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What Is Foursomes in Golf? A Simple Guide, How to Play


Foursomes has grown in popularity over the years as a form of golf team-play. Beating your friends by yourself is a great flex, but beating two of them with a partner is twice as fun. Golfers love the approachable, casual tone that foursomes offers. Today we’ll talk about where foursomes started, and how you can play correctly. 

What is a Foursome?

Any four golfers playing in the same group at the recreational level is commonly referred to as a “foursome” of golfers. 

In a foursome, golfers compete in teams of two, using only one ball per team, and take it in turns to hit shots until the hole is completed. In this style of play, the team with the fewest number of shots wins. 

For each team of two, members are expected to alternate who tees off. For example, Player 1 will tee off on even-numbered holes and Player 2 will tee off on odd-numbered holes. 

Alternate shot is a very common name for the foursomes format. The format is also sometimes called Scotch Doubles. A two-person team consisting of one man and one woman is often called “Mixed Foursomes.” Scotch Foursomes is also a variation on the format. 

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How Foursomes Started


The term foursomes was coined early by Scottish golfers who played in groups of four long before golf grew popular in America. The foursome was largely popularized by a few tournaments at which it saw heavy adoption. The foursome grew extremely popular at these events:

  • The Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup for the professionals against Team Europe. 
  • The Walker Cup and The Curtis Cup for the amateurs against Team GB&I. 
  • The President’s Cup

Rules of The Foursome 

All of the Official Rules apply during foursomes play, but there are a few discrepancies so be sure to take note. 

One key change to remember is that penalties don’t affect which player plays next. If you send the ball launching into the lake, your partner(who would usually play next) needs to drop the ball and play it following a standard AB format. 

Another key difference from normal play to foursome play is alternating who tees off. As nice as it would be to have one player drive and the other play the fairway, this is against the rules. Taking turns teeing off is what makes foursomes so fun and frustrating at the same time: one mistake from either player and it can cost you the hole. 

Unspoken Rules of Foursomes

Foursomes requires patience and diplomacy. Although it’s not in the rulebook, being a good partner is extremely important. Foursomes depend on your team’s ability to stay focused. Staying supportive even when your partner makes mistakes will help them be more sympathetic when you have a bad shot and they have to clean up your mess. 

Don’t say sorry. You’re in it together. 

Types of Foursome Play


Stroke Play vs Match Play

Sometimes it’s fun to shake things up and play stroke play rather than match play. When you play stroke play in a foursome, you’re simply competing for the lowest overall score rather than number of holes won. 

Four Ball Best Ball

In this type of play, both you and your partner play a ball. You just take the better score between the two of you as the final score. 

This type of play is ideal for larger groups and allows you to play a little bit faster. 

The fun thing about the best ball is that you’re allowed to get strokes ahead of par, so you can call it a win if you finish the course early.

For example, if Team A goes 4 holes up on the 17th green – game over as there are only 1 holes left. They win at this point and the match is recorded as a 4&1 win. 

If the two teams in the foursome are tied, it’s standard to have a sudden death match until someone goes out. Good luck!

Handicaps in Foursomes


Foursomes for handicaps is a pretty straightforward concept. You add their two scores together and divide by 2. 

  • Medal Play Example: Player 1, 16 hcp, Player 2, 20 hcp. A total of 36 shots divided by 2 is 18 shots. This is how many strokes to subtract from your final score in a medal round. 
  • Match Play Example: Players 1 and 2 hcps are 12 and 12 Total of 12 divided by 2 is 12 shots. Subtract the lesser score from the greater one(in this case they’re the same). Then divide by 2 for the score on the hole.

Handicaps in Four Ball Best Ball 

The handicap format for four ball best ball is a little bit different:

Match play, 2 vs. 2: For a foursomes match between two teams, subtract the lower combined handicaps from the higher combined handicaps. 

The USGA Handicap Manual says: “The allowance for the higher-handicapped side is 50 percent of the difference between the combined Course Handicap of each side.”

Match play vs. Par or Bogey: In this case, combine the partners’ handicaps and divide by half.

Stroke play: Handicap allowance is 50-percent of the partners’ combined course handicaps. Add the course handicaps together and divide by half.

Foursomes Strategy Tip

Determine before the round which are the toughest driving holes on the course being played. Based on that, have your best driver hit off those holes if there’s any kind of pattern. Whoever drives first will play odds, second will drive evens, and so on. 


Foursomes are a different and fun way to get competitive out there on the course. While it can be frustrating playing with a partner, it forces you to focus on consistency in your swing, shot shape, etc. more than playing by yourself. Choose your partner wisely and have fun out there!

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