types of golf games

Different Types of Golf Games: Match Play, Stroke Play, and More Fun Game Types

Golf is a sport that offers various game formats to keep players engaged and challenged. When it comes to types of golf games, match play and stroke play are among the most popular options. Match play involves competing hole by hole, with each player or team aiming to win more holes than their opponent. On the other hand, stroke play focuses on the total number of strokes taken throughout the entire round. These two game formats bring different strategies and dynamics to the golf course, making each one unique in its own way.

In addition to match play and stroke play, there are other notable variations of golf games worth exploring. Scramble format encourages teamwork as players form teams and collaborate to achieve the best possible score on each hole collectively. Skins game adds an element of excitement by assigning a monetary value (skin) for winning individual holes outright. Stableford scoring system awards points based on performance relative to par rather than counting every single stroke.

Whether you prefer head-to-head competition or want to focus on your overall performance, understanding these different types of golf games will allow you to diversify your playing experience while discovering new ways to enjoy this beloved sport. So let’s delve into each format in detail and explore how they add variety and excitement to our favorite pastime!

Match Play

In golf, “Match Play” is a format where two players or teams compete against each other on a hole-by-hole basis. The objective is to win individual holes rather than tallying up strokes for an overall score. Here’s what you need to know about this exciting format:

  1. Scoring: In match play, scoring is simple – the player or team that wins the most holes during the round wins the match. Each hole is scored individually, with one point awarded to the winner of each hole and no points for ties.
  2. Halved Holes: If both players or teams tie a hole (have equal scores), it’s considered a halved hole, and no points are awarded to either side.
  3. Conceded Strokes: During a match, it’s common for players to concede their opponent’s next stroke if they believe there is no chance of them improving their position significantly. This speeds up play and adds strategy as conceding can be used strategically in certain situations.
  4. Order of Play: The order of play in match play depends on the outcome of previous holes – after each hole, the player who won tees off first on the next tee box.
  5. Match Formats: Match play can be played in various formats:
    • Singles: One-on-one competition between two players.
    • Fourball: Two-player teams compete against each other; each player plays their own ball throughout.
    • Foursomes: Two-player teams alternate hitting shots using only one ball per team.
  6. Tactics and Strategy: Unlike stroke play where every shot counts towards your final score, match play allows more aggressive tactics since losing a single hole doesn’t impact subsequent ones negatively.
  7. Advantages: Match play provides an opportunity for comebacks even when trailing by several holes since winning just one more hole than your opponent can turn the tide.

Remember, match play is an exciting format that adds extra competition and strategy to the game of golf. So, grab a partner or challenge a friend for an exhilarating match on the fairways!

Stroke Play

Stroke play is one of the most common formats in golf. In this format, each player competes against the course and tries to complete it with the fewest number of strokes possible. Here are some key points about stroke play:

  1. Individual Competition: Stroke play is often played as an individual competition rather than a team event. Each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round, keeping track of their score on each hole.
  2. Total Strokes Count: The objective in stroke play is to have the lowest total score at the end of the round. This means that every shot counts towards your overall score, from tee shots to putts.
  3. No Direct Opposition: Unlike match play where players compete directly against each other, stroke play focuses on personal performance rather than head-to-head matchups.
  4. Handicap Adjustments: To level the playing field for players with different skill levels, handicap adjustments may be applied in stroke play competitions. Handicaps help determine a player’s net score by subtracting an allowance based on their skill level.
  5. Counting Every Shot: In stroke play, every shot taken counts towards your total score regardless of its outcome (except for penalties). It requires consistency and strategic decision-making throughout all 18 holes.
  6. Scorecards and Leaderboards: Players keep track of their scores using a scorecard provided by the course or tournament organizer. At professional events or larger tournaments, there will typically be live leaderboards displaying players’ scores in real-time.
  7. Determining Winners: The winner in stroke play is determined by comparing total scores at the end of regulation rounds (usually 18 holes). The player with the lowest overall score wins first place, followed by subsequent positions based on ascending scores.
  8. Popular Format for Professional Events: Many professional golf tournaments use stroke play as their preferred format due to its simplicity and fairness. Major championships like the Masters, U.S. Open, and PGA Championship are all contested using stroke play.

Stroke play offers a true test of skill and endurance in golf. It requires consistent performance throughout the round and rewards players who can navigate the course with accuracy and efficiency. Whether you’re playing casually or competing professionally, stroke play is a format that every golfer should be familiar with.


