At its core, golf is played by swinging a club to hit a ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. But there are a variety of individual or team competitions that can be played. Here are the most popular to try.
The most common way to score golf, Stroke Play is a format where a golfer plays their own ball from tee to the hole and adds up how many strokes. At the end of the round, add up all the shots from every hole.
In match play, you compete against an opponent on every hole, and each hole is worth 1 point. So if you win the first hole, you are 1-up (even if you win the hole by two or more shots). A player has won the match once they are up more holes than there are left. Matches can end in a tie (halved).
A fun team game, in Best Ball, you and a teammate both play your own ball on each hole, but you only record the better of the two scores. Sometimes Best Ball is played in a team, match-play format called “Fourball.”
An especially fun option for new players, in a Scramble, the entire group plays their tee shot and chooses the best shot to play from. Each player hits from that same location and picks best shot from there, and so on, until the ball is holed.
Playing with a Handicap Index®
A Handicap Index provides you with a measure of your playing ability. The lower your handicap, the better golfer you are. It can be used to track your performance (or see how much you are improving!), as well as to create a fair game with your friends and other golfers with different abilities. It is easy to get a Handicap Index. If there is a course that you play often, get in touch with the golf shop. Chances are, you can get set up on the same day. In addition, the Allied Golf Association (AGA) in your area can provide you some options. A list of AGAs can be found at usga.org/aga. Once you have a Handicap Index, remember to post your scores so that your handicap accurately represents your game. There are multiple ways to post scores for handicap purposes, including through a mobile app. To learn more about handicapping, visit usga.org/whs.