The Fourball Alliance Golf Tournament

Four golfers on a green at Tamarron Hilton Resort
4-Ball Alliance is a format for teams of four golfers. Tony Roberts/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

When playing a golf tournament with teams of four, there are a number of different formats golfers can utilize to even the playing field and make a fun, friendly competition for the athletes, one of which is known as the Fourball Alliance Tournament.

In the Fourball Alliance, or "Four-ball/4-ball Alliance," Stableford scoring is used where each hole uses a preset number of players' scores from each team to calculate the team's score; more often than not, this means just the two best scores from the team of four, but it can include up to all four player's scores.

This variation is known as the Irish Four Ball in Australia, though it offers a few variations to the scoring method for each team, as does the United Kingdom's version of this format called bowmaker and the United States' 1-2-3 Best Ball or Money Ball.​

How the Fourball Alliance Format Works

The first two things to know about a fourball alliance tournament: The teams each consist of four golfers and the format is typically played using Stableford scoring, which relies on the organizer determining the fixed score for each hole and awarding points based on how far above or below the person is on that score.

Each golfer on both teams plays his or her own golf ball throughout, just like in normal golf, and each subsequently records his or her own score at the end of each hole. However, here's the key point about the team's score: On each hole, a predetermined number of team members' scores are combined for one team score.

Most commonly, the best two scores among the four team members are combined. So let's say that on the first hole, the scores of the four team members are 0, 0, 1 and 2 (remember, fourball alliance is usually played with Stableford points for scoring). The 1 and the 2 are the two best scores, so the team score is 3 (1 plus 2).

If fourball alliance is played as standard stroke play, and team members' scores are 4, 5, 6 and 7, the team score is 9 (4 plus 5) on that hole, and with score according to par, a team who scored -1, -2, 0 and 0 would earn a team score of -3 (one-under plus two-under par).

Variations in Computing the Team Score

We used a simple example in which the best two scores among the four golfers on a team are combined on every hole for the team score. But there are other variations that can be used to compute a team score.

For example, on the first hole use the one low score; on the second hole combine the two low scores; on the third hole combine the three low scores, and then start that rotation over on the fourth hole (one low score) — this style of tournament play is known as 1-2-3 Best Ball in the United States.

Above we listed a few alternate names for fourball alliance; you can find other potential scorekeeping options by checking out some of those definitions.