Stroke play is the format of scoring where a golfer counts every shot over the course of 18 holes. To win at stroke play you need to have the lowest score once your handicap has been deducted. If 2 or more players finish with the same number, a method of ‘countback’ is used to determine the winner (best score on the back nine, then last 6, last 3 etc). This format is the most used in club competitions because this method is the least forgiving of all of the game formats, as one disastrous hole can ruin the complete card, whereas in other formats each hole is in effect a separate entity.

Handicap allowance – Singles full handicap
Foursomes ½ of the total handicap of the partners.
Fourball ¾ of the full handicap for each partner.


Stableford is a point system that is becoming increasingly popular because it is a more forgiving form of scoring. Points are awarded after each hole depending on the net score, and the winner is the player with the most points after the agreed number of holes in the competition (normally 18). The handicap allowance for this format is the same as above for strokeplay. The points are awarded as follows;
    5 points for an albatross
    4 points for an eagle
    3 points for a birdie
    2 points for par
    1 point for a bogey
    0 points for anything worse

Bogey / Par

In this context, Bogey and Par have the same meaning. In effect, the player or playerss are playing against the par of the course, and the net score for each hole is compared with the par for that hole. So a player would record a win (less then par, +1), a half (par, 0) or a loss (more then par, -1). At the end of the game, the scores for each hole are totalled to produce an overall score in relation to the course par, normally expressed as ‘ 2 up’ or ‘3 down’. The handicap allowance for this format is the same as above for strokeplay.


Matchplay is where players compete against each other rather than against the course as in all of the above formats. Matches can take the form of singles, fourballs and foursomes. In this format, the par of the course is ignored because it is a straightforward matter witch player or side has the lowest net score on each hole. The player or side that has the lowest score is considered to have won the hole, and they are said to be ‘one up’ etc. If the match reaches the point where a player/side is more holes up than there remain to be played, he/they have won. Matchplay is frequently used in club knock-out competitions and requires a result to be achieved. If the match is unresolved after 18 holes (or whatever the match is being played over), then extra holes are played until one player/side emerges as the winner.

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