Foursome Golf Format Explained – Tips And Guides

“Foursomes”, which is also known as “alternate shot” is a “pairs” playing format in golf.

This format of golf is often played in Professional team golf competitions such as The Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Solheim Cup, and the Seve Trophy.

The foursomes match-play format is also used in the Walker Cup.

In “Foursomes” there are two golfers in a team and two teams in a foursome. The two golfers in a team use only one ball and take alternate shots until the hole is completed.

Foursomes can be played as a “Stroke play” or “Matchplay” competition. 

Golfer A tees off, Golfer B plays the second shot, Golfer A plays the third shot and, so on until the ball is holed.

The players also alternate in teeing off.

 The players should decide before the round starts, which player will tee off first to ensure that the best Driver off the tee, tees off on most of the more difficult holes.

If it is decided that Golfer A will tee off first then Golfer A will tee off on all the odd-numbered holes and Golfer B will tee off on all the even-numbered holes. 

All the Official Rules in Golf for individual play apply during foursome play except that players have to alternate in teeing off and to play each hole with alternate shots. The Official Rules of Golf. Rule 22.

Other rules that need to be explained are a follows.

22.1  Both players in a team are responsible for recording their handicaps on the scorecard. If the team submits a scorecard on which the handicap of each player is not recorded the team will be disqualified.

22.2  It does not matter which partner marks the spot of the ball or, lifts, replaces, drops or, places the ball. It does not have to be done only by the player whose turn it is to play next.

Players and their caddies may help each other ( give or ask for advice) as long as they stay within the Rules.

In stroke play, only one of the partners needs to certify the side’s hole scores on the scorecard.

22.3  If a team decides to play a provisional ball, it must be played by the player who is scheduled to play the next shot.

If a player plays a stroke in the wrong order that is a breach of Rule 22.3.

 The player who should have played the stroke must make a stroke from the spot where the team played the stroke in the wrong order.

If the team does not correct the mistake before completing the hole in which the mistake was made, or if the mistake occurs on the final hole and is not corrected before submitting their scorecard that team will be disqualified.

It is often asked how handicaps are calculated in foursome competitions.

The handicap depends on the type of format being played.

In match play, the handicaps of both players on a team are added together. The combined totals of both teams in a foursome are then added together.

For example, if the combined total of the handicaps of team A is 18 and team B’s is 28.

 Subtract the lower handicap total from the highest one. In this example, it will be 10. Divide that total by two giving you 5.

This means that team A must give team B, 5 shots.

In strokeplay, the handicap for the team is calculated by adding both players’ handicaps together and halving the total.

A mixed foursome is played by two teams, each team consisting of one male and one female player. 

A mixed foursome is one golf game where both genders can play together.

The type of match or scoring rules may vary. Normally the players will choose a match format and decide on the specific rules before starting to play.

Every shot for each player in a team can be counted.  Then add up the team scores on completing the round to decide who wins.

Handicaps are used to help weaker players and keep the playing field level.

A “best ball” format can also be played where each player tees off and then the best ball is played alternating shots between male and female players’ until the hole is completed. 

Use a scoring system that everyone is happy with.

A variation of Foursomes is Greensomes.

With Greensomes both players in a team will tee off from the teeing area. The best shot from the tee is selected. The next shot is played by the player whose shot was not selected and then strokes are alternated between the two partners until the ball is holed.

The second shot played may not necessarily be the longest drive if the position of the ball does not suit the shot shape of the player that has to hit it.

Greensome can be more forgiving due to both players playing their ball from the tee. If one player is driving well and the other player is struggling off the tee this will be an advantage to that team.

The Bloodsomes game is another variation on Foursomes. 

It is similar to Greensomes. All four players play a ball from the tee. The difference is that in Bloodsome the opposing team decides which ball the other team will play. 

 The opposing team will obviously choose the ball they consider to be the more difficult ball to play.

In Foursome Golf played as match play, the team with the lowest score on each hole wins the hole.

Scoring in match play, 1 point is given for each hole won. If both teams record the same number of shots then the hole is halved. No points are given.

In an 18 hole match, if team A wins the first hole then team A is 1-up. If team B wins the second hole then the teams are said to be “all square”. If the third hole is halved the teams are still “all square” after three holes.

Once a team is “up” more holes than the number of holes remaining to play, the match is over.

For example, If team A is 4 up with 3 holes to play, team A is said to have won the game”4 and 3”.

A dormie is where a team requires one more halved hole to win the game. If a team is 3 up with 3 holes to go that team is dormie.

If the teams are all square after 18 holes in an 18 hole tournament the teams will play on until a team wins a hole (sudden death).

The advantage of playing foursomes is that because only 2 balls are played on each hole, a round of golf can be played in a shorter time than most other formats. 

Players hitting the second or third shot can move forward before the ball is played allowing the player to be ready to hit the next shot sooner.

Being ahead of the player taking the shot enables the player to find a ball that has been hit into heavy rough.

Foursome Golf is a great team competition and is played in many Major Professional Tournaments.

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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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