How to Play Stroke Play

By Herm Otto

Stroke play (also called medal play) is based on individual performance and is the scoring basis for establishing individual handicaps. In stroke play, a player is called a competitor. Stroke play can be scored on the basis of gross or net scores.
- Gross score is the competitor's actual score.
- Net score is the competitor's score after the gross score has been adjusted for the competitor's handicap.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Step 1
Determine the order of play for the initial tee shot. This is often done by flips of a coin or flips of a golf tee (which competitor the tee points to when it lands--roughly--goes first) until the order is settled. Each competitor will play his own ball from the tee shot until his ball is holed.
Step 2
Tee off. If any tee shot is hit out-of-bounds, the competitor is penalized one stroke and takes a second tee shot. If any tee shot is hit out of sight, the competitor has the option of hitting a provisional tee shot.
Step 3
Locate all of the tee shots. The competitor whose ball lies furthest from the green is the first to shoot a second shot. The other competitors follow in order of furthest to nearest to the green, based on their tee shot ball locations. If the furthest (from the green) competitor is still the furthest (still "away" or "out") after the shot, the competitor will take another shot until the ball is closer to the green than another competitor.
Step 4
Repeat the same basis for determining the order of play for each subsequent shot until all competitors have hit their balls onto the green. Putting on the green does not begin until all competitors have their balls on the green, even if a ball on the green lies further from the hole than a ball that is off of the green.
Step 5
Putt until all the balls are holed. Putting order is also determined by distance to the hole--furthest away goes first. However, a competitor who putts has the option of continuing to putt until the ball is in the hole, regardless of the locations of the other competitors' balls.
Step 6
Tally the scores. Each competitor counts each stoke and penalty stroke that they had for the hole and records that as their score for that hole.
Step 7
Tee off on the next hole in the order of the scores, from lowest to highest, from the previous hole. The competitor with the lowest score on the previous hole "has the honor" to tee off first on the next hole. After the tee shots, play continues as described above.
Step 8
Total each competitor's hole scores after 18 holes to determine the competitors' total scores for the round. These are the gross scores. The competitor with the lowest gross total score is the winner, unless the game is a handicap competition.

In handicap competition, each competitor's gross score is adjusted to a net score by subtracting his handicap from the gross score, and the competitor with the lowest net score is the winner.

Tips & Warnings

Read the "Rules of Golf" before you play to become acquainted with the many situations where penalties and course conditions come into play. A golfer who knows the rules can often use them to her benefit.

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.


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