The two basic forms of competition and scoring are Match Play and Stroke Play.

The Match Play competition is played hole² by hole. The side (player or team) with the fewest number of strokes (net or gross) wins the hole. The match is won by the side that wins the most number of holes.

In Stroke Play the total number of strokes is counted over one or more rounds of 18 holes. The side (player or team) with the lowest total score (net or gross) wins.

Stableford, Par and Bogey competitions are forms of Stroke Play in which golfers play against a fixed score at each hole (par). Par and Bogey competitions incorporate the main attribute of Match Play (winning or losing of holes) into a Stroke Play competition.

stroke play scoring strokeplay score

match play scoring matchplay score


Many formats of golf competition can be played under Match Play or Stroke Play rules. Some of them are listed in Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping, so they are called the “official” formats. The official tournament formats are listed in the table below.

Official formats of golf competition


Scoring system

Match Play

Stroke Play
(Stableford, Par)





Three Ball

Four Ball

Best Ball


Other tournament formats that are not listed in R&A documents are “non-official”, but popular with golf societies. There are: Scramble (Ambrose), Texas Scramble, Patsome, Chapman, No Alibis, Portuguese Caddy, String and Flags tournaments.

The third group includes side bet formats: Nassau, Bingo-Bango-Bongo, Skins and tens of others.

The short descriptions of the above formats are available in our Glossary. Click on the name of format to see the required description.


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update: January 2017