Match play and stroke play are considered the most popular and essential forms of scoring in a golf tournament. In match play the number of strokes the player needs to hole out is not important, the factor that does matter is that they use fewer stokes to hole the ball when compared to the person/team they are competing against. There are literally hundreds of variations on this type of play, after all golf has been around for a very long time which has given players plenty of attempts at developing new scoring systems. Since there are so many variations on this type of play the important thing is to grasp the basic idea of match play, discussing two different types of match play should help most people get the general idea of how a round should go.
Singles match play is a type of competition involving two players, each players tries to make hole out in the fewest number of strokes on a given hole, the player with the least amount of strokes on a hole wins that hole. For example, player A shoots 5 on a hole while player B shoots 4, player B would be awarded this hole and take a one nothing lead in the round. Many times both players will have the same score on a hole, in this scenario the hole is “halved”, basically each player is awarded half a hole meaning they have tied. The player who wins the most holes during the course of the round is declared the winner, in the event of a tie, or the match being “all square, after eighteen holes of golf the two people would then go to extra holes. The first person to win a hole after the initial eighteen is then declared the winner.
Fourball match play allows a two person team to compete against another two person team. Each player on the two person team will play their own ball, the lowest score of the team will be the one recorded, the team with the lowest score on each hole is awarded the hole, the team winning the most during the round is considered the winner. For example Tom and Bob are playing against Dick and Jane, Tom records a 5 and Bob shoots a 4, the score for the first team is 4. Dick proceeds to score a 6 and Jane shoots a 5 on the same hole, the score for team two is 5. Since the first team score was a 4 and the second team shot a 5 the hole is awarded to the first team. Just like singles match play if the situation arises where both teams use the same number of strokes the hole would be halved between the two teams.
Fourball match play can also be modified to allow for teams to use the alternate shot method of play. With this format player 1 hits the tee shot, player 2 hits the second shot, player one hits the third shot and so on until the ball is holed. The same rules apply however this adds an interesting twist. People familiar with the professional golf tournaments will recognize this format from the Ryder Cup.