Game Formats

Golf offers many different game formats that allows golfers to enjoy their rounds in a variety of ways.

Below are some commonly played game formats which can be found in the Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping. For each format, we have outlined the basic explanation of the format, as well as highlighted whether it is an authorized format for score posting purposes, what the recommended handicap allowance is, and provided an example (as necessary).

Handicap allowances are designed to provide equity for players of all levels of ability in each format of play, over both 9 holes and 18 holes. Handicap allowances are applied o the Course Handicap as the final step in calculating a player’s Playing Handicap. The Rules of Handicapping set out the recommended handicap allowances based on medium sized field net events.

Please note: While some formats of play are not acceptable for handicap purposes, a handicap allowance has still been provided.

MATCH PLAY

In match play, the game is played by holes, which is won by the side that holes its ball in fewer strokes.

In general, after handicap allowances have been applied in match play formats, the side with the lowest Playing Handicap plays off zero strokes relative to the other side.

  • INDIVIDUAL MATCH PLAY

    In individual match play, the match is won by the player who is leading by a number of holes greater than the number of holes remaining to be played.

    Acceptability of Score: Individual Match Play is an authorized format of play, and acceptable scores made in this format must be posted for handicap purposes.

    If a hole is conceded (a player starts a hole but does not hole out), then that golfer must record their “Most Likely Score” for handicap purposes.

    If a match ends before all holes are played, any remaining unplayed holes must be recorded as Net Par.

    Allowance: The higher-handicapped player receives the full difference in Playing Handicap between the two players; the lower-handicapped player plays from scratch.

    Example: A player with a Playing Handicap of 17 receives four strokes from a player with a Playing Handicap of 13. The player receives them on the first four allocated handicap-stroke holes.

  • FOUR-BALL MATCH PLAY

    In four-ball match play, two play their better ball against the better ball of two other players (“The Rules of Golf”, Rule 30 and Definitions).

    Acceptability of Score: Four-Ball Match Play is an authorized format of play, and acceptable scores made in this format must be posted for handicap purposes.

    If a hole is conceded (a player starts a hole but does not hole out), then that golfer must record their “Most Likely Score” for handicap purposes.

    If a match ends before all holes are played, any remaining unplayed holes must be recorded as Net Par.

    Allowance: 90%The Playing Handicap of all four players is reduced by the Playing Handicap of the player with the lowest handicap, who then plays from scratch.

    Example: Players A, B, C, and D have a Playing Handicap of 5, 10, 15 and 20, respectively. Player A plays at scratch, B receives 5 strokes, C receives 10 strokes, and D receives 15 strokes. In mixed four-ball match play, strokes are taken as assigned on the players’ respective Stroke Allocation Table.

  • TOTAL SCORE OF PARTNERS MATCH PLAY

    Two players form a side, but play their own ball. The combined total of their scores for each hole is the score recorded for the side.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and each player must post their individual acceptable score for handicap purposes.

    If a hole is conceded (a player starts a hole but does not hole out), then that golfer must record their “Most Likely Score” for handicap purposes.

    If a match ends before all holes are played, any remaining unplayed holes must be recorded as Net Par.

    Allowance: 100%. The Playing Handicap of all four players is reduced by the Playing Handicap of the player with the lowest handicap, who must then play from scratch.

    Example: Side A-B is comprised of Player A with a Course Handicap of 5 and Player B with a Course Handicap of 10. Side C-D is comprised of Player C with a Course Handicap of 15 and Player D with a Course Handicap of 20. Player A plays at scratch, B receives 5 strokes, C receives 10 strokes, and D receives 15 strokes.

  • FOURSOME MATCH PLAY

    In a foursome match, two play against two and each side plays one ball. In a foursome during any stipulated round the partners play alternately from the teeing grounds and alternately during the play of each hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is not an authorized format of play, and any scores made under this format are not acceptable for score posting purposes.

    Allowance: 50% of combined team handicap. The lower handicapped side competes at scratch.

    Example: Side A-B with a combined Course Handicap of 15 competes against side C-D with a combined Course Handicap of 36. The higher handicapped side, C-D, receives 11 strokes (36 – 15 = 21 x 50% = 10.5 rounded to 11). Strokes are taken as assigned on the players’ respective Stroke Allocation Table.

  • CHAPMAN OR PINEHURST MATCH PLAY

    In a Chapman or Pinehurst match, two play against two. Each partner plays from the teeing ground, but plays the partner’s ball for the second shot. After the second shot, partners select the ball with which they wish to score, and play that ball alternately to complete the hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is not an authorized format of play, and any scores made under this format are not acceptable for score posting purposes.

    Allowance: 60% of the Playing Handicap of the golfer with the lower handicap + 40% of the golfer with the higher handicap. The side with the higher Playing Handicap receives the difference between the Playing Handicap of each side. The lower-handicapped side plays from scratch.

    Example: Side A-B is comprised of Player A with a Course Handicap of 5 and Player B with a Course Handicap of 10. Player A (5 x 60% = 3) + Player B (10 x 40% = 4) = 7 strokes for side A-B (3 + 4 = 7). Side C-D is comprised of Player C with a Course Handicap of 14 and Player D with a Course Handicap of 17. Player C (14 x 60% = 8.4 rounded to 8) + Player D (17 x 40% = 6.8 rounded to 7) = 15. Side A-B plays at scratch and Side C-D receives one stroke per hole on the first 8 allocated handicap-stroke holes.

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STROKE PLAY

The golfer(s) who plays the stipulated round or rounds in the fewest strokes (including penalty strokes) is the winner

  • INDIVIDUAL STROKE PLAY

    The individual player plays their own ball, with all strokes added to calculate the final score.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and acceptable scores made in this format must be posted for handicap purposes.

