How to Play Alternate Shot

By Herm Otto

woman watching golfers swing
Alternate Shot is a golf game in which teams of two compete against each other. The two players are called partners and each pair of partners is called a side. This article will explain the basics of Alternate Shot play.

Each side will play one ball from the tee, through the green to hole-out for each hole. The play is governed by USGA rules for either strokeplay (also called medalplay) or matchplay. Partners will take turns hitting the same ball and alternately hitting the tee shots.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy
  1. Determine the pairs of partners for each side.
  2. Determine the order of play for each side, at the discretion of each side. Because the tee shots will be hit alternately, one partner will tee off on the odd-numbered holes and the other will tee off on the even-numbered holes. It will be advantageous to have the better partner teeing off on the more difficult tee shots.
  3. Have the players from both sides tee off at hole 1. The other two players simply watch the tee shots.
  4. Play each second shot by the player on each side who did not tee off. These two players will hit the second shot using the same ball that their partner teed off with, in its lie as it is found. The two players who teed off will simply watch their partners take the second shots.
  5. Hit the third shots by the players who teed off, while the players who hit the second shots watch. Continue this process of alternating shots, using the same ball in its lie as found for each shot, until each team has holed out.
  6. Count the strokes (including penalties) that it took for each team to hole out; these are the team scores for the hole. If playing strokeplay, record the actual scores. If playing matchplay, the winning side is scored as 1-up. There are no individual scores.
  7. Have the even-number players tee off on hole 2. The players who teed off on hole 1 watch. They will be hitting the second shot for each side. The hole is played as described above for hole 1.
  8. Total the hole scores for each team to determine the team scores when the round is completed, if playing strokeplay. The lowest team score wins the match. If playing matchplay, the team that is up wins the match. Note that in matchplay, all 18 holes may not have to be played if one side is up more than the number of holes that remain to be played.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sides can be balanced by equalizing the totals of the individual handicaps. For example, a 15+25=40 side is considered equal to a 10+30=40 side, based on adding the individual handicaps of the partners on each side.
  • Carefully read Rule 29 before playing an Alternate Shot format round of golf. There are some unique rules, particularly regarding order of play, that can result in penalties or, worse yet, disqualification.

About the Author

Herm Otto is an architect and was a university instructor for over 25 years. He is also an avid golfer who began golfing 10 years ago. As a Demand Studios writer, Otto writes golf and travel articles for GolfLink. He now resides in Arizona.