More Than Stroke Play: The Many Types of Golf Games And Formats

Beyond the traditional stroke play format, golf, which is often regarded as a sport of precision and technique, offers a plethora of ways to enjoy the game. While stroke play is the most common format, with the goal of completing the course in as few strokes as possible, golfers around the world have invented a variety of alternative games and formats to keep the sport engaging and entertaining. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most popular and unique golf games and formats that go beyond stroke play, adding a new dimension of fun to the game.

Playing a Match

Match play is one of the most traditional and popular alternative golf formats. Golfers compete head-to-head on each hole in this format, with the goal of winning as many holes as possible throughout the round. The emphasis is on winning holes rather than counting strokes. Each hole is a separate competition, and the player with the fewest strokes wins that hole. The match is won by the player who wins the most holes.

Match play introduces a strategic element to golf by requiring players to decide when to play conservatively and when to take risks in order to win a hole. The format is commonly used in prestigious golf tournaments such as the Ryder Cup and the World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship, where top professionals compete in thrilling head-to-head battles.


Scramble is a popular team format on the golf course that encourages camaraderie and teamwork. Each member of a team hits a tee shot in a scramble, and the team chooses the best shot to play from. Everyone on the team then took their next shots from that spot. This process is repeated until the ball is holed. The scramble format is well-known for its ability to level the playing field by allowing players of varying skill levels to contribute to the success of the team.

Scramble tournaments are popular for charity events and corporate outings where the emphasis is on having fun and raising funds rather than on individual competition.


Skins is a thrilling and competitive golf format that can provide a thrilling day on the course. Each hole in this format has a specific value, or “skin,” which is awarded to the player with the lowest score on that hole. If two or more players have the same score, the skin carries over to the next hole, raising the stakes.

Skins games can be played with friends or with professionals, and the format frequently results in tense finishes and large payouts for the player with the most skins. The pressure of winning a skin, particularly on the last hole, can result in dramatic and memorable moments.


The Stableford scoring system is a great option for golfers who want to enjoy their round without having to count every stroke. Golfers earn points in Stableford based on their scores relative to par on each hole. The goal is to collect as many points as possible throughout the round, with different point values assigned to different hole scores.

A birdie (one stroke under par) might earn a golfer two points, whereas a bogey (one stroke over par) might earn one point. Scoring par is usually worth 0 points. The player who has the most points at the end of the round wins. The stableford format is ideal for friendly competitions and social golf games.

(Best-Ball) four-ball

Four-ball, also known as best-ball, is a team format in which each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round and the team records the best group score on each hole. Because the lowest individual score counts for the team, this format encourages players to push each other to perform at their best. Four-ball is frequently used in team events such as the Ryder Cup, where two-man teams represent their respective countries.

The four-ball format frequently results in exciting head-to-head battles, as players strive to outperform their opponents on each hole. It adds a strategy and collaboration element to the game.

Bongo, Bango, and Bingo

Bingo, Bango, Bongo is a unique golf format that is both fun and creative. On each hole, three separate points are awarded in this format:

  • “Bingo” is given to the first player to reach the green.
  • “Bango” is given to the player whose ball is closest to the pin when it reaches the green.
  • “Bongo” is given to the first player to hole out.

The player who has the most points at the end of the round wins. This format promotes fast play while also adding excitement and unpredictability to each hole.


The Nassau format complicates your golf game by introducing a betting element. Nassau is essentially three bets in one round of golf, with emphasis on the front nine, back nine, and overall 18-hole score. Each of these bets can be won or lost, making it an adaptable format for players of varying skill levels.

The Nassau format allows golfers to bet a set amount of money or other prizes, making it a popular choice for friendly competitions between golf buddies. It increases the excitement and competitiveness of your round.

(Foursomes) Alternate Shot

Alternate shot is a team format in which two players share a single golf ball and take turns hitting it on each hole. The odd-numbered holes are teed off by one player, while the even-numbered holes are teed off by the other. After the first tee shot, the players take turns hitting shots until the ball is holed.

As players must decide who should tee off on which holes and collaborate to navigate the course efficiently, this format emphasizes teamwork and strategy. The alternate shot is frequently used in prestigious events such as the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup to demonstrate the mental and emotional aspects of golf.

The colors red, white, and blue

Red, White, and Blue is a unique and difficult format in which the golf course is divided into three sets of tees: red, white, and blue. Each set of tees represents a different level of difficulty, with the red tees being the easiest and the blue tees being the most difficult. On different holes, golfers rotate through these tees, creating a dynamic round that tests their adaptability and versatility.

The Red, White, and Blue format is ideal for golfers looking to improve their overall game because it forces them to face a variety of challenges and play from various positions on the course.

Pinehurst (or Chapman) Beach

The Pinehurst format, also known as the Chapman System, is a two-person team format in which each player tees off and then plays the ball of their partner for the second shot. The team chooses the best ball after the second shot and alternates strokes until the ball is holed.

Pinehurst promotes cooperation and strategy because players must work together to select the best shots and navigate the course effectively. It’s a fun format to use for social rounds or club competitions.


Golf is a sport with a rich tradition and history, but it is also a game that encourages innovation and creativity. Golfers can tailor their experience to their preferences. Whether they want a friendly, relaxed round or a competitive, high-stakes battle. Thanks to the wide range of golf games and formats available.

While stroke play is still the most popular way to play golf. These alternative formats allow golfers to explore new aspects of the game, foster camaraderie, and improve the overall golfing experience. There’s something for everyone in these alternative games, whether you’re a seasoned golfer looking to mix things up or a beginner eager to try new formats.

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