How to Set Up a Golf Tournament

Updated September 7, 2022
golfer puts ball on tee
    golfer puts ball on tee
A golf tournament provides an excellent opportunity for golfers of all levels to compete and socialize in a friendly environment. Many golf enthusiasts live for the chance to participate in a tournament--the hours that they spend on the practice range, the putting green, and playing practice rounds all culminate in this exciting event. For those who are interested in running a tournament, understand that it is a great deal of work, but it is also a rewarding experience. Here are some helpful guidelines to organizing this type of golf gathering.


Difficulty: Moderate

  1. Announce the tournament several months in advance. You want to interest enough players. Numerous decisions will be necessary before you announce the tournament, but the important thing is that you give golfers enough time to sign up and, if needed, pay their entry fees. Make sure that you have entry forms available that ask golfers for all relevant information, including their handicaps.
  2. Choose a format. The most familiar tournament format is stroke play, in which the golfers play anywhere from one to four rounds and measure victory in terms of lowest overall stroke total. For a tournament of more than a few dozen players, stroke play is better than match play, in which players compete directly against each other. The beauty of stroke play for the organizer is that it enables the players to be grouped into foursomes and simply sent out to play according to a schedule. The players are all responsible for keeping their own scores--and checking those of their co-competitors. They are also responsible for determining how handicaps should be used to adjust scores, based on the handicap ratings of the course's holes.
  3. Utilize flights. A typical tournament will see four flights--A, B, C and D--and that makes the competition fair. Golfers in the "A" flight will usually shoot 80 or less; "B" golfers shoot between 81 and 85; "C" golfers shoot between 86 and 90 and "D" flight golfers shoot 90 and above.
  4. Consider a shotgun start. If you have a decent number of players in the tournament, a shotgun start, with foursomes teeing off simultaneously from all 18 tees, can help speed the event along. The players then play 18 continuous holes, regardless of where they started from. The organizer can also split the course into separate nines, sending half the players off from the first tee and half from the ninth.
  5. Decide whether there will be a cut. Most basic tournaments don't need one, but if you have a large number of players, you might need to establish a cut, usually after 36 holes in a 72-hole tournament. Once all the scores have been turned in and checked by the players, the bottom half is eliminated. Most amateur tournaments don't require a cut.
  6. Post scores and provide trophies, as well as prizes. At the end of each round, record scores in a computer program (such as an Excel spreadsheet), print them out, and post the results. The competitors will want to know where they stand. At the end of the tournament, award the winner and possibly the runner-up a trophy. Consider purchasing a small entry prize for all the players, and also consider prizes for lowest round, hole-in-one, longest drive (on a predetermined hole), and so on.

Tips & Warnings

  • Publish the tournament guidelines beforehand. Unless you have a staff of people helping with organization, golfers will need to verify their own scores and the scores of their playing partners, make decisions regarding handicaps and rules, and observe proper etiquette on the course.
  • If you want to avoid dealing with handicaps, establish a threshold for entry, or group players by ability and organize the tournament in levels: A, B and C. Keep in mind that the handicap system was devised specifically so that players of all levels could compete against each other.
  • Check handicaps when players enter and group them accordingly. You will want to have the better golfers playing together, so make sure that you have this information available when you put together the foursomes.
  • There is no reason that men and women can't compete in the same tournament. The organizer can decide to allow the use of different tees, or simply choose a tee that will make the course fair for players of both genders.
  • A tournament organizer needs to be devoted. Assuming the tournament takes place over four days, you will arrive at the course early and leave late. Even a weekend tournament is extremely time-consuming. You'll need to check the weather report and decide whether it is safe to play. The organizer will also settle all rules and scoring disputes, and if necessary, disqualify players.