Common Golf Formats & How to Play them

Posted on: 1 August

There is so much to know and learn in the game of golf, so we’ve summarised the most common golf formats, games and events played here at Lonsdale Links.



Stroke is the most straightforward form of the game for anyone to play, although, it can also be the most painful! As the name states, the player keeps on counting the amount of strokes they have until each hole is completed. At the end of the round, the total amount of stokes the player has had for 18 holes is called their “Gross” score. The player then minuses their handicap from the gross score which will provide them with their “Nett” Score. For a player to play to their handicap in stroke, they want to finish with a nett score of even par (70 at LL).

For example, a player off an 18 handicap shoots a gross score of 88. Therefore their nett score would be 88 less 18 equalling 70.



Stableford is the most commonly used event that you will notice on the club’s booking fixture. It is a scoring system that will award the player with points based on the amount of strokes had for each hole. Stableford takes the player’s handicap into account and adjusts the player’s par for the hole accordingly. For example, if a player has a handicap of 18, they receive an extra shot in comparison to par on each hole. This would mean that a par 3 becomes a par 4, a par 4 becomes a par 5 and a par 5 becomes a par 6. The points a player receives for a hole is as follows:

  • (In comparison to YOUR par)
  • 0 points – Double Bogey or worse
  • 1 point – Bogey (One stroke over par)
  • 2 pts – Par
  • 3 pts – Birdie (One stroke under par)
  • 4 pts – Eagle (Two strokes under par)
  • 5 pts – Albatross (Three strokes under par)
  • 6 pts – Double Albatross (Four strokes under par & HIGHLY unlikely!)


In simple terms, Par format is basically match play against the golf course. On each hole, the player will receive either a plus, minus, or a half. These scores are allocated in regards to the players nett score for the hole. For example, if a player off an 18 handicap has a Bogey on a hole (Nett Par) they would receive a square. If the player has a par or better they will receive a plus, or if they have a double bogey or worse, they will receive a minus. It is important to note that no matter how many shots better or worse in comparison to par the player has, it is still only one plus or one minus that will apply. An end score of square will mean that the player played to their handicap for the day.



Matchplay competition is opponent vs opponent in a head-to-head competition (can also be played in a 2 v 2 format). Rather than trying to shoot the best possible score for the day, the player will try to win more holes than their opponent. To win a hole in matchplay, the player needs to score either a lower stroke score or nett score (depending on type of competition) than their opponent. Regardless of how many strokes the player wins a hole by, they only win THAT hole. To win in matchplay, the player then needs to be more holes up than there are holes remaining. For example, if a player is 4 holes up on their opponent and there are only 3 holes remaining, the player will then win 4 & 3.


4BBB (Four Ball Best Ball)

Although the name states otherwise, 4BBB is played in a pairs format and counts only the best score or nett score between the players on each hole. For example, if in the pair of players one person scores a nett 3 and the other a nett 4, the nett 3 score is taken. At the end of the round, the pair with the best nett score for the day will win.


Common Golf Formats Explained

Hopefully, we’ve helped clear up the nitty gritty on how to play common golf formats. Now it’s time to hit the course and try your hand at one (or all) of these great games!

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