May 01, 2018

Rules of Golf - Forms of Play

Enjoy golf by trying different forms of play

The PGA Tour was in New Orleans this past week and they are playing unusual formats that the Tour doesn't often play. The players are in teams of two and they are playing Four-Ball in rounds 1 and 3 and then Foursomes in rounds 2 and 4. These forms of play are commonly referred to incorrectly, although recreational golfers play Four-Ball even though they may not know the correct terminology. This a great time to take a look at all of the forms of play.

Single Match – A match in which one player plays against another player. Match Play only.

Individual Stroke Play – A competition in which each competitor plays their own ball and the lowest score wins. Stroke Play only.

Four-Ball – Two players play as partners and each player plays their own ball. The better score on each hole between the two players count. This form can be played as Match Play or Stroke Play. We see this form of play at the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Solheim Cup, Zurich Classic and others.
This form of play is incorrectly referred to as “Better-Ball.”

Foursome – Two players play as partners and they play one ball alternatively on each hole. Commonly referred to as “Alternate Shot.” This form can be played as Match Play or Stroke Play. We also see this form of play at the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Solheim Cup. The player that tees off on the first hole will tee off on all of the off holes while their partner will tee off on the even holes.

There are modified forms of Foursomes. For instance, Chapman is a common form played in club events where both players tee off and they then select a ball and alternate into the hole.

Three-Ball – Three players play a match against one another. Players A, B, C are in one group; A vs B, A vs C, and B vs C. There are some interesting and strange rules situations that can arise when three matches are being played simultaneously in one group. This form is played commonly when three players are in a group, but it is rarely refereed to properly as Three-Ball. Match Play only.

Best-Ball – Best-Ball is a rare form of play where one player plays against the better ball of two partners (1 vs 2). Match Play only.

Bogey and Par Competitions – Players play against a fixed score such as par or bogey. For instance, in a Bogey Competition if a player makes a par or better, he is 1up. If on the next hole he then makes a double bogey or worse he would return to All Square. The player with the best result at the end of the round is the winner. There is no penalty for picking up after reaching a score that would result in a loss for the hole.

Stableford Competition – A competition where points are awarded or deducted on each hole based on your score in relation to par. The Committee sets the point values (ex. eagle=5, birdie=3, par=2, bogey=1, double boge & higher = 0) and the player with the most points wins. There is no penalty for picking up after reaching the worst point value.

Scramble - Scramble is the most commonly played form of golf; however, it is not recognized under the Rules of Golf. Fortunately for the golfing world, scrambles will be addressed by the Rules of Golf and suggestions of how to adapt the Rules will be explained in the new 2019 Rules of Golf and supporting documents.

Try out some of these forms of play with your golfing buddies, you may enjoy it!


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