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Most Popular Golf Tournament Formats


There are many different golf tournament formats, and some of the oddest are played at company outings, golf association playdays and the like. What are the most popular? And how are they played? We've left out the big two - stroke play and match play - in order to get in a couple more esoteric formats.

For dozens and dozens more, and more in-depth definitions, be sure to visit our Glossary of Tournament Formats and Betting Games.

1. Scramble

Putting in a golf scramble tournament
Tom Grizzle/Getty Images
The Scramble is probably the most-common format for team tournaments. It can be played by 2-, 3- or 4-person teams, and involves choosing the one best shot following every stroke, with each team member then playing again from that one spot. Variants include the Texas Scramble and Florida Scramble. Click the link for a more in-depth explanation, as you can do for each term listed here.

2. Best Ball

In a Best Ball tournament, all members of each team play their own balls on each hole. At the completion of the hole, the lowest score among all team members serves as the team score. If there are four members on a team, and on the first hole those four golfers score 4, 7, 6 and 5, the team score is 4, because that is best ball among the four players. When played by 2-person teams at match play, best ball is known as fourball, one of the formats used at the Ryder Cup.

3. Modified Stableford

A Modified Stableford competition can be played by individuals or as a team tournament. In Modified Stableford, the idea is to have the highest score - because your score on each hole is worth a certain amount of points. A birdie, for example, might be worth 2 points. Modified Stableford has been used in several tour events over the years, including currently at the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open.

4. Chapman (also known as Pinehurst)

When the Chapman System (a k a Pinehurst System) is the format for a tournament, it means that 2-person teams will be competing. Chapman is really a melding of several formats into one. In a Chapman event, teammates switch balls after their tee shots, select the one best ball after their second shots, then play alternate shot until the ball is holed.

5. Bingo Bango Bongo

This is one of the most popular formats for golf association tournaments and league tournaments in the USA. Bingo Bango Bongo rewards players for three things on each hole: being the first player in the group to get onto the green; being closest to the hole once all group members are on the green; and being the first player in the cup.

6. Flags (or Flag Tournament)

In a Flags tournament, all golfers begin the round with a set number of strokes (related to their handicaps), and they play until their strokes run out. The player who makes it farthest on his or her allotment of strokes is the winner. Flag tournaments are popular in league play and are a staple of ladies playdays.

7. Money Ball (known by many different names)

Money Ball is a familiar format that is known by many different names, such as Lone Ranger, Devil Ball, Pink Lady and Yellow Ball. Whatever you call it, it puts the onus on one player per team per hole to come through with a good score. Players in a group of four rotate playing the "money ball." On each hole, the score of the golfer whose turn it is to play the money ball is combined with the low score of the other three team members for the team score. (The "money ball" is usually metaphorical, but some tournaments might require golfers to use a specific ball for the money ball. For example, the golfer on the spot might have to play a yellow ball to stand out from his teammates.)

8. Quota Tournament

A "quota tournament" is very similar in structure to another format called Chicago. In a Quota, golfers start with a certain amount of points (the amount is based on handicaps), then add points based on achievements (bogeys, pars, birdies, eagles). The goal to reach a quota of 36 points. The golfer who meets and exceeds his or her quota by the largest amount is the winner.

9. Peoria System

The Peoria System is a sort of 1-day handicap system for a stroke play tournament in which most of the players do not have established handicaps. It allows all players to, following the round, deduce something resembling a handicap allowance and apply it to their scores. Peoria involves totaling your score on preselected (but secret, until after the round) holes, then doing some multiplication and division. It allows large groups of golfers without handicaps to compete on a roughly even basis.

10. Callaway System

Like Peoria, the Callaway System is a quasi-handicapping system that can be employed for a stroke play event in which most of the particants do not have handicaps. The Callaway System involves consulting a chart following the round to determine a handicap deduction and handicap allowance.
Related Video
What Is Stroke Play?
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