    Allowance: 95% Course Handicap (A plus Course Handicap must be added to the gross score to determine the net score.)

    Example: Player A has a Course Handicap of 10 and scores 82. A’s net score is 72. Player B has a Course Handicap of +2 and scores 70. Player B’s net score is 72.

  • FOUR-BALL STROKE PLAY

    In four-ball stroke play, two golfers play as partners, each playing their own ball. The lower of the partners’ scores is the score for the hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and each player must post their individual acceptable score for handicap purposes.

    Allowance: 85%

    Example: On side A-B, Player A has a Course Handicap of 8 and Player B has a Course Handicap of 20. At 85 percent of Course Handicap, Player A receives 7 strokes (8 x 85% = 6.8, rounded to 7) and Player B receives 17 strokes (20 x 85% = 17). In mixed four-ball stroke play, strokes are taken as assigned on the players’ respective Stroke Allocation Tables.

  • TOTAL SCORE OF PARTNERS STROKE PLAY

    In this format, two players form a side, each plays their own ball, and the combined total of their scores for the round is the score for the side.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and each player must post their individual acceptable score for handicap purposes.

    Allowance: 95%

    Example: Player A has a Course Handicap of 12, and a Playing Handicap of 11 (12 x 95% = 11.4, rounded to 11) and scores 87. Player B, A’s partner, has a Course Handicap of 26 and a Playing Handicap of 25 (26 x 95% = 24.7, rounded to 25) and scores 101. The team score is: (87 – 11) + (101 – 25) = 76 + 76 = 152.

  • BEST-BALL-OF-FOUR STROKE PLAY

    In best-ball-of-four stroke play, four players play their own ball and score with their best ball at each hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and each player must post their individual acceptable score for handicap purposes.

    Allowance: 75%

    Example: On side A-B-C-D (, Player A with a Course Handicap of 8 receives 6 strokes (8 x 75% = 6. Player B with a Course Handicap of 10 receives 8 strokes (10 x 75% =7.5, rounded to 8). Player C with a Course Handicap of 12 receives 9 strokes (12 x 75% = 9, . Player D with a Course Handicap of 14 receives 11 strokes (14 x 75% = 10.5, rounded to 11). The lowest net score for each hole is then counted towards the overall score for the stipulated round. Strokes are taken as assigned on the players’ respective Stroke Allocation Table.

  • TWO-BEST-BALLS-OF-FOUR

    In two-best-balls-of-four, four players play their own ball and score with their two best balls on each hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and each player must post their individual acceptable score for handicap purposes.

    Allowance: 85%

    Example: On side A-B-C-D, Player A with a Course Handicap of 11 receives 9 strokes (11 x 85% = 9.4, rounded to 9). Player B with a Course Handicap of 16 receives 14 strokes (16 x 85% = 13.6, rounded to 14). Player C with a Course Handicap of 22 receives 19 strokes (22 x 85%= 18.7, rounded to 19). Player D with a Course Handicap of 35 receives 30 strokes (35 x 85% = 29.8, rounded to 30). Strokes are taken as assigned on the players’ respective Stroke Allocation Table.

  • FOURSOME STROKE PLAY

    In foursome stroke play, partners play one ball. The partners play alternately from the teeing grounds and alternately during the play of each hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is not an authorized format of play, and any scores made under this format are not acceptable for score posting purposes.

    Allowance: The allowance is 50% of the partners’ combined Course Handicap.

    Example: On side A-B, Player A has a Course Handicap of 5 and Player B has a Course Handicap of 12. Side A-B’s combined Course Handicap is 17. Side A-B will receive 9 strokes (17 x 50% = 8.5, rounded to 9).

  • CHAPMAN OR PINEHURST STROKE PLAY

    In Chapman or Pinehurst stroke play, two players play as partners, each playing from the teeing ground and each playing the partner’s ball for the second shot. After the second shot, partners select the ball with which they wish to score, and play that ball alternately to complete the hole.

    Acceptability of Score: This is not an authorized format of play, and any scores made under this format are not acceptable for score posting purposes.

    Allowance: 60% of the Playing Handicap of the golfer with the lower handicap + 40% of the golfer with the higher handicap

    Example: On side A-B, Player A has a Course Handicap of 10 and Player B has a Course Handicap of 18. 60% of Player A’s Course Handicap is 6 (10 x 60% = 6); 40% of Player B’s Course Handicap is 7 (18 x 40% = 7.2, rounded to 7) so the total is 13. Side A-B will receive 13 strokes.

  • STABLEFORD COMPETITION

    The calculation in Stableford competitions is made by points awarded in relation to a fixed score (usually par or net par) at each hole as shown below:

    Hole Played In – Points

    • More than one over fixed score (or no score returned) – 0
    • One over fixed score – 1
    • Fixed Score – 2
    • One under fixed score – 3
    • Two under fixed score – 4
    • Three under fixed score – 5
    • Four under fixed score – 6

    The winner is the golfer who scores the highest number of points.

    Acceptability of Score: This is an authorized format of play, and acceptable scores made in this format must be posted for handicap purposes. Please remember that while this is an authorized format of play, a score must be posted as the adjusted gross score, NOT as the number of points awarded.

    Allowance: 95%.

    Example: Player A has a Course Handicap of 16 in a Stableford competition based on net scores with par as the fixed score. Player A’s gross score of 5 on a par 4 allocated as the 15th handicap-stroke hole results in a net score of 4 (par). Player A receives two points for the hole.