What is the Olympic Golf Format? Rules & History

Unlike many other sports in the Olympics, golf has not had a long and storied history. It was only brought back to the Olympic Games in 2016 after over a century of not being played.

What is the Olympic golf format? The Olympic golf format is individual stroke play. Like PGA Tour events, the event is played over 72 holes. The field consists of 60 players in the men’s and women’s tournaments, with no more than four golfers from each country. The 2024 Olympics will be played at Le Golf National in Guyancourt, France.

Any passionate golfer will not want to miss out on the details, though, so you won’t miss out on a chance to impress friends during your next round or golf watch party.

In this article, I will cover all you need to know about the format of Olympic golf for 2024. Topics covered will include:

  • What is the Golf Format in the Olympics?
  • Rules for Olympic Golf
  • The History of Golf in the Olympics
  • How Golfers Qualify to Play in the Olympics
  • Potential Olympic golfers to watch in 2024

Let’s discuss!

What is the Olympic Golf Format?

Knowing how golf is scored in the Olympics will help you have a more fun watch party.

The format for Olympic golf is individual stroke play, similar to PGA and LPGA Tour events. The competition lasts four days, with 18 holes played each day, making 72 holes.

But unlike PGA tournaments, there is no cut in the Olympics golf. There are only 60 men and 60 women, and they play the entire tournament.

Then, the top 3 players on the men’s and women’s sides will earn a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal, respectively.

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When Is the Next Olympic Golf Tournament?

Golf is one of 32 sports encompassing 329 events at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. The governing body of Olympic golf is the International Golf Federation or IGF.

The Men’s Olympic golf tournament schedule will be held from August 1-4, 2024, and the Women’s tournament will be held from August 7-10. Both events will be played at the Le Golf National course in Guyancourt, North-Central France.

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A Brief History of Golf in the Olympics

Golfers on course at olympic golf and country club, ca 1925 (mohai 1533)

Golf was first played in the Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris at the Compiègne Golf Club. The Men’s Gold Medal winner was American Charles Sands. Scottish golfer Walter Rutherford won the Silver, and fellow Scotsman David Robertson won the Bronze.

On the Women’s side, the medals were swept by Americans. Margaret Abbott won the Gold medal, Pauline Whittier won the Silver, and Daria Pratt won the Bronze.

Golf returned to the games in 1904 when St. Louis played host. Only the men competed at the 1904 summer games. The Gold medal winner was Canadian golfer George Lyon; American Chandler Egan won the Silver. The Bronze medal was a tie awarded to Burt McKinnie and Francis Newton of the United States.

Olympic Golf was scheduled for the 1908 Olympic Games in London. However, due to a boycott among disgruntled British golfers, only one player was left in the field. Ironically, that lone player was the 1904 Gold medal winner, Canadian George Lyon. Olympic officials offered to give George the Gold by default, but he refused. With that, the 1908 golf competition was canceled. Once again, an event was not contested on the Women’s side.

Surprisingly, golf was not held again in the Olympics for another 112 years!

Golf at the Olympics in the Modern Era

Golf almost returned to the Olympics in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Then Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne pushed for it and wanted Augusta National to host. The problem seen by the IOC was that ANGC was still an all-male club in 1996, which was indeed a problem. Augusta gained their first female members in the summer of 2012 with the election of Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.

Finally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to have golf return to the games in 2016.

The 2016 Olympic Golf competition was played at a specially built venue, appropriately named The Olympic Course, in the host city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

On the Men’s side, the Gold went to Englishman Justin Rose, the Silver to Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson, and the Bronze to American Matt Kuchar. In the ladies competition, the Gold went to South Korean Inbee Park, the Silver to New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, and the Bronze to Shanshan Feng from China.

The COVID-19 pandemic plagued the 2020 games, so they were not played until the summer of 2021. The host country was Japan, and the golf competition was held at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

American Xander Schauffele won the Men’s Gold, South African Rory Sabbatini took the Silver, and CT Pan of Taiwan won the Bronze. On the Women’s side, American Nelly Korda won Gold, Japan’s Mone Inami won Silver, and the defending Silver medalist from 2016, Lydia Ko, took home the Bronze.

