Popular Types of Golf Tournaments Explained

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the popular types of golf tournaments. Whether you are an experienced golfer or new to the sport, understanding the different tournament formats is crucial for enhancing your enjoyment and competitiveness on the course.

In this article, we will explore various scoring systems, including gross and net tournaments, stroke play, and match play formats. Additionally, we will delve into team formats such as best ball, alternate shot, scramble, and shamble, as well as individual formats like Stableford.

By familiarizing yourself with these tournament types, you will be better equipped to select the most suitable format for your playing style and preferences. So, let’s dive in and unravel the intricacies of these popular golf tournaments.

Gross and Net Tournaments

Gross and net tournaments are two commonly used scoring formats in golf tournaments. In net tournaments, the handicap system allows golfers of all skill levels to compete on an equal playing field. Strokes are subtracted from the gross score based on the player’s handicap, making it a fairer competition.

On the other hand, gross tournaments do not take handicaps into account, and the best scores win. While gross tournaments showcase the raw talent and skill of the players, net tournaments provide an opportunity for less experienced golfers to compete and improve their game.

In stroke play tournaments, strategies for success include managing course management, focusing on consistency, and staying mentally strong. Match play competitions offer exciting moments as players go head-to-head on each hole, with the winner being determined by the number of points won.

Best ball tournaments involve team dynamics, as each member plays their own ball and the lowest score on each hole is counted.

Stroke Play (Medal Play)

In the realm of golf tournaments, one popular format that showcases individual skill and competitiveness is Stroke Play, also known as Medal Play. In this format, each player completes a predetermined number of holes, and the winner is determined by the player with the lowest total strokes. Stroke play is a widely recognized and used format in competitive golf, and it requires a combination of strategy, consistency, and mental toughness.

Some strategies for stroke play include playing conservatively on challenging holes, focusing on making pars or birdies on easier holes, and maintaining mental composure even after making a mistake.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to stroke play. On one hand, it allows players to showcase their individual skills and compete against the entire field. On the other hand, a single bad hole can significantly impact a player’s chances of winning.

Famous stroke play competitions include the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, and The Open Championship. These tournaments attract the world’s best golfers and provide a thrilling showcase of skill and determination.

To keep score in stroke play, each player records their score for each hole, including any penalties incurred. The total strokes are added up at the end of the round to determine the winner.

To improve your stroke play game, focus on consistency in your swing and develop a reliable putting stroke. Pay attention to course management and make smart decisions based on your abilities and the conditions. Practice mental toughness to overcome setbacks and stay focused on each shot.

Match Play

Match Play is a competitive golf format where one golfer competes against another in a series of holes. Unlike stroke play, where the total number of strokes determines the winner, match play focuses on winning individual holes.

To succeed in match play, players need to employ strategies such as aggressive play on easy holes and conservative play on difficult ones. Common mistakes to avoid include underestimating opponents and losing focus after winning a few holes.

When choosing a match play partner, it’s important to consider compatibility in terms of playing style, communication, and trust. The psychology of match play is crucial, as players must manage pressure, stay focused, and adapt to changing situations.

To maintain a competitive edge, players should stay mentally strong, maintain a positive attitude, and make strategic decisions based on the match’s progress.

Best Ball Team Format

The Best Ball team format is a popular type of golf tournament where players compete in two or four-person teams. In this format, each team member plays their own ball, and the lowest score on each hole is counted for the team. This allows for individual players to showcase their skills while still contributing to their team’s overall score.

One of the pros of the Best Ball format is that it encourages teamwork and camaraderie among players. Team members can strategize and offer advice to each other, which can lead to better decision-making on the course. Additionally, this format allows for a wider range of skill levels to participate, as the team’s score is not necessarily dependent on every player’s performance on every hole.

However, there are also some cons to consider. One potential challenge is ensuring that all team members feel equally involved and engaged throughout the tournament. It’s important to establish clear communication and a fair distribution of responsibilities within the team. Another common mistake is underestimating the importance of individual performance. While the team’s score is ultimately what matters, each player’s individual performance can still impact the team’s overall success.

Some strategies for success in the Best Ball format include playing to your strengths as an individual player and supporting your teammates when they need it. It’s also important to stay focused and avoid getting discouraged by mistakes or setbacks. Being able to bounce back and maintain a positive attitude can make a big difference in your team’s performance.

Notable tournaments that utilize the Best Ball format include the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, which are highly competitive team events that showcase the best golfers from around the world. These tournaments highlight the excitement and intensity that can be generated through the Best Ball format.

Alternate Shot Team Format

The Alternate Shot team format is a unique and challenging style of golf tournament that requires precise coordination and teamwork between two players. In this format, Player A tees off, and then Player B hits the next shot, and so on.

