How to Play the Round Robin Golf Format

Group of four golfers at a charity tournament
A round robin is a golf format for groups of four golfers, who rotate partners in a series of 2-vs.-2 matches. Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

Round Robin is the name of a golf format for a group of four golfers who pair off for two-vs.-two matches, with the partners rotating every six holes. That way, each member of the quartet partners every other golfer in the quartet for one of those six-hole matches—an 18-hole round includes three different partnerships and three matches for each golfer.

Round Robin is known by several other names, among the most common being Sixes and Hollywood.

Note that there is another format called "3 In 1" in which the partners stay the same throughout but the format changes every six holes. In Round Robin, the format remains the same throughout the 18 holes but the partners who rotate.

How Partners Rotate in Round Robin

Let's do an example of the Round Robin rotation—three six-hole matches are played, two-vs.-two, with the partners changing every six holes.

Let's label our four golfers A, B, C and D. Here's how Round Robin rotation works:

  • On Holes 1-6, A and B partner against C and D;
  • For holes 7-13, A and C partner against B and D;
  • On holes 13-18, A and D partner against B and C.

In his  book Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play, Chi Chi Rodriguez—who has played a lot of round robins—says:

"Round Robin is a great way for players of mixed abilities to spend an afternoon. A weak player has a chance to win a bet or two, and no one player feels that he or she has to carry the day."

Selecting the first Round Robin Partnerships

How do members of your group of four golfers decide who partners whom for the first match? Do it by agreement, or do it completely at random. For random draws, you can mark four pieces of paper A, B, C and D and draw them from a cap, then start out A/B vs. C/D. Or get a golf ball from each of the four golfers and toss them in the air; the two golfers whose balls stop closest to each other form one side for the first match.

Different Ways to Play/Bet Round Robin Format

Round Robins most commonly use variations on fourball as the method of play: Each golfer plays his or her own ball throughout. Play it either as stroke play (one low ball per side, or combine both golfers' scores for a team score) or as match play (one low ball per side). But you can use any competitive format you like that works for a two-vs.-two match.

If the four golfers are very close in playing ability, then using the two-combined-scores approach puts pressure on everyone to perform throughout. If the group has golfers of varying skill levels, though, stick with one-low-ball-per-hole as the side's score.

If your group wants to wager on a Round Robin, there are two ways to do that:

  • Each 6-hole match represents a separate wager, and your goal is to be on the winning side in at least two of those three matches.
  • Or, in match play, award one point to each golfer on the team that wins a hole, then pay out the difference in points at the end of the match.