Name That Game:
Popular Golf Formats

Tournaments come in many different golf formats.

The competitive tournaments will run on an individual score with a format like medal, stableford or match play.

The more fun-oriented events like corporate outings or charity golf will most likely have a format that allows players with different skill levels to form a team. The allocation of handicaps will make it possible for even the beginning golfer to contribute to the team score.

Here you’ll find a guide to the most popular formats.


Teams can be made up of 2, 3 or 4 players. Each player tees off. From those shots, the best one is chosen and all team members will play their next shot from that spot. Again, the best shot is chosen and all players hit their next shot from this spot. The team continues in this fashion until the hole is completed. Sometimes, the use of a set number of tee shots from each team member is required. In this case, the game is also known as golf formats Texas Scramble and Ambrose.

Four Ball

Is played in 2 teams of 2 players. All players play their own ball for the entire hole (therefore 4 balls). The lowest of the 2 scores per team will count as the team score. This format is also known as 2-person Best Ball or Better Ball.

Best Ball

Is very similar to Four Ball, but the teams can consist of 2, 3 or 4 players. In each case, the lowest score made by any team member on a hole will be counted as the team score.


In a team of 2, players will hit alternate shots until the hole is finished. Player 1 hits the tee shot, player 2 hits the next shot, player 1 the next and so on. On the next hole, player 2 hits the tee shot, player 1 the next, etc. In effect, one player will tee off on the even holes and one player will tee off on the odd numbered holes, which is why this format is also known as Odds & Evens.


Is a combination of 2 other golf formats: scramble and alternate shot for 2-man teams. Both players hit a tee shot. The best shot is chosen and the other player will hit the next shot. The team will continue to hit alternate shots until holed out.

Orange Ball (or Yellow, Pink, …)

Played by 4-person teams. Every player plays the hole with their own ball, but per hole, one player plays the colored ball. This ball rotates among the team members per hole: A plays it on hole 1, B plays it on hole 2, C plays it on hole 3, etc. The team score is the total of the score from the colored ball plus the lowest score of the other 3 balls played.


In 2-person teams, both players tee off. Then the players will continue the hole by playing each other’s ball.

More fun at tournaments…

Pin prizes are added to tournaments to give every player extra chances to win something. Some of these challenges, such as shortest drive or closest to the pin, can be won just as easily by a beginner as by an experienced player. They can easily be added to all golf formats.

  • Longest Drive. The longest tee shot that lands – and stays! – in the fairway, wins the longest drive.
  • Shortest Drive. Here, the prize goes to the shortest drive in the fairway. Bit of a consolation prize for messed-up tee shot…
  • Closest to the line. A white line is chalked down the middle of the fairway. The ball that comes to rest closest to the line wins the prize.
  • Closest to the Pin. The tee shot on a par 3 hole that comes to rest nearest the pin gets the prize.
  • Longest Putt. The winner is the person sinking the longest putt on a specific green.
Markers in the fairway or on the green indicate the current best shot. If your shot improves on the challenge, you move the marker to the spot where your ball is at and write your name on it as the new winner.

At fundraising golf events you can often “buy” Mulligans. A Mulligan is in essence a do-over of a messed-up shot. Obviously, they can not be used in official tournaments. The number of Mulligans you buy, is the number of shot you can do over if you aren’t happy with the result.

Return from Golf Formats to Golf Tournaments
Return from Golf Formats to Golf Basics For Women

Site Build It!