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Golf Tournament Formats: Best Styles and How They Work

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There are many different types of golf tournaments, and each one has its own set of rules and regulations. This blog post will discuss the most common golf tournament formats. We will explain the basics of each format, and we will also tell you how to get started if you want to host your golf tournament. Let’s get started!

What is a golf tournament, and how does it work

A tournament is a sanctioned event in which golfers compete against each other in a stroke play or match play format. In stroke play, also known as medal play, each golfer competes against the course, winning the lowest score. In match play, golfers are paired up and compete against each other, with the winner of each match advancing. Tournaments can be organized by gender, age, or skill level. The most prestigious tournaments are typically invitation-only events for professional golfers.

Tournaments typically consist of four rounds of 18 holes, although some events may have fewer or more rounds. The field of competitors is usually cut down after the second and third rounds, with only the top players advancing to the final.

Related: Best Golf Terms: Learning the Lingo

The different types of golf tournament formats

Golfers discussing scoring per the golf tournament format.

There are many different types of golf tournaments, each with its own unique set of rules and regulations. Let’s look at each type of tournament and the rules for each.

1. Gross Stroke Play

The most common and straightforward type of tournament is Gross Stroke Play. The basic idea is that each player competes against every other player in the field. The player with the lowest score wins the tournament. There are no teams, no handicaps, no special rules, and each play their own ball—just pure, unadulterated competition.

This format is used in almost all professional tournaments, from the Masters to the PGA Championship. It’s also the format used in most amateur tournaments, from club championships to state opens.

If you’re a casual golfer, you’ve probably played in a gross stroke play tournament at some point in your life. And if you’re a beginner, this is probably the format you should learn first.

2. Net Stroke Play

In Net Stroke Play, each player competes against every other player in the field to record the lowest net score. The player with the lowest net score wins the tournament.

Net Stroke Play is the most popular format for golf tournaments, as it is easy to understand. It is also fair, as all players compete on an equal footing.

To level the playing field, handicaps adjust each player’s score. Handicaps take into account a player’s skill level and the difficulty of the course, and they are used to give all players a fair chance of winning.

Net Stroke Play is a fair, easy-to-understand format that provides an enjoyable experience for all players. If you’re looking to host a golf tournament, this is probably the format you should use.

3. Match Play

In Match Play, players are paired up and compete against each other in a head-to-head match. The winner of each match advances to the next round until only one player remains.

Match Play is a popular format for professional tournaments, as it is exciting and unpredictable. The Ryder Cup is perhaps the most famous example of a professional tournament using the Match Play format.

Match Play can be an excellent format for casual golfers, as it adds an element of fun and excitement to the game.

4. Skins Game

A skins game is a golf tournament format in which each hole is worth money or “skin.” The value of each skin is usually set by the number of participants in the tournament and the overall prize pool.

For example, in a four-player tournament with a $100 purse, each skin might be worth $25. The winner of each hole gets the skin, and if there’s a tie, the skin carries over to the next hole.

Golfers can play skins games with any number of players, but they’re most common among small groups of friends or co-workers.

Skins games are also popular as betting games, with each player typically putting up their own money for the pot. At the end of the round, the player with the most skins (and the most money) wins.

Skins games are a great option if you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to gamble on golf.

5. Best Ball

When playing a best ball tournament format, each golfer in a team of 2, 3, or 4 plays their own ball throughout the round. At the end of each hole, the lowest score among the team members is used as the team score. All other scores on that hole are ignored.

For example, if Player A scores a 4, Player B scores a 5, Player C scores a 6, and Player D scores a 7, then the team’s score for that hole would be a 4 (the low score). The best ball format is often used in professional tournaments as it tends to produce more close and exciting finishes.

The Best Ball Tournament Formats also require players to be more strategic. They must sometimes decide whether to risk or play it safe to give their team the best chance of winning.

If you’re looking for a tournament format that is both exciting and strategic, best ball is a great option.

6. Scramble

A scramble is a tournament format in which all players on a team tee off, and then the group decides which shot was the best. All players then play their second shot from that location, and so on until the hole is finished.

The goal of a scramble is to complete the hole in as few strokes as possible. Scrambles are often used as fun, casual tournaments among friends or co-workers.

They are also a popular format for charity golf tournaments. They can be played by players of all skill levels and still be enjoyable.

If you’re looking to host a casual tournament or raise money for a good cause, a scramble is a great option.

7. Shamble

In a shamble, each team member tees off, and then the team selects the best shot. From there, each player plays his or her own ball for the rest of the hole. The lowest score on each hole is the score that the team uses.

A shamble is a great format for a fun, relaxed round of golf with friends. It levels the playing field a bit and makes it more likely that everyone will have at least a few good shots during the round. And, since it’s based on the low score, it’s still possible to have a competitive round.

