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Lesson Spotlight: Golf Formats
7th April 2019

When TGA students are ready to take their knowledge and skills to the golf course, we want them to be ready. To help with that, our coaches cover a variety of playing formats that are played on a daily basis on courses all over the world. Whether it’s recreational play with friends after school or a high-stakes competitive tournament, switching up the format can bring even more excitement and fun to the golf course. Below are some of the most common formats played today.

Stroke Play

The most popular format, especially for professional golf because every shot counts towards your final cumulative score after 18 holes. While you are still trying to beat your fellow competitors, golfers biggest challenge in stroke play is the golf course itself. This is the format for every golf major and the Olympics. It’s also the one most commonly used on a daily basis by amateurs.

Match Play

This hole-by-hole competition awards a winner for each hole based on the best score for each individual hole. The player who wins the most holes throughout the match is the winner. In match play you are able to recover more easily from a bad hole than in stroke play, where every shot counts towards your final score.

The PGA Tour recently hosted a large match play event in Austin, TX, where 64 of the top 66 players from the Official Wold Golf Ranking competed. This is also one of the formats used in major international tournaments, like the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and Solheim Cup.

Better/Best Ball

This tournament style is best for teams of 2-4 golfers and can be played as match or stroke play event. Each team member plays their own ball throughout the round and after each hole the lowest score from each team member is the score for the team. A variation on this format is called a shamble, where each member of the team tees off and the team selects the best drive among them to continue play from. Each golfer then plays his or her own golf ball to finish the hole.

This format is good to use if you are looking for a team event, but each golfer wants to play his or her own ball.

Alternate Shot

Unlike Better Ball, Alternate Shot only uses one golf ball between two golfers. The duo that is paired together alternate who hits each shot until the ball is in the hole. The camaraderie required to succeed in this format is great for team building.


Scrambles are similar to shambles, but in this case teams play from the best ball on every shot, instead of just the second shot after teeing off. This format is a great introduction to competitive golf, as teams can focus on a “team score” rather than individual scores.

Each format provides different challenges to players, something TGA coaches try and emphasize in the various programs students can participate in. Whether it’s during a summer camp where students experience a variety of formats, or golf leagues, there’s always an opportunity to learn new things on the golf course through TGA.

If your child wants to experience one of the above formats, look out for an upcoming summer camp or league near you.