In golf, the scramble is a popular format that brings together players of different skill levels to compete as a team. It adds an element of fun and camaraderie to the game, making it a favorite choice for social events and charity tournaments. Here’s everything you need to know about the scramble format:

  1. Objective: The main goal in a scramble is for the team to achieve the lowest score possible on each hole.
  2. Team Composition: A typical scramble team consists of four players, but variations with three or five players are also common. Each player hits their own tee shot on every hole.
  3. Shot Selection: After all players hit their tee shots, they come together and select one shot as the “best” or preferred ball location.
  4. Ball Placement: Once the best shot is chosen, all other players retrieve their balls and place them within one club length (no closer to the hole) from this spot.
  5. Continued Play: From this new position, all team members take turns hitting subsequent shots until one player successfully sinks the ball into the cup.
  6. Strategy: In order to maximize chances of success, teams often strategize by selecting shots from skilled or consistent players for crucial situations.
  7. Advantages: Scrambles allow less experienced golfers an opportunity to contribute meaningfully while offering skilled golfers opportunities for impressive recovery shots or long drives without penalizing weaker teammates too much.
  8. Pace of Play: Due to its collaborative nature and minimal individual scoring pressure compared to other formats like stroke play, scrambles tend to move along at a faster pace than traditional rounds.
  9. Prizes & Formats: Prizes can be awarded based on gross scores (without handicaps) or net scores (with handicaps factored in). Some events incorporate additional challenges such as longest drive or closest-to-the-pin contests.

The scramble format provides an enjoyable and inclusive experience for golfers of all levels. It encourages teamwork, fosters friendly competition, and offers a unique opportunity to strategize as a team. Whether it’s a corporate outing or a charity fundraiser, the scramble is sure to bring out the best in every player while creating lasting memories on the course.

Best Ball

Best Ball, also known as Four-Ball or Better Ball, is a popular format in golf that is often played in team competitions. In this format, each player on a team plays their own ball throughout the round. However, only the lowest score among all teammates on each hole is counted towards the team’s total score.

Here are some key points to understand about Best Ball:

  1. Team Composition: Best Ball can be played with teams of two or more players. The most common configuration is a team of two players competing against another team of two.
  2. Scoring: For every hole, each player plays their own ball until it is holed out. After completing the hole, the best (lowest) score among all teammates is recorded as the team’s score for that particular hole.
  3. Strategy: Since only one player’s score counts for each hole, strategic decision-making becomes crucial in Best Ball. Teammates must communicate and strategize to determine which player has the best chance of scoring low on a given hole.
  4. Advantages: Best Ball allows golfers to rely on their partners’ skills and performance when they themselves have an off day or make mistakes during a round. It promotes teamwork and camaraderie between teammates.
  5. Variations: There are variations within the Best Ball format itself such as Modified Stableford or Chapman System where different scoring systems are applied to add further excitement and challenge to the game.
  6. Common Use: Best Ball is commonly used in tournaments like Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup where teams compete against each other using this format over multiple rounds.

To summarize, playing Best Ball adds an element of teamwork and strategy to golf tournaments by allowing players to rely on their partners’ performance while aiming for the lowest possible scores collectively.

Skins Game

The Skins Game is a popular format in golf that adds an extra layer of excitement and competitiveness to the game. In this section, we will explore what the Skins Game is all about and how it differs from other types of golf games.

  1. Definition: The Skins Game is a type of golf competition where each hole has a value or “skin” attached to it. Players compete against each other to win these skins by having the lowest score on a particular hole.
  2. Format: Here’s how the Skins Game typically works:
    • A predetermined amount of money or points (the skin) is assigned to each hole.
    • All players start with an equal chance at winning the skins.
    • If no player wins outright on a hole, the skin carries over to the next hole, increasing its value.
    • The process continues until one player wins a hole outright (“captures” the skin).
  3. Payouts: At the end of the round, players tally up their total number of skins won. Payouts are usually distributed according to prearranged rules:
    • Some variations allocate all accumulated skins to winners on individual holes.
    • Others distribute payouts based on overall performance throughout the entire round.
  4. Strategy: The Skins Game introduces strategic elements into play:
    • Players may choose riskier shots in hopes of capturing more valuable skins.
    • Deciding when and where to be aggressive becomes crucial for success in this format.
  5. Variations: While traditional Skins Games involve only individual play, there are also team-based versions available where teams compete for collective skins.
  6. Popularity: The Skins Game gained popularity through televised events featuring professional golfers competing head-to-head for large sums of money.