Here are some strategies, advantages, and tips for playing in an Alternate Shot team format:


  • Communication is key: Constantly communicate with your teammate to discuss shot selection, club choice, and course strategy.
  • Play to your strengths: Determine each player’s strengths and weaknesses to allocate shots accordingly. For example, if one player excels at long drives, they should take the tee shots on longer holes.


  • Builds teamwork and camaraderie: Alternate Shot requires players to work together closely, fostering a strong bond and teamwork.
  • Challenges players’ skills: This format forces players to be versatile and adapt to different situations, enhancing their overall golfing skills.


  • Practice together: Familiarize yourselves with each other’s playing styles and develop a rhythm by practicing together before the tournament.
  • Stay positive and supportive: Encourage each other after good shots and provide constructive feedback after challenging shots.

Examples of Alternate Shot team format tournaments include the Ryder Cup and the World Cup of Golf.

Common Mistakes to avoid in Alternate Shot team format tournaments:

  • Lack of communication: Failure to communicate effectively can lead to misunderstandings and poor decision-making.
  • Not playing to your strengths: Assigning shots without considering each player’s strengths can result in suboptimal performance.

Scramble Team Format

One popular type of golf tournament format is the Scramble Team Format. In a scramble tournament, teams of two or four players compete against each other. The format is simple: every player tees off, and then the team chooses the best shot. All other balls are picked up, and players hit from the chosen spot.

This format allows for strategic play and emphasizes teamwork and communication. To succeed in a scramble tournament, teams should employ strategies such as selecting the player with the most consistent tee shots to go first, and choosing the best shot based on factors like distance and accuracy. Forming a strong and cohesive team is crucial, so it is important to select players who complement each other’s skills.

Common mistakes to avoid include not communicating effectively, and not taking advantage of the preferred lie rule. Overall, a scramble tournament is an exciting and collaborative way to enjoy the game of golf.

Shamble Team Format

The Shamble Team Format is a unique golf tournament format that combines elements of both the scramble and best ball formats. This format offers a different twist to team play, creating an exciting and competitive atmosphere on the course.

Here are some key points to consider about the Shamble Team Format:

Pros and Cons:

  • Pros: Allows each player to contribute to the team score, encourages individual skill and strategy, promotes teamwork, and provides an opportunity for golfers of different skill levels to compete together.
  • Cons: Can be time-consuming due to players hitting from different spots, may require more coordination and communication among team members, and may not be suitable for players who struggle with consistency.

Strategy Tips:

  • Choose the best tee shot wisely to give your team a good starting position.
  • Have a game plan for each player’s approach shots to maximize scoring opportunities.
  • Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each team member when deciding who should take the tee shot.

Popular Shamble Events:

  • The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is one of the most well-known professional golf tournaments that uses the Shamble Team Format.
  • Many charity and corporate golf events also adopt the Shamble format to create a fun and inclusive experience for participants.

Shamble vs. Scramble:

  • In a scramble, all team members hit their tee shots, choose the best one, and play their subsequent shots from that spot.
  • In a shamble, each player hits a tee shot, the team selects the best one, and then each player plays their own ball from that spot.
  • The shamble format provides a higher level of individual competition compared to the scramble format.

Shamble Handicap Calculation:

  • Handicaps are typically applied to the best one or two net scores from each team member.
  • The specific handicap calculation method may vary depending on the tournament or governing body’s rules.
  • It is important to understand the handicap calculation system being used to ensure fair competition.

Stableford Individual Format

Continuing from the previous subtopic, the Stableford Individual Format is a scoring system used in golf tournaments that awards points based on a player’s performance on each hole. Unlike traditional stroke play, where the objective is to have the lowest score, the Stableford format encourages players to accumulate points.

The scoring system is based on a predetermined point allotment for each score on a hole. For example, a birdie might be worth 2 points, a par worth 1 point, and a bogey worth 0 points.

Pros of the Stableford format include its ability to level the playing field by allowing golfers of different skill levels to compete against one another. It also promotes aggressive play and risk-taking.

Popular courses that often host Stableford tournaments include Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.

Tips and strategies for success in Stableford tournaments include focusing on making pars and birdies, as well as managing risk and avoiding big numbers. Common mistakes include being too conservative and not taking advantage of scoring opportunities.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of golf tournaments is essential for golfers of all skill levels. Whether you prefer individual or team formats, stroke play or match play, there is a tournament format that suits your playing style and preferences.

By familiarizing yourself with these formats, you can enhance your enjoyment and competitiveness on the course. So, next time you hit the links, consider trying out a new tournament format and challenge yourself to showcase your skills in a new way.

What are the popular types of golf tournaments?

This article discusses various types of golf tournaments, including gross and net tournaments, stroke play (medal play), match play, team formats (such as best ball, alternate shot, scramble, and shamble), and other tournament formats like Stableford. It highlights the key features, strategies, and benefits of each format, emphasizing the importance of understanding different tournament styles to enhance enjoyment, competitiveness, and skill development on the golf course.