Better ball Golf Format Explained

If you’ve ever wondered how a better ball golf format works, you’re certainly not the first, nor will you be the last. Whether you’re a newcomer or even a seasoned golfer, the many different golf scoring formats can get confusing – even at the best of times.

What is Betterball?

In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the better ball golf format, specifically, as it is one of the most popular and enjoyable formats in the game. But what exactly is it, and how does it work? Allow us to enlighten you and, at the same time, give you the arsenal to fill in that scorecard with confidence the next time you play.

In short, the better ball golf format is usually played in teams comprised of two golfers. Both golfers play their own ball to complete the hole, but only one ball – the better ball – counts per hole for the team.

It can be played in either stroke play or Stableford formats, either of which can be combined with match play which can always make things a whole lot more interesting in friendly, or not-so-friendly wagers.

How does better all work?

Now that we know what it is, we can look at how it works.

It’s actually quite simple: the two golfers who play as a team each play their own ball until the hole is completed. After each completed hole, the best score between the pair is the score that counts, i.e., the Result. At the end of the round, the Result of each hole is calculated to get the final aggregated tally.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Example in stroke play better ball:

On the first hole, player A scores 6, and player B scores 5. Player B’s 5 is the team score on Hole 1.

On the second hole, player A scores 4, and play B scores 6. Player A’s 4 is team score on Hole 2.

So, the team’s aggregate score after two holes is 9.

Example in match play better ball:

On the first hole player A scores 4 and player B 5. The A/B team’s score is 4.

Player C scores 6 and player D scores 5. The C/D team’s score is 5.

This means that team A/B wins the first hole against team C/D, 4 to 5, going 1-up. This continues until one team beats the other, just like in normal match-play.

Better Ball Golf format in Stableford

In a better ball Stableford format, the very same as mentioned above would apply, only the better Stableford score would count, instead of the strokes.

To understand better ball scoring in Stableford, we first need to make sure we understand handicap scoring as that is what butterball scoring is based on. A handicap is given to a person based on their ability to play the game.

Simply put, a golfer’s handicap indicates whether a golfer “strokes” on the hole in question. Whether the golfer strokes on a hole or not determines how many points they will score, based on the number of shots they have had on the hole.

Team Game

Now, remember that better ball is played as part of a team. After a hole has been played, each player that has finished the hole will score points based on their handicap. The golfer who has scored the ‘better’ score between all the members of the team, his/her score is the one that counts. And that is the “better ball”.

Keeping Score the Correct Way

After grasping how better ball scoring works, it’s time to look at how scoring is kept. Once again, it’s actually incredibly simple.

Most golf clubs’ scorecards follow the same configuration in where there is provision for the Score on the hole as well as the Result. There is also normally allocation for a combined Result. Take a look here to understand the scorecard system.

In a better ball golf format, the best result would need to be filled in this allocation in order to total all the Results at the end of the round.

Best Strategies for Playing Betterball

When it comes to golf days and corporate events, it is undoubtedly the most popular and widely used competition format in golf. This is because the scoring is simple and it encourages team-play and any golfer in the team can contribute to the scoring.

That said, there are no real hard and fast strategies for playing better ball, as such, but there are better and worse ways to approach it.

Since it’s a team format, it’s best to play it as such – forget about trying to break your PB for once… Take it hole by hole with your partner/s and feed off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

An aggressive player paired with a conservative player can make for a winning combination out on the course. Keep that in mind to manage risk and reward on each hole. A big advantage is to play with the same team member each time, though this isn’t always in your control.

Final Thoughts

Betterball golf may seem complex at the beginning, but once understood, playing, and scoring, the better ball is fairly simple. It makes for a fun and exciting day out on the golf course.

So, next time you head out in this format, rest assured that there won’t be any need to pass on the scorecard to someone else due to incompetence.

Got a golf scoring format that you’d like to have explained? Feel free to let us know down in the comments and we might just cover it in our next article.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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