Playing Formats


This is essentially matchplay against the course, but played using strokeplay rules and penalties. The player tries to win holes by beating the hole's par, with shots given according to the stroke index. For example, if  you have a 10 handicap, the hole is a par 4 and the stroke index of the hole is 10 or less, a 4 or better will win the hole. A 5 will halve the hole and anything higher will lose the hole. Unlike conventional matchplay where the game finishes when a match is won or lost, the bogey competition is played to the final hole and the total number of holes up or down is the result. Once an individual hole has been lost, the ball is lifted and play continues at the next hole.


In this form of scoring, the best score for each hole is recorded over a designated number of rounds. For each round (except your first) your score at each hole is compared against what you've scored at that hole in previous rounds. If better, it replaces your previous best. Over time you might find that on certain holes you've never scored well, and so you'll be especially keen to improve your score on those holes in your remaining rounds.  

Fourball Better Ball (4BBB)

Golfers play in groups of four, two teams of two, with each playing their own ball throughout. Within each pairing, the lower score (i.e. "better ball") for each hole is the one recorded. This format can be used for both strokeplay and matchplay.


This format of play is widely regarded as a tough test, especially of friendships! Played in pairs, the players take alternate shots until the ball is holed out. However, one player hits all tee shots on the odd-numbered holes while the other tees off on all the even-numbered holes. If the pair need to replay a shot or play a provisional ball, it is the player who did NOT play the original shot who plays the second or provisional ball. Most famously, foursomes plays a part in the Ryder Cup matches. 


The format is very similar to foursomes but a bit more forgiving. In greensomes ALL players tee off at each hole and then each pair chooses which ball to use for the remainder of the hole, with players taking alternate shots until the ball is holed out. It can become quite tactical, by which I mean it might not necessarily be the better tee shot that is selected. But that's something each pairing will have to figure out for themselves...


This is identical to greensomes except that your opponents get to choose which tee shot you use. It may well be a good way of ending friendships! The name says it all.


Scoring is for holes won, with the player or team taking fewer shots on a hole winning it. If both players or teams take the same number of shots, the hole is halved. The overall score is kept as the number of holes "up" or "down". The match is completed when one player or team is "up" more holes than remain, e.g. 3 up with 2 holes to play which is known as a win by 3&2. If a match has to be won or lost but after the full duration is level then extra holes are played until one or other player or team wins a hole. Note that rules and, in particular, penalties differ in matchplay from those in strokeplay. For example, a breach of rules that results in a 2-shot penatly in strokeplay could result in the loss of the hole in matchplay.


Skins can be played individually or in teams, and each hole is worth a skin. If  the lowest score at the hole is achieved by more than one player, then the skin is carried over to the next hole. A player with the outright lowest score on a hole wins the skin (or skins). 


This is a popular form of golf, named after its originator, Dr Frank Stableford. The system we use is not quite the same as he originally introduced, but it still bears his name. That's why it's capitalised and is not spelled as "Stapleford" (a common error). It's a popular format because it speeds up play and is a little less severe on scorecards than medal play. 

Using your nett score at each hole, 1 over par scores 1 point, par scores 2 points, a birdie scores 3 points, and so on. In theory, the maximum possible score on a hole until recently was 8 points, but that would require a hole-in-one on a par 5 with the player receiving 2 strokes. With the new World  Handicap System now allowing handicaps up to 54, it is possible to receive 3 strokes on a hole, making the new theoretical maximum 9.

Note: there's a par 5 hole at Teign Valley GC in Devon that had a hole-in-one scored on it ...with a 3 iron! I also know of a lady scoring 7 points on a hole at East Devon GC, holing her 2nd shot on a par 5 where she received two strokes. There must be something in the water down there in Devon!


Also known as medal play, this is the simplest of all scoring formats. We simply record the actual number of shots taken on each hole to get that ****** ball into the hole (including any penalties accrued along the way). 

Texas Scramble

A very sociable and fun form of golf, the scramble or Texas Scramble has each player tee off. The best shot is selected and all players then play their second shot from that position, and so on until one player holes out.

It's worth mentioning that players must resist the temptation to "tap in" a missed putt. Doing this would mean the "tap in" shot counts, so if other players have yet to attempt the putt just missed, they'll be denied the chance. Simply mark the ball, no matter how near it is to the hole. 

Three Ball Best Ball (3BBB)

Similar to the 4BBB, this one is played in teams of 3 with the best score from the 3 at each hole being the one recorded. Clever tacticians might consider altering the order of play, especially around or on the greens. For example, if one player has a shortish putt for par and the others have longer birdie putts, it may be worth sinking the par putt to allow the others a "no pressure" run at a birdie.