So if you’re looking for a format that’s somewhere between a regular game and a scramble, a shamble might be right for you.

8. Alternate Shot

Alternate shot is a tournament format in which players on a team take turns hitting the same ball. For example, if Player A hits the ball on the first shot, Player B would hit it on the second shot, and so on until the hole is finished.

Tournament hosts can use this format with teams of two or four players. It is often used in professional tournaments as it tests both teamwork and individual skill.

Alternate shot can be an excellent format for casual players, as it encourages them to work together and strategize. It’s a lot of fun, too, because players must count on their teammates to provide them with a good angle from which to hit their next shot.

If you’re looking for a tournament format that is both challenging and fun, alternate shot is a great option.

9. Foursomes

A foursomes tournament is similar to an alternate shot tournament, but with teams of two players instead of four.

Groups can use this format with any number of players, but it is most common with four players.

Foursomes is an excellent format for casual tournaments, as it encourages players to work together and strategize. Like the Alternate Shot, format Foursomes can also be a lot of fun, as players must count on their teammates to provide them with a good angle from which to hit their next shot.

If you’re looking for a tournament format that is both challenging and fun, foursomes is an excellent option.

Related: Tips for Buying Golf Clubs

10. Stableford

In Stableford, players earn points for their score on each hole. The number of points awarded is determined by the player’s score relative to par.

For example:

  • If a player shoots a birdie (one under par) on a hole, they might earn three points
  • If they shoot a bogey (one over par), they will lose one point
  • If they shoot an eagle (two under par), they could earn five points.

At the end of the round, the player with the most points wins the tournament.

Stableford is a great format for players of all skill levels, as it provides an enjoyable and fair way to compete. It is also easy to understand, as points are awarded based on the score relative to par.

If you’re looking for a fun and competitive golf tournament, Stableford is a great option.

11. Bingo Bango Bongo

Bingo Bango Bongo is a golf tournament format that can be fun for players of all skill levels.

The basic premise is that each hole is worth a certain number of points, and the player with the most points at the end of the round wins. There are a few different ways to score points. Still, the most common is:

  • Earn one point for being the closest to the hole on your tee shot
  • One point for being the first to get your ball on the green
  • One point for being the first to sink your putt.

The format is named after the sound that a ball makes when it hits a tree, hits the ground, and then rolls into the hole (bingo-bango-bongo).

If you’re looking for a fun and unique golf tournament, Bingo Bango Bongo is a great option.

12. Nassau

The Nassau golf tournament format is a three-part competition where the low score on the front nine, the back nine, and the overall 18 holes is the winner. This format gets its name from the Nassau Country Club on Long Island, NY, one of the first clubs to use it in tournament play.

The Nassau has become a popular choice for casual and serious golfers alike because it provides a fair test of your short and long games. In addition, the Nassau can be adapted to any size group, making it a great choice for both small and large tournaments.

Whether you’re looking for a fun way to compete with your friends or trying to be serious about your game, the Nassau is a great tournament format for you.

Related: Best Driver for Beginners

13. Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger is best played in the best ball setting. This game requires:

  • 3-4 players per team
  • At least two teams
  • Suited for three or four players on each side

In this game, each player plays their own ball. But every player takes turns being the ‘Lone Ranger’ for one hole. The Lone Ranger’s score counts for that hole, and the other players’ scores don’t count. There are two scores for the team: the Lone Ranger’s score and the best ball score from the others on the team.

Here’s an example of how golfers could play the Lone Ranger: For holes 1, 5, 9, 13, and 17, the Lone Ranger is Golfer One; 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, etc., are holes for Golfer Two.

It is a great game that puts some pressure on individual players.

What is the format for the PGA tournament?

PGA tournaments are four-day golf events where the top players compete.

The tournament format is that each player plays the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday. However, only the players who ‘Make The Cut’ get to play through the weekend. The winner is the player with the lowest total score for the four rounds on Sunday.

In addition to the main tournament, there are usually some side events that can take place during the week. These include the Pro-Am, a team event that consists of both professional and amateur players, and the Celebrity Pro-Am (an event that includes celebrities and pros playing together).

Conclusion

Golfers can use many different golf tournament formats to make the game more enjoyable for players of all skill levels. From the Stroke Play to the Nassau, there is a format that will suit your needs. So get out there and enjoy some competitive golf!

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About Author

You're looking for some help when it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game. Chris Howard has been in the golf industry since 1995, and knows just what you need to take your game to the next level. Growing up on a golf course, Chris has always had a love and passion for the sport. He desires to provide others with a better golfing experience - from helping them choose the right golf gear, to finding the perfect set up for their individual game.

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