority. And even those who have lost their tour status but still have a huge fan following will have a better chance of getting it.

Is It the Sponsor Making the Choices?

Since you do not know what is a sponsor exemption in golf, you probably do not know if the sponsors are the ones who choose the players. Well, if it is called an exemption from a sponsor. That would mean that the sponsor is the one who is making a choice, right? Wrong.

Executives of a sponsoring company do not usually hold a board meeting to decide who gets the exemptions, as you would imagine. Instead, the tournament director is typically the one who makes the final decision. The sponsor exempts those golfers that the tournament directors feel would most benefit the tournament. 

So, how does that benefit the title sponsors? The tournament creates a lot of buzz within the community through media coverage to generate fan interest. The fans become more willing to invest in the title sponsors themselves, thus benefiting them.

Sponsor Exemptions Vary Between Tours

Sponsor exemptions vary from pro tour to pro tour. The guidelines that mention how many exemptions a tournament gets or what types of players are eligible to vary and change. So, there is no guarantee that a tournament will give sponsor exemptions.

But do not lose hope; most tournaments allow some exemptions!

Sponsor Exemptions Can Also Vary Within the Same Tour

Sponsor exemptions can also vary within the same tour. It is because different sponsors can use their exemptions differently. Like the “standard” PGA Tour events, WGC tournaments or FedEx playoffs can give out eight exemptions. However, FedEx playoff tournaments choose to give out none.

Similarly, four significant tournaments have rules they follow when giving exemptions, and the PGA Tour has no control over that.

Do Big-League Championships Have Sponsor Exemptions?

Well, any championship that does not have sponsors will not possess sponsor exemptions. Since major championships like the Masters, the Open Championship, the US Open, and the PGA Championship are not sponsored by companies, they don’t have sponsor exemptions. 

However, this does not mean that you will have to lose hope! There are other ways these major championships let golfers go to their events. However, these ways are complicated as well. They require you to have previously won a tournament on have won the Amateur of the US. So, you will still have to work extremely hard and ensure you ace all the preliminary games to get an exemption for such events.

Does The Korn Ferry Tour Provide Sponsor Exemptions?

If you wonder if the Korn Ferry Tourgive sponsor exemption in golf, you will be glad to know they do!

The Korn Ferry Tour gives sponsor exemptions to qualified amateurs and aspiring professionals who want to join the competition. So, if you are qualified, and would like to challenge yourself with some heated competition, work hard to get the exemption. 

The Korn Ferry Tour produces many players who then play in the PGA Tour, so it is not easy to get in, but if you do, make the most of your opportunity.

US Open also offers a special exemption to one Korn Ferry Tour player. Players can now collect points based on their performance, and the one with the highest number of issues can get an exemption in the US Open in 2023.

Notable Sponsor Exemptions

Now that you know the ins and outs of sponsor exemption in golf, you must be wondering who some notable players are who got an opportunity to get these exemptions. Here are a few outstanding golfers that you can take inspiration from:

  • Matt Wolff was a player who got into the 3M Open in 2019 with an exemption. He won the tournament and earned a PGA Tour card and an invitation to The Masters!
  • Jordan Spieth, too, won the 2013 John Deere Classic championship on a sponsor exemption.
  • Turk Pettit earned his Korn Ferry Tour card and received a sponsor exemption to play the Wells Fargo Championship. It became his fast-track ride to PGA Tour membership and allowed him to get sponsor exemptions in the future.
  • Tony Romo and Mardy Fish have also earned opportunities to play at renowned tour events like the PGA and Korn Ferry tours thanks to sponsor exemptions.


What does a golf sponsor do?

Getting into gold tournaments can end up needing a lot of money, and a sponsor can take the financial burden off of the golfers. The sponsoring company can handle all the expenses that come with tournaments and even provide the golfer with the clothing and equipment they would need.

What is a PGA Tour exemption?

Players who win a PGA Tour event get to have a two-year PGA Tour exemption. It means that both members and non-members who get into PGA Tours through sponsor exemptions can get a PGA Tour card that exempts them for two years.

What is a five-year exemption in golf?

Anyone who wins a major championship or The Players gets a five-year exemption. Moreover, if the player wins multiple times in the same year, one extra year will be added for each win with a maximum of 5 years.


So, if you are an amateur who plays well, or are a professional golfer who did not qualify for the tournaments, do not be disheartened. You still have a chance of getting in through sponsor exemptions. Just keep playing and try to get your name high in the ranks so you can have your moment to shine too!

Similar Posts