Where Has Olympic Golf Been Played?

Below is a look at past and future venues for the golf competition at the Olympic Games.

1904 Paris, France Compiègne Golf Club
1908 St. Louis, USA Glen Echo Country Club
2016 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympic Golf Course
2020 (2021) Tokyo, Japan Kasumigaseki Country Club
2024 Paris, France Le Golf National
2028 Los Angeles, United States Riviera Country Club
2032 Brisbane, Australia Royal Queensland Golf Club

It is always amazing to see how global the game of golf has become. However, having golf back at the Olympic games helps shed some light on how international the game truly is.

How Many Golfers Have Competed in the Olympics? (By Country)

The following countries have had golfers compete in the Olympics from 1904 to 1908 and up through 2016 and 2020.

Nation 1900 1904 2016 2020
Argentina x x 2 1
Australia x x 4 4
Austria x x 2 3
Bangladesh x x 1 x
Belgium x x 3 3
Brazil x x 3 x
Canada x 3 4 4
Chile x x 1 2
China x x 4 4
Chinese Taipei x x 4 3
Colombia x x 1 2
Czech Republic x x 1 2
Denmark x x 4 4
Ecuador x x x 1
Finland x x 4 4
France 9 x 4 4
Germany x x 4 4
Great Britain 4 x 4 4
Greece 1 x x x
Hong Kong x x 1 1
India x x 3 4
Ireland x x 4 4
Israel x x 1 x
Italy x x 4 4
Japan x x 4 4
Malaysia x x 4 2
Mexico x x 3 4
Morocco x x 1 1
Netherlands x x 1 1
New Zealand x x 3 2
Norway x x 3 3
Paraguay x x 2 1
Philippines x x 1 3
Poland x x x 1
Portugal x x 2 x
Puerto Rico x x x 2
Russia x x 1 x
South Africa x x 4 2
South Korea x x 6 6
Slovakia x x x 1
Slovenia x x x 1
Spain x x 4 4
Sweden x x 4 4
Switzerland x x 2 2
Thailand x x 4 4
United States 8 74 7 8
Venezuela x x 1 1
Zimbabwe x x x 1
Nations 4 2 41 42
Athletes 22 77 120 120

Which Country Won The Most Olympic Medals for Golf?

The following is a look at the medal count over Olympic golf history for both Men (M) and Women (W) golfers.

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 3 (M) 2 (W) 2 (M) 1 (W) 4 (M) 1 (W) 13
2 Great Britain 1 (M) 1 (W) 1 (M) 1 (M) 3
3 Canada

South Korea

1 (M)

1 (W)







5 New Zealand 0 1 (W) 1 (W) 2
6 Japan






1 (W)

1 (M)

1 (M)







9 China

Chinese Taipei





1 (W)

1 (M)



Totals 8 8 9 25

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How Golfers Qualify for Playing in the Olympics

Competing in the Olympics would be a dream for any athlete, and golfers are no exception.

Players qualify for the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Golf competitions through the Official IGF World Golf Rankings. For the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, a player’s status on that list as of June 17, 2024, for the men and June 24, 2024, for the women will determine their eligibility.

Sixty players for the men’s and women’s tournaments will qualify for play. The top 15 world-ranked golfers will secure their spot in the Olympics. Each country is only allowed four players to compete in the men’s and women’s competitions. The remaining spots will be awarded to the players ranked sixteenth onwards on the list, with a maximum of two per country.

According to the IGF, the following is a stipulation:

“Each of the five continental zones must enter at least one player across all golf tournaments under the principles of the Olympic movement and the rules governed by IGF. If unsatisfied with the entry selection method described above, the highest-ranked eligible player from the respective continental zone will allocate the vacant spot. The IGF posts weekly lists of qualified male and female golf players based on their current standings.”

That stipulation is to help further the global presence of golf.

