Rules of the Game: Golf Match Play Basics

Are you looking to switch up your golf? Is the same old golf course getting a little stale for you?

Well, there are other options out there for you to try out. Golf match play is a variant of standard golf that adds an extra layer of competition which could totally revolutionize your gameplay.

Let’s go through what golf match play is and how it works.

What is Golf Match Play? 

Golf match play is a form of golf where you compete against opponents. Unlike a regular game of golf, each hole in golf match play is counted as a separate match up (rather than all 18 holes being counted collectively).

Instead of the person who has the fewest overall strokes on the entire course winning the game, the person with the fewest strokes on each hole will win. This includes both penalty strokes and strokes made.

If you and your opponent complete the hole in the same number of strokes, you’ll each receive half of the hole. If, after eighteen holes, you’re still tied with your opponent, you’ll compete in a sudden death tiebreaker for the win.

Golf match play can be seen in a few of the major tournaments, such as the Volvo World Match Play Championship, the International Crown, the Ryder Cup, and WGC Match Play.

Golf Match Play Rules: What Are the Differences?

Besides the rules of engagement, there are other major differences between golf match play and a standard game of golf. 

In golf match play, you can request your opponent redo a shot, if they break one of the minor rules.

The order in which you play is much more important in golf match play than in standard golf play, where it’s more of a matter of tradition.

And, in golf match play, hitting your competitor or their equipment (by accident) is a penalty that allows them to require you to redo a shot.

Unlike in standard golf play, you’re only allowed to use one ball during a match play game, instead of two.

Plus, golf match play tends to have more aggressive gameplay than a stroke match, because it’s harder to win by just getting par on each hole — especially if your competition is steep.

The Conceded Putt Rules in Golf Match Play

Gimmies, or conceded putts, are allowed in golf match play, whereas they are illegal in regular games of golf. Conceded putts are when your challenger allows you to count a stroke without actually getting the ball into the hole.

However, you still have to wait for your opponent to offer you this opportunity — you can’t go around asking for gimmies. Your opponent also can’t take back a conceded putt that they’ve already offered, so there are rules on both sides.

This conceded putt rule is one of the biggest changes between the game formats, and it can add an extra level of drama to the proceedings.

For example, a misunderstanding about conceding a putt at the Solheim Cup in 2015, leading to major drama between the American and European women’s golf teams.

Why Try Out Golf Match Play?

You may be wondering: why bother? Why mix up your golf game rather than just trying out a new sport? There are actually many different reasons.

Golf match play is much more of a competitive sport than a normal game of golf. In golf match play, you’re actually competing against your opponents, rather than simply trying to complete the course.

Golf match play can be 1 vs 1, or it can be played in teams, so it offers a lot of versatility. You can also easily set up amateur or friendly match play competitions, which can add a whole new level of fun!

For those who are looking for opportunities to prove themselves, golf match play offers a lot more room for competition. In stroke play golf, if you have one bad hole, you can be completely out of the game, and that’s the whole day shot. In match play, there are a lot more opportunities to claw your way back, making it much more of a back and forth.

It can even go down to the wire. A semifinals tournament matchup between Camilo Villegas and Paul Casey went up to 24 holes!

Lastly, match play tends to be a lot more exciting than standard stroke play. Weird things tend to happen when golfers compete against each other.

If you don’t believe it, look up what has happened at the WGC Match Play event in years past. Miguel Angel Jimenez and Keegan Bradley got into a yelling match! So if you’re looking for a little more passion in your golf, match play is definitely a great choice for you.

Where Can I Play Golf Match Play?

Many golf courses will allow you to do golf match play rather than a stroke game of golf, although it depends on where you live and how many golf courses are actually open in your general region.

You’ll have to do your research and see what courses or clubs offer match play in your area, and whether these courses are suitable for the match play you’re looking to compete in.

Check out some of these top public courses to see if there’s an option for you to play golf match play in your area.

Golf Match Play Is Fun for Everyone

Clearly, golf match play is a great way to play golf that lets you engage with other people. So why not get the rules down and try out this new format today?

If you’re looking for more tips and tricks about golf or any related topics, make sure you check out some of our other blogs today.