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Popular Golf Tournament Formats

Whether you're planning a charity golf tournament, a corporate golf outing or a casual event for friends, choosing the right golf tournament format is an important consideration. But with so many options, it can be tricky to know what format will work the best for your event. To ease this process, here are the most popular golf tournament formats explained.

Scramble Format

Players Per Team: 2, 3, or 4

Scramble format golf is one of the most popular tournament styles. To start, each player will tee off on a hole, and the best shot will be selected. All players must then take their second shot from that spot, where once again a best shot is determined from the second plays. This goes on with the third shot, fourth shot, etc. until someone holes their ball.

Shamble Golf

Players per Team: 2, 3, or 4

The Shamble golf format is very similar to the Scramble, but differs in the way that each player's second shot is taken. Teammates take their second shot from the location of the "best drive" off the tee. For example, if Player 2 hits best drive, Players 1, 3, and 4 pick up their drives and play their next stroke from that location. Once each player has hit their second stroke, then each player plays his or her own ball for the rest of the hole.

Match Play

Players per Team: 1

Typically done as player vs. player, the Match Play format treats each hole as a separate competition. Each player starts at zero upon tee-off and continues to hit the ball until it gets into the hole. The golfer with the least number of strokes at the end of the hole wins that hole. In Match Play, the player with the highest number of holes over the course of the match is the winner.

Stroke Play

Players per Team: 1

Usually seen as a head to head competition, Stroke Play is another format for golf tournaments that's frequently integrated into others. Players accumulate strokes over the entirety of 18 holes. The golfer with the fewest strokes at the end of the round wins.

Best Ball

Players per Team: 2, 3, or 4

The Best Ball golf format, also known as Four Ball, is a scheme where each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round until it's holed. The lowest score at the end of the round will be the "best ball" and serve as the team's score. The team with the best score at the end of the round wins the game.

Alternate Shot

Players per Team: 2

Alternate Shot, also referred to as Foursomes, Odds & Evens, or Scotch Foursomes, involves teammates taking alternate turns hitting the same ball. One player will tee off, the next player hits the second shot, and then the first player will hit the third shot, and so on until hole is made. Tee balls are usually alternated between teammates so that the same player doesn't get to drive the ball every time. A good way to remember whose turn it is is to assign odd and even numbered holes.

Bingo Bango Bongo

Player per Team: 2, 3, or 4

Bingo Bango Bongo is a points-based golf game that lets player earn three different types of points:

  1. Bingo Point - be the first golfer in the group to get the ball on the green.
  2. Bango Point - be the golfer in the group whose ball is closest to the pin once all balls are on the green.
  3. Bongo Point - be the first golfer in the group to finish the hole.

Determining a winner is based on the player who's received the most points during a round. This tournament format does not require teams, and can be played with as little as two golfers at a time. The simplistic nature of Bingo, Bango, Bongo creates an environment where all skill levels can play - making it especially appealing for inexperienced players.


Players per Team: 10 or more

Shootout is sort of like "The Weakest Link" of golf tournament formats and requires a large groups of people to play. There must be one more player or team than the number of holes being played, so if a full 18 holes are being used there should be 19 players or teams (10 on a 9-hole round).

If played with teams, an alternate shot format is used. After each hole the player or team with the highest score is eliminated. Ties (which happen often) are settled with a "chip-off" in which the player or team who lands their shot farthest from the hole gets eliminated. The last team or player standing at the end of the 18th hole wins.

Pick the Best Golf Tournament Format for You

Choosing a suitable golf tournament format ensures that all participants have a good time. Achieving a balance between competition and fun is critical. Generally a Match Play format is ideal for a set of more accomplished golfers, while scramble format golf is a good choice for the occasional weekend warrior. Regardless, either can be a fun golf tournament format that's certain to make your event a hole-in-one.