Tournament Formats

There are hundreds of formats your tournament can play.  What format is best for you?  Are you accommodating players of all playing abilities?  Are you looking for a true competition to see who is the best player in your group?  Do you want something simple, or possibly something that sets your event apart from all others?  The following is a variety of tournament formats to work from.

Stroke Play (Individual play)
The most basic form of tournament play – players simply add their total strokes at the end of each round, and the player with the lowest score wins.

Scramble Format* (2-4 player team event)
The most common format for charity events as players of all levels can participate.
All four players tee off, and then select the best shot of the group. The three remaining players pickup their balls and place it where the best shot is located.  Continue in this fashion until the ball is holed.

Texas Scramble (or Shambles) Format* (Modified Individual play, 2-4 player team event)
All four players tee off, and then select the best shot of the group. The three remaining players pickup their balls and place it where the best shot is located (same as a Scramble).  However from the second shot on, all players play their own ball.  The player with the lowest score for a hole uses that score as the team score. (2-4 player team event)
* Scramble Formats are generally played as Gross Events, however they can be Net Events (handicapped) as well.  See below for handicapping options.

Best Ball – Gross or Net (Individual play, 2-4 player team event)
Game in which the lowest individual score on a particular hole serves as the team score for that hole.  Each player plays their own ball the entire round. 
* Numerous options to this event.  Can be played as 1 Best Ball of Two, 1 Best Ball of Four, 2 Best Balls of Four, etc.

Alternate Shot (2-player team event)
Teams of two players alternate shots from tee to the green.  Players should decide beforehand who would drive the even numbered holes versus the odd holes.  This is a face-paced and great team oriented game widely popularized in Ryder Cup.

2- Player Scramble / Best Ball / Alternate Shot, Four Player Blind Draw
Slight twist to three of the most popular charity formats, and eliminates “sandbagging”.  2-Player teams play the chosen format (Scramble, Best Ball or Alternate Shot).  That 2-player team’s score is then randomly paired (blind) with another team to create a 36-hole, 4-player team total.  Lowest 4-player team wins.

Match Play
– Singles Match Play
Two players play against each other, hole by hole.  When a player wins a hole (lowest score of the two), that player gets 1 point.  Both players tie a hole, they get a ½.  The player with the most points wins!  In match play, scores are not expressed by the total number of points earned, but by how many points up on their competitor.  Example: Player A won 6 holes, Player B won 5 holes and they have played 15 holes, Player A is 1up with 3 to play.
– Fourball Match Play

In Fourball, each team consists of two players. Each player plays their own ball throughout the round.  The low score of the two players serves as that team’s score. The team with the lowest team score on a particular hole, gets a point for that hole.

Pink Ball (Individual play, team event)
Pink Ball is a great tournament format that puts every player to test.  Teams of four are each assigned a pink (or other noted) ball.  Each player plays their own ball, with each player alternating in playing the pink ball as their own from one hole to another.  At the end of the round, the Pink Ball score is added to the team’s Best Ball score to give a 36-hole team total score.

Bingle, Bangle, Bungle/Bongo* (Individual play, compete against 2-4 players)
Three points awarded on each hole.  1 point – first player who reaches the green in the fewest strokes (Bingle), 1 point – for closest to the pin once everyone is one the green (Bangle), 1 point – for the player that holes out first (Bungle/Bongo).

Blind-Holes Tournament (Individual or Team event)
The winning score is based on only nine holes; randomly selected after tee off so players do not have knowledge of the blind holes.  In a Net event, half handicaps are used to derive the net totals.
* This event can be combined with nearly any team or individual format.

Card Sharks (Team event, individual play)
Each foursome is a team competing against all other teams.  On each hole, scores of two players will be added to determine the team’s score for that hole. However, teams will not know which scores are used until advancing to the next hole.  Card Sharks is a variation of Blind Partner.

Fewest Putts (Individual or Team event)
Only strokes taken with a putter on the putting surface are counted. No handicaps are used. The winner is the player taking the fewest putts.

Flag Tournament (Individual event)
An interesting twist to stoke play, in a flag tournament each player is given a small flag (or other simple).  The player sticks the flag in the ground with their name on it where the player’s ball lies after they have take the number of strokes which equal par plus their handicap (par = 72, handicap = 18, player is then awarded 90 strokes).  The player who carries their flag the farthest around the course (going extra holes if necessary) wins.

Honest John (Russell) (Individual or Team event)
A great game that puts your ego against your game.  Prior to your round, all players estimate their final score.  The player who guesses the correct score (or if no player guesses exactly, the player with the closest score) wins. 
* Many variations to this format…  The committee may determine one or more blind holes where all players receive par or bogey on those holes regardless of actual score.  The most common variation is to set the max score of bogey allowed on the 17th & 18th holes.  Other events may determine that all players that shot either over (or under) their predicted score are automatically eliminated.  Note: May be played in conjunction with team events in which the team that estimates the final score, wins the tournament.

Click here for a list of dozens of other golf tournament formats and games:

Individual Play – Players play their own golf ball and keep their own score the entire round.
Team Event – 2 to 4 players make up a team.  Depending on the format chosen, players may play their own ball, or a team ball may be used (common in Scramble or Alternate Shot Formats)

Gross Events – Straight forward way to play, whatever the player or team shoots for their round is their score.

Net Events (Handicapping) – Net events are events in which a form of handicapping is used to balance out the playing field; a way for a weekend warrior can compete against a Tour Professional.

Various Handicapping Systems

USGA Handicap – This is the best handicap method to use in your event, assuming all players have established handicaps.  Governed by the United States Golf Association (USGA), handicaps are determined based on what a player normally shoots, the difficulty of the courses played and other factors.
Callaway Handicapping – More of a 1-day handicapping system that can be used in events where most of the golfers do not have real handicap indexes.  Depending upon what a player’s total score is, players get to deduct a certain number of Strokes.  Please review the attached document for the Callaway handicapping formula.
Kiwi Kallaway Handicapping – Similar to Callaway, however Kiwi Kallaway is modified specifically for Scramble Formats since scoring in Scramble Formats is so much lower.  Please review the attached document for the Kiwi Kallaway handicapping formula.
Peoria Handicapping – Another system designed for 1-day handicapping.  Without knowledge of the players, the committee selects 6 random holes (usually 2 par 3’s, 2 par 4’s and 2 par 5’s).  Take the total score of those 6 holes and multiple it by 3 (example: 6 holes totaling 30, multiple by 3 = 90) .  Subtract that number from par (90-72 = 18), 80% of 18 = 14.  The player’s gross score of 90 would be a Peoria Net Score of 76.  Please note with Peoria, a players max score on a hole is double par.  A Par 4 would be a maximum score of 8.