The Difference between Match Play and Stroke Play

As you continue to work on your golf game and master your technique for tee shots, the approach, and putts, you’ll undoubtedly put in hours upon hours of time out on the course. Working with golf instructors allows you to improve every part of your game so that you can advance through the youth ranks and work your way up to your dream of becoming a professional golfer. Along the way, you will get the opportunity to play in a number of tournaments as a youth amateur, potentially even in college, or at local and regional events near your home. The two major tournament formats you will encounter are match play and stroke play, and it is important to learn about the differences between the two so you know what to expect beforehand.

Match Play

Match play is exactly what it sounds like. Golfers are matched up against one another in a tournament bracket and must face off round by round until there is only one champion remaining. Whereas major tournaments on the PGA Tour are won by shooting lower scores than the rest of the field, match play rounds are won by shooting lower than your particular opponent.

The rules are fairly simple: Get a better score than your opponent on a hole, and you win a point. If you have the same score on a hole, no point is awarded. At the end of the round, the golfer with the most points wins and advances in the tournament. A match play tournament can move faster than stroke play due to the flexibility in the rules.

For example, if your opponent is closer than you are and is within feet of the hole, you can concede him or her the shot without it having to be taken. In the same way, your opponent can concede the hole and the point to you if he or she feels the hole cannot be won. If at any time one golfer is ahead by more points than there are holes remaining, the match is over.

Match play forces players to compete to win individual holes, as the golfer with the most holes won is the winner of the match. This means your approach can be more aggressive for each hole. Instead of using a stroke to play into a more favorable position for the next shot, golfers often take more risks in order to defeat their opponent and win the hole.

Becoming a professional golferStroke Play

A stroke play tournament is what most golf fans and new players are familiar with. This is the most basic form of golf, where the golfer with the lowest score wins the prize. Each golfer keeps his or her own score and writes it down at the end of each hole. Be sure to record the amount of strokes and penalties taken in order to complete the hole. At the end of the round, each golfer’s score is totaled, and the one with the lowest score is declared the winner.

Should two or more golfers have identical scores at the end of the tournament, which may last multiple rounds, they will enter a playoff to determine the winner. This is done with a sudden-death match-play format. The golfers play the same playoff hole, and the one with the better shots wins. If the score remains tied, the golfers continue until it is broken.

You can learn more about the basics of golf and tournament scoring formats by contacting the International Junior Golf Academy. IJGA hosts over 130 full-time students, training junior golfers for success in tournament golf and beyond. Talk with a representative today for more information by calling IJGA at (843) 686-1500.

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