Most Popular Golf Tournament Formats

Golf ball sitting on the short grass
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There are many different golf tournament formats, and some of the oddest are played at company outings, golf association playdays, and the like. But, what are the most popular? And how are they played? We've left out the big twoa charity tournament, or league play, etc., some golfers will be less experienced. That's where the Peoria Scoring System comes in. stroke play and match play - in order to get in a couple more esoteric formats.

Scramble

Team of golfers in a scramble tournament
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The Scramble is probably the most common format for team tournaments. It can be played by 2-, 3- or 4-person teams, and involves choosing the one best shot following every stroke, with each team member then playing again from that one spot. Variants include the Texas Scramble and Florida Scramble.

Best Ball

A team of four golfers on the tee
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In a Best Ball tournament, all members of each team play their own balls on each hole. At the completion of the hole, the lowest score among all team members serves as the team score. If there are four members on a team, and on the first hole those four golfers score 4, 7, 6 and 5, the team score is 4, because that is the best ball among the four players. When played by 2-person teams at match play, best ball is known as fourball, which is one of the formats used at the Ryder Cup.

Modified Stableford

Modified Stableford scoring
The PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open uses signs held by a cartoon gopher to let fans know how its Modified Stableford scoring works. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

A Modified Stableford competition can be played by individuals or as a team tournament. In Modified Stableford, the idea is to have the highest score - because your score on each hole is worth a certain amount of points. A birdie, for example, might be worth 2 points. Modified Stableford has been used in several tour events over the years, including currently at the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open.

Chapman (also known as Pinehurst)

Golfers putting near a water hazard
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When the Chapman System (aka Pinehurst System) is the format for a tournament, it means that 2-person teams will be competing. Chapman is really a melding of several formats into one. In a Chapman event, teammates switch balls after their tee shots, select the one best ball after their second shots, then play alternate shot until the ball is holed.

Greensomes

Two golfers teeing off
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Greensomes, also known as Modified Pinehurst and Scotch Foursomes, is a format for 2-person teams. It's similar to Chapman scoring mentioned above, except there is no switching of balls after the teammates' drives. In Greensomes, both golfers on a team hit drives, the best of the two drives is selected, and they play alternate shot from that point into the hole—from the second stroke on.

Bingo Bango Bongo

golfer retrieving ball from hole
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This is one of the most popular formats for golf association tournaments and league tournaments in the USA. Bingo Bango Bongo rewards players for three things on each hole: being the first player in the group to get onto the green, being closest to the hole once all group members are on the green, and being the first player in the cup.

Flags (or Flag Tournament)

golfer trying to play out of tall grass
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In a Flags tournament, all golfers begin the round with a set number of strokes (related to their handicaps), and they play until their strokes run out. The player who makes it farthest on his or her allotment of strokes is the winner. Flag tournaments are popular in league play and are a staple of ladies playdays.​​

Devil Ball/Money Ball/Yellow Ball

A golf ball made of money
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Devil Ball is a familiar format that is known by many different names, including Money Ball, Yellow Ball, Lone Ranger, Pink Lady, and Pink Ball. Whatever you call it, it puts the onus on one player per team per hole to come through with a good score. Players in a group of four rotate playing the "devil ball." On each hole, the score of the golfer whose turn it is to play the devil ball is combined with the low score from among the other three team members to form the team score.

Quota Tournament

Ryan Moore hits a tee shot during the 2016 Tour Championship
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A "quota tournament" is very similar in structure to another format called Chicago. In a Quota, golfers start with a certain amount of points (the amount is based on handicaps), then add points based on achievements (bogeys, pars, birdies, eagles). The goal to reach a quota of 36 points. The golfer who meets and exceeds his or her quota by the largest amount is the winner.

Peoria System

Golfers watching tee shots during a charity golf tournament
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The Peoria System is a sort of 1-day handicap system for a stroke play tournament in which most of the players do not have established handicaps. It allows all players to, following the round, deduce something resembling a handicap allowance and applies it to their scores. Peoria involves totaling your score on preselected (but secret, until after the round) holes, then doing some multiplication and division. It allows large groups of golfers without handicaps to compete on a roughly even basis.

The Callaway System is the name of another such system and it is probably just as popular as Peoria for issuing 1-day handicaps.