Types of Golf Games

By Steve Silverman


Once a golfer gets past the beginning stages of the game when he is learning to hit the ball off the tee and from the fairway and to putt, the competitive nature of any golfer takes over. If he is playing in a foursome he may want to compete against the other members of his group or play as a teammate with one member of the group against the other two. There is no shortage of competitive games available during an 18-hole round.


Stroke Play

The most common form of golf, it involves adding up the amount of strokes for each hole in a round of golf. The player with the lowest score wins. 

Match play

This is the oldest way of competing with other golfers. Each hole is a competition in and of itself. The golfer with the lowest score on the first hole gets the win and is considered "plus-1." If the golfers finish with the same score on the hole they are even. That score carries over to the next hole. If the golfer who wins the first hole also wins the second, he is now plus-2. It doesn't matter how many strokes by which he wins the hole. The winner gets a plus-1 on each hole he has the top score, or a minus-1 on holes where the other golfer has the final score. A variation of this, called skins, involves a wager on every hole. If the golfers tie then the bet is added onto the next hole. 

Playing with Handicaps

This is the most common way for golfers to play who are not of similar ability. If a golfer with a 15-handicap is playing against a competitor with a handicap of eight, the golfer with the higher handicap number will get to subtract seven shots (the difference between the two handicaps) from his final score. If the difference between the two final scores is 6 or less, the higher-handicapped golfer wins the match. If the lower-handicap golfer wins by seven or more, he wins the match. In most cases, the tie goes to the lower-handicap golfer since he is the one giving away strokes.

Scramble play

This is used in a team play match. Both partners hit tee shots at a particular hole. They then pick the best ball to play, and that ball is played by the team member who did not hit it. Shots are then alternated by team members until the ball is in the hole. The lowest best-ball score wins the match. This can also be done in a tournament in which 18 or 36 foursomes compete.

Best ball play

In this type of play, the players in the foursome comprise a team. Each player plays each hole and compares scores. The player with the best score on a particular hole is the score used by that team. This type of golf leads to excellent an camaraderie, particularly if each member of the foursome take turns winning holes. When one player dominates and carries the team, it can result in more pressure and is less enjoyable.


About The Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.


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