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What is the Four Ball Format in Golf?

Four Ball Format in Golf

Mastering Teamwork on the Greens: A Guide to Four Ball Golf

The four ball format, also known as “best ball,” is a popular team game in golf where two players form a team and play against another team of two. Each player plays their own ball throughout the round, and the lowest score on each hole for each team is used for the final score.

It means that each team has two scores on every hole, and the better of the two scores is used. This format is often preferred for its friendly competitive nature and allows players to work together to achieve a low team score on partner holes.

It also adds an element of strategy as players must strategize which ball to use on each shot in order to achieve the best overall score.

Overview of Four-Ball Format

The four-ball format in golf presents an engaging mixture of individual performance and team strategy. It’s enticing to both novice and seasoned golfers alike because it allows both to excel in their own ways.

For beginners, it’s a chance to contribute to the team whose score counts without the pressure of their score counting on every hole.

For the experienced golfer, it’s an opportunity to strategize and plan for each shot, making critical decisions that affect the team’s overall score.

The allure of the four-ball format lies in this beautiful blend of camaraderie and competition, making every round of golf an exciting game of skill and strategy.

Side’s Score for Hole in Match Play and Stroke Play

The Nuances of Scoring in Four-Ball Format

In both match play and stroke play, four-ball scoring holds its unique intricacies. In match handicap match stroke play., the game revolves around the concept of winning individual holes rather than the entire round.

Consequently, the team with the lowest score on each hole wins that hole. The team winning the most holes at the end of the round emerges victorious.

On the other hand, stroke play requires a bit more calculation. Here, the team’s score per play hole is the sum of the best scores from each hole.

The team with the lower score and the lowest total score at the end of the round wins. This demands a strategic approach from both team members, stressing the importance of each shot on every hole.

Foursomes or Alternate Shot Format

Another popular team format in golf is Foursomes, commonly known as the “alternate shot” format. In this style of play, teams again consist of two players.

However, unlike the four-ball format, the two players on a team alternate shots with the same ball. One player tees off, the other player takes the next shot, and they continue to alternate in this fashion until the ball is holed.

Foursomes or Alternate Shot Format
Photo by tyler hendy:

The team with the lowest total number of shots for the whole round wins. This format emphasizes teamwork and strategy, as players must work closely together to determine the best order of play and shot selection.

It requires a high level of coordination and understanding between team members, and thus, is often seen as a true test of a team’s cohesion and skill.

When Rule 11.2 Does Not Apply in Four-Ball

Rule 11.2, in general, discards a player’s score if their ball in motion is deliberately deflected or stopped by an opponent. However, in the four-ball format, this rule does not always apply.

It is due to the unique characteristic of four-ball play, where two partners compete together and each play their own ball.

Here, if a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by their partner’s ball, fellow-competitor, or their caddies or equipment, the stroke stands and the ball must be played as it lies.

This exception underlines the distinct features and challenges of the four-ball format, making it a fascinating variant of golf.

Four Ball 101

The four-ball format in golf is not just a game; it is a learning experience that shapes character and fosters team spirit. It teaches players the importance of strategy, communication, and mutual support.

Each shot in the game is a decision made not to hurt opponent’s play or by an individual but by a team, reinforcing the belief that shared victory is far more rewarding than individual glory.

Famous Four Ball Tournaments

  1. The Ryder Cup: An iconic competition between teams from Europe and the United States, the Ryder Cup is one of the most famous tournaments incorporating the Four-Ball format.
  2. The Presidents Cup: Held every two years, the Presidents Cup pits a team from the United States against an International Team (excluding Europe).
  3. The Solheim Cup: Akin to the Ryder Cup but for women golfers, the Solheim Cup is a biennial competition between teams from the United States and Europe.
  4. The Walker Cup: The Walker Cup is a golf tournament for amateur players from the United States against the Great Britain and Ireland team.
  5. The Four-Ball Championship: Organized by the United States Golf Association (USGA), the Four-Ball Championship is a prestigious tournament exclusively played in the Four-Ball format.

When Round Starts and Ends; When Hole Is Completed

The commencement of a round in four-ball golf begins with the first stroke made from the teeing area of the designated first hole. It’s important to note that the round officially starts for a side when either the golfer plays their partner makes a stroke to begin the hole.

The round concludes once the final hole is played and the result of the match is determined.

When it comes to completing a hole, it is considered finished when neither partner holes until the ball is holed. However, in four-ball golf, a hole is considered completed for a side when both partners have completed the hole.

It provides an interesting dynamic to the game as it allows the partner with the better score on a hole to carry the team, exemplifying only one score of the key strategic aspects of the four-ball format.

Penalties Other Than Disqualification

In four-ball golf, penalties can significantly the match score and impact the game’s outcome. However, these penalties do not result in disqualification.

six golf balls near disc
Photo by Jopwell:

Rather, they involve adding penalty strokes to a player’s or team’s score. For instance, if a player breaches a rule, the player receives a penalty of one or two strokes, depending on the severity of the breach.

However, the team does not incur any additional penalty, their gross score and the other player’s score can still count for the team on that hole.

Hence, while penalties can be costly, they do not necessarily spell disaster for a team in a four-ball golf match.

Further Reading: 

FAQs About Golf Formats

What are the rules of four-ball best ball in golf?

In the four-ball best ball format of golf, teams consist of two players, each playing their own ball. The best score, or lowest number of strokes on each hole, is taken as the team score for that hole. The objective is to have the lowest cumulative score at the end of the round. The rules of golf generally apply, but one notable exception is Rule 23.8/1, which states that if one partner incurs a penalty, it does not affect the other partner’s match play or stroke back on that particular hole. This format emphasizes both individual performance and team strategy, as partners must work together to optimize their scoring opportunities.

When Round Starts?

In four-ball golf, a round begins with the first stroke made by either partner from the teeing area of the first hole. It’s crucial to remember that the round officially commences for a team when either of the teammates makes the first stroke. The round concludes when the final hole has been played and the match’s result is determined. The commencement and conclusion of a round in four-ball golf are crucial aspects that underline the game’s structure and flow.

Four ball Match Play Format in Golf?

In the four-ball match play format, two teams of two players compete against each other, with each player playing their own ball throughout. The one better ball and score, or the lowest number of strokes, from each team is taken on each hole. This format puts a significant emphasis on team strategy as the team members need to coordinate their shots and play to their strengths to ensure the best possible score for each hole.

What is the difference between foursomes and four-ball in golf?

Foursomes and four-ball are both golf formats involving teams of two. In foursomes, teammates alternate shots and play only one ball together per team, whereas in four-ball, each player has their own ball, and the team’s best score on each hole is used.

When Penalty Applies to One Partner Only or Applies to Both Partners?

In four-ball golf, penalties often apply only to the player who breaches the rules. This means if one partner incurs a penalty, it typically does not affect the other partner’s play on that particular hole. However, certain penalties, such as a breach of Rule 1-3 (Agreement to Waive Rules), could apply to both partners. In this case, if there’s an agreement between partners to waive such a rule, it leads to disqualification of both partners. Thus, while penalties often apply to one partner, certain situations may lead to penalties for both.