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Golf Scoring and Formats

Golf Scorecard

Golf can be more fun with different formats and ways you can play the game. I’ve played every format below and it is always nice to shake things up and play a different strategy or play when it doesn’t count every single shot you make.  These are the most common ways 

Stroke Play

Individual golfers playing against one another in a field of players in one or multiple rounds. All scores for each hole are added up.  There can be two different contests when playing stroke play:


Score of your number of actually strokes


Score of your actual strokes minus your handicap number.  This is used to even out the playing field so everyone playing has a chance to win by playing better than they usually do using their handicap number.

  • John: 77 Gross (3 handicap) / 74 Net
  • Dan: 81 Gross (10 handicap) / 71 Net
  • Greg: 88 Gross (18 handicap) / 70 Net

So if these three players had a contest among them, John would be the Gross winner and Greg would be the Net winner.

The field can also be placed in different flights with similar handicaps and then compete with no handicaps within that flight.

  • Flight A: Mike 75, Jim 77, Evan 79
  • Flight B: Don 82, Jack 83, Matt 85
  • Flight C: Art 89, Eric 92, Tom 95

Best Ball

A team format where all players play their own ball but the best score per hole only counts for the team. 

*Handicaps are sometimes involved.  

Match Play

Match Play is a format where a golfer plays their own ball but plays directly against another golfer head-to-head. The objective is to win as many holes than your opponent than holes left to be played. The holes are won by having the least strokes per hole against your opponent.

Jen wins 3 & 2 vs Sara. Jen is up 3 holes with 2 holes left.

*Handicaps are usually involved to level out the matches. The higher handicapped golfer would receive strokes on the hardest holes. 

Four Ball

A format where two golfers compete against two other golfers in match play. All four golfers play their own ball and the holes are won by the team with the golfer with the lowest score. The objective is to win as many holes than opponents than holes left to be played.

*Handicaps are usually involved to level out the matches.

Alternate Shot (Foursomes)

A team format of two golfers that alternate hitting tee shots (odds/even) then hitting each other’s shots until the ball is holed out. Only one ball is in play at all times. 

Modified Alternate Shot (Chapman)

A team format of two golfers that both hit their tee shots. The next shots are switched where the golfers will both hit their partners tee shot. After this second shot, the team picks the best ball to hit and alternates from there until the ball is holed out. 


A team of 2-4 golfers that usually is played in golf outings. The format is basically picking the best shot after hitting from the same spot and repeated until the ball is holed out.  Shots that are not chosen are picked up and played from the shots chosen.  There usually is a difference in where to tee from for men, women and sometimes seniors/juniors. 


A format mixed with Best Ball and Scramble.  The team of 2-4 golfers that starts off the tee shot playing a scramble.  The best tee shot is selected and all will play from that spot.  From here however, all players will play their own ball until they hole out. 

*If handicaps are used, a percentage is taken (around 40%).


A fun format with scoring high the better.  Points are assigned to certain scores per hole.  Highest point total at the end of the round wins.  Handicaps are usually used.

Eagle – 8 points

Birdie – 4 points

Par – 2 points

Bogey – 0 points

Double Bogey or worse – (-1) points

*Handicaps are usually used to level out the playing field.


This format is a way of scoring an event that randomly chooses one par 3, par 4 and a par 5 on the front 9 and back 9.  These holes are not known to any players until the end of the event. The over/under par are added together for those 6 holes for a player and then multiplied by 3 to get your handicap for that round.  Take your gross score minus your handicap and you get your net score.  This format is hardly used except for outings and tournaments that have the golfers playing stroke play with not everyone having a handicap. 

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V Tongwarin

V Tongwarin

Visanu Tongwarin or “Coach V” is a Class A PGA Teaching Professional at Legacy Ridge Golf Course and Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster, Colorado. V's brings his passion for teaching the game of golf to all levels of golfers from running children clinics to training state champions and seasoned professionals.