Unlike match play or stroke play formats that focus on consistency across all holes, the Skins Game adds a thrilling element of competition by assigning value to each hole individually. It is an exciting format that tests players’ skills, decision-making, and nerve as they compete for valuable skins.


Stableford is a scoring system commonly used in golf to encourage players of all skill levels to participate and enjoy the game. It offers an alternative method of scoring that focuses on points rather than strokes. Here’s how it works:

  1. Points Allocation: In Stableford, each hole has a predetermined number of points assigned based on its difficulty. The more difficult the hole, the higher the points allocated.
  2. Scoring Criteria: Players earn points based on their performance relative to a set score for each hole, typically par or net bogey.
    • Eagle: Two or more strokes under par — 4 points.
    • Birdie: One stroke under par — 3 points.
    • Par: Equal to par — 2 points.
    • Bogey: One stroke over par — 1 point.
    • Double Bogey or worse: No points awarded.
  3. Handicap Adjustment: To level the playing field among golfers with different abilities, handicaps are factored into Stableford calculations. Each player receives a specific number of handicap strokes based on their skill level, which are deducted from their gross score before applying the Stableford scoring criteria.
  4. Total Points Calculation: At the end of the round, players add up their total stableford points earned across all holes played.
  5. Winner Determination: The player with the highest total stableford points is declared as the winner.

Stableford provides an exciting format for golfers who may struggle with traditional stroke play but still want to compete and have fun without excessive pressure on every shot. It allows players to focus on individual holes while providing flexibility in overall performance by rewarding good scores and minimizing damage caused by bad ones.

If you’re looking for an engaging way to spice up your next golf outing, consider giving Stableford a try! It offers a fresh perspective on scoring and encourages players to enjoy the game at their own pace, making it an excellent choice for golfers of all levels. For more insight on the origins of golf read here

Alternate Shot

In golf, “Alternate Shot” is a format where two players form a team and take turns hitting the same ball throughout the entire round. This format is also known as Foursomes.

Here are some key points to know about Alternate Shot:

  1. Teamwork: Alternate Shot requires excellent teamwork and coordination between teammates. Each player takes turns hitting shots, alternating after each stroke until the ball is holed.
  2. Strategy: Strategy plays a vital role in this format. Players must carefully plan their shots, considering factors such as distance, accuracy, and course conditions. Effective communication between teammates is crucial for making strategic decisions.
  3. Shot Selection: Since only one ball is used by the team, shot selection becomes critical in Alternate Shot. Players need to assess various options before deciding on the best approach for each shot.
  4. Responsibility: In this format, both players share equal responsibility for every aspect of play – from tee shots to putting. It’s important to have trust in your teammate’s abilities and offer support during challenging moments.
  5. Pace of Play: Due to its nature, alternate shot can be slower than other formats like match play or stroke play since players have to wait for their turn after each shot. Being mindful of pace helps maintain an enjoyable flow throughout the round.
  6. Tournaments: The alternate shot format often features prominently in prestigious events like Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup tournaments at both amateur and professional levels due to its competitive nature and ability to showcase teamwork skills.
  7. Variations: While traditional alternate shot involves two-person teams taking turns on every hole (one tees off on odd-numbered holes while another tees off on even-numbered holes), variations exist where different rules apply based on specific tournament or event requirements.

Remember that playing alternate shot encourages collaboration between partners while adding an exciting element of strategy into your game!


In conclusion, understanding the different types of golf games can greatly enhance your overall experience on the course. Whether you prefer the strategic nature of match play or the individual challenge of stroke play, each variation offers its own unique set of thrills and obstacles.

Match play allows for head-to-head competition where every hole is an opportunity to gain an advantage over your opponent. It requires careful decision-making and adaptability as you navigate through each shot, aiming to win more holes than your competitor. On the other hand, stroke play focuses on individual performance, with each player attempting to complete the course in as few strokes as possible. This format demands consistent skill and mental fortitude throughout all 18 holes.

By exploring these different game types, golfers can discover new dimensions to their playing style while adding variety to their rounds. So whether you’re looking for a friendly rivalry or a personal challenge, try out various golf games – from match play to stroke play – and elevate your enjoyment of this beloved sport like never before!

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