There are many different golf play and golf tournament formats, and some of the oddest are played at company outings, golf association playdays and the like. What are the most popular? And how are they played?
Stroke play refers to a round of golf in which the score is kept by adding the cumulative total of strokes taken throughout the round. In stroke play, the golfer counts each stroke taken on a hole, until the ball is in the cup. At the end of the round, the strokes taken on each hole played are added together for the total strokes.
Gross score in golf refers to the total number of strokes taken during your round of golf, plus any penalty strokes. In other words, your total score without adjustments: add up the numbers on your scorecard at the end of the round, and that's your gross score.
When "gross score" is used it is usually with in conjunction with or in contrast to net score.
Net score refers to a golfer's score after handicap strokes have been deducted. Put more technically, the net score is a player's gross score minus the strokes his or her course handicap allows to be deducted during the course of the round.
Match Play is second only to stroke play as the most popular form of competition in golf. There are many different ways to play match play, all built around its core principle: players (or teams) compete to win individual holes, with the side winning the most holes claiming the match.
Singles Match Play - Singles match play pits Player A against Player B, hole after hole. If Player A scores a 4 on the first hole while Player B records a 5, Player A wins the hole.
Fourball Match Play - In Fourball, each side consists of two players. Each player hits his or her own golf ball throughout the round. On each hole, the low ball of the two players serves as that side's score. For example, on the first hole for Team A, Player 1 scores a 4 and Player 2 scores a 5, so the team score is 4. If Team A gets a 4 while Team B scores 5, then Team A wins the hole.
Foursomes Match Play - Foursomes match play is one of the best-known forms of match play. Foursomes matches pit 2-person teams against each other, with each team playing one ball, the two teammates alternating hitting the shots. Example: Player A and Player B are partners. On the first hole, A tees off; B plays the second shot; A plays the third shot; and so on until the ball is holed. After both teams have completed the hole, the side with the lower total strokes wins the hole.
The Scramble is probably the most-common format for team tournaments. It can be played by 2-, 3- or 4-person teams, and involves choosing the one best shot following every stroke, with each team member then playing again from that one spot.
In a Best Ball tournament, all members of each team play their own balls on each hole. At the completion of the hole, the lowest score among all team members serves as the team score. Best Ball can also be called Four Ball. One variation, 1-2-3 Best Ball is a tournament for 4-person teams. Each golfer on a team plays his own ball throughout the round. On each hole, a predetermined number of the low scores is used, and combined for one team score.
Alternate Shot is a format for 2-person teams and is sometimes called Foursomes. The two players on a team alternate hitting shots, playing the same ball.
A Modified Stableford competition can be played by individuals or as a team tournament. In Modified Stableford, the idea is to have the highest score - because your score on each hole is worth a certain amount of points. A birdie, for example, might be worth 2 points.
When the Chapman System (aka Pinehurst System) is the format for a tournament, it means that 2-person teams will be competing. Chapman is really a melding of several formats into one. In a Chapman event, teammates switch balls after their tee shots, select the one best ball after their second shots, then play alternate shot until the ball is holed.
Bingo Bango Bongo
This is one of the most popular formats for golf association tournaments and league tournaments. Bingo Bango Bongo rewards players for three things on each hole: being the first player in the group to get onto the green; being closest to the hole once all group members are on the green; and being the first player in the cup.
In a Flags tournament, all golfers begin the round with a set number of strokes (related to their handicaps), and they play until their strokes run out. The player who makes it farthest on his or her allotment of strokes is the winner.
Lone Ranger puts the onus on one player per team per hole to come through with a good score. Players in a group of four rotate as the "Lone Ranger;" on each hole, the score of the designated Lone Ranger is combined with the low score of the other three team members for the team score.
The Peoria System is a sort of 1-day handicap system for a stroke play tournament in which most of the players do not have established handicaps. It allows all players to, following the round, deduce something resembling a handicap allowance and apply it to their scores. Peoria involves totaling your score on preselected (but secret, until after the round) holes, then doing some multiplication and division.
Like Peoria, the Callaway System is a quasi-handicapping system that can be employed for a stroke play event in which most of the particants do not have handicaps. The Callaway System involves consulting a chart following the round to determine a handicap deduction and handicap allowance.