With the biannual Ryder Cup competition again on our radar screen, we get a chance to experience golf in a whole new way. Instead of Stroke Play, we get to see more head-to-head competition and a new level of, um, gamesmanship. No longer is it man vs. course — golf gets personal. Unfortunately, most players don’t know the difference between Foursomes and Four-ball, so we’re here to clear things up. If you’re looking for a new way to see who will be paying for the 19th hole, consider these great formats for competition.
Stroke Play: Stroke play is the most common form of golf competition and is used at most professional golf tournaments. In this simple, popular type of play, every player competes on all 18 holes and counts the total number of strokes. The person or team with the lowest total net number (or gross score minus handicap) takes home the bragging rights.
Match Play: Match play is the intense type of play used at the Ryder Cup. Two players or two teams play every hole as a separate contest against each other. Match play is also very common at the club level. The party with the lower score wins the hole no matter how many shots they won by. If the score is equal, the hole is a draw. The match is won by the party that wins more holes than the other.
Foursome: A Foursome is played with four players on two teams of two. Each team has one ball and the first player in the team of two tees off on the even-numbered holes and the second player tees off on the odd-numbered holes. After that they alternate shots and are in competition with the other team of two in their Foursome. Foursome rounds can be played on either Stroke play or Match play rules.
Four-ball (aka Best Ball): Ever wish you could use your playing partner’s score instead? Pick the better score in Four-ball! Four-ball is also two versus two but each player plays with his own ball and the better score of the team counts.
Greensome: A variation of Foursome play where each person on the team makes a tee shot and the team selects the shot they would like to play from. The player whose ball was not selected then takes the next shot and all future even-numbered shots.
Patsome: A combination of a few types of play where the first six holes are played in Four-ball, the next six in Greensome and the last six in Foursome. The final count and winner is determined as in Foursome.
Skins: If you like to wager on your golf game, Skins is for you. The “prize” can be won only by winning the hole outright. If the best score is achieved by more than one player, the prize is carried over to the next hole, making the following holes worth more. Each year professional players participate in a Skins tournament for the benefit of a charity. After the end of the official PGA TOUR season, four golfers are invited to a Skins tournament sponsored by LG. This year the tournament will be held November 23-25 in Indian Wells, California.
Flag Tournament: In this tournament style, each player is given a flag and receives a number of strokes equal to par plus 2/3 of their handicap. When the player runs out of strokes, they place their flag where the ball lands and the player who gets the farthest is the winner.
Chapman: Chapman is a slight variation of Four-ball where each player hits a tee shot then swaps positions to hit the second ball. Then it is decided which of the two balls they will play for the remainder of the hole. Once the ball is selected, the two teammates rotate play of the ball until it is holed out.
String: Did you bring your ball of twine today? A unique form of golf where each player gets a length of string they can use to improve a bad lie. The length of the string depends on the player’s handicap and usually 20 inches is allotted per handicap point. If the player wants to improve a lie, they cut off the amount of string they would like to use. This can be repeated until the string is gone.