GOLF COMPETITIONS AND HOW THEY ARE PLAYED
These notes are only intended to assist in the general concept of how various golf competitions are played. They
must be read in conjunction with the Rules of Golf and in particular, the Committee shall lay down the
conditions under which a competition is to be played (Rule 33).
The score at each hole is entered on the scorecard, totaled and the player’s full handicap deducted. The
player who completes the stipulated round in the fewest net strokes is the winner. Usually, a gross winner is
This traditional form of the game sees two individuals or two sides competing against each other with the
number of holes won or lost deciding the match. The match is completed when one side is ahead after the
stipulated number of holes or is more holes up than the number of holes remaining to be played.
The number of strokes awarded in this competition is the difference between the players’ handicaps. Where
there are more than 18 strokes difference between players’ handicaps, the higher handicapped players will
receive 2 or 3 strokes per hole where applicable. It is usual for the Committee to prescribe sudden-death
continuation if a match is all square after the required holes. In this case handicap strokes are used as in the
In four-ball match play, the lowest marker reverts to scratch and gives strokes to the higher markers, eg A is on
a 4 handicap, B on 8, C on 12 and D on 27. A receives no strokes, B gets 4 strokes, C gets 8 strokes and D
gets 23 strokes, irrespective of who is A’s partner.
This system of scoring by points was introduced by Dr Frank Stableford of the Wallasey Golf Club (Liverpool,
England) in 1932 and is the most common event played at club level.
Stableford involves scoring points based on results at each hole. Using the index for each hole, players are
able to make a mental allocation of their full handicap for each of the 18 holes. For example, a player on a
handicap of 18 will add one shot to the par value of each hole to determine their own par for the hole. Thus a
hole rated as a par 4 becomes a par 5 for the player.
The points scoring method is then calculated by allocating two points for a par, one point for one over, three
points for one under, four points for two under, and so on. For example, a player receiving a stroke on a par 4
hole scores 4 giving them a net 3; for this the player receives 3 points. A player at a par 3 hole scores a 4 but
does not receive a stroke; for this the player would receive 1 point.
Players who exceed their own par by two strokes score no points for the hole and, since they cannot improve
on that result, they should pick up their ball. At the end of the round all points scored are added up and the
player having the highest number of points is the winner.
When marking the score card, the number of strokes taken must always be shown for holes where points are
scored. Thus, the card records both strokes and points.