Potential Olympic Golfers to Watch for 2024

With the 2024 Olympic Golf competitions still over a year away, it’s not too early to start talking about potential contenders. With an understanding of how players become eligible to play (see above), you don’t have to look any further to start conversations on contenders than the Official World Golf Rankings.

On the Men’s side, the current big three continue to be World #1 Jon Rahm, who represents Spain, World #2 Scottie Scheffler, from the United States, and World #3 player, from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy.

Although these three have separated themselves a bit from the rest of the pack, the talent pool in golf is very deep. With over a year to go before the Olympic field is set, anything can happen.

On the Women’s side, it is deeper near the top of the rankings. The current #1 and #2 players worldwide are previous Olympic golf medal winners.

Nelly Korda is the defending Olympic Gold medal winner in golf and sits atop the Women’s World Golf Rankings. She is undoubtedly a no-brainer pick. New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is sitting in the #2 spot in the Women’s Rankings. She won Silver in 2016 and the Bronze in the 2020 Olympics. Lydia would be a smart pick as well for success in 2024.

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FAQs About Golf in the Olympics

What is the Olympic golf format?

The Olympic folf format differs from any other PGA or LPGA event. The Men's and Women's Olympic Golf competitions are 72-hole events played on four consecutive days, with 18 holes daily. It is individual stroke play, with the lowest 72-hole total winning Gold!

How Is Olympic Golf Different From Other Golf Tournaments?

The most significant difference between Olympic Golf and other tournaments is that participants are playing for their country and have a chance to win Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals. That is unquestionably a thrill of a lifetime for golfers that qualify. There is also no cut like most professional golf tournaments.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Olympic Golf?

Sixty players on the men's and 60 on the women's sides make up the field in both events. Players become eligible for the Olympic Golf competition through the Official World Golf Rankings as recognized by the International Golf Federation (IGF).
For the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, a player's status on that list as of June 17, 2024, for the men, and June 24, 2024, for the women will determine their eligibility. Each country is only allowed four players to compete in the men's and women's competitions. The remaining spots will be awarded to the players ranked sixteenth onwards on the list, with a maximum of two per country.

How Many Rounds Are in Olympics Golf?

There are 4 rounds of play in the Olympic golf tournament. This includes 72 holes played over 4 days. Unlike PGA events, there is no cut to remove the worst golfers.

What Are the Rules for Olympic Golf?

The rules for Olympic golf are the same as those for professional golf. The tournament is over 72 holes of stroke play, with the player with the lowest score at the end of the tournament winning. A few additional rules apply to Olympic golf, such as the following:
* Players must wear clothing that is consistent with currently accepted golf fashion.
* Players must use a maximum of 14 clubs during the tournament.
* Players are not allowed to use electronic devices during the tournament, except for watches that keep track of time.
* Players are not allowed to receive any outside assistance during the tournament except for their caddie.
In the event of a tie after 72 holes, a playoff will be held to determine the winner. The playoff will consist of three holes, and the player with the lowest score on the playoff holes will win.

Summing It All Up

With such a rich history as the game of golf has, it may be surprising to many that come the 2024 Olympics in France, golf will only be in its fifth rendition as an official Olympic sport.

Despite this, golf has made its mark in the Olympics since returning to the fold in 2016 after over a 100-year absence. Of course, the Olympic golf format is similar to any other 72-hole professional event.

However, the spirit of the Olympic games makes it incredibly exciting not just for those that qualify but also for those that watch.

Brendon is Class A PGA Professional and founded Little Linksters, LLC, and its nonprofit arm, the Little Linksters Association for Junior Golf Development. He won 25+ prestigious industry honors, including the 2017 PGA National Youth Player Development Award. He graduated from the PGA of America Management Program and has a handicap index of 7.8.

He has played golf for over 40 years and currently plays twice a month at the Eagle Dunes Golf Club near Sorrento, Florida. He loves Srixon clubs and plays a ZX5 driver with Z 585 irons. He's written over 60 articles on GolfSpan and specializes in sharing tips to improve your golf game. You can connect with Brendon at LinkedIn, X, IG, FB, his website, or BrendonElliott@pga.com.

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