Golf Foursomes Format (Rules and Tips)

Foursomes golf format is one of the most popular games in team golf formats used by many players across the globe. It forces both players on each team to hit pressure shots

This format is also used in the Ryder Cup’s professional competition by teams Europe and USA.

Many people ask what is foursomes in golf? We will delve into the specifics of it as well as other variations in this article.

How Does The Foursomes Format Actually Work?

To play foursomes you need a foursome (four players) with two golfers pairing up per team.

Each member per team alternates hitting shots, that is why it is also commonly known as “alternate shot.”

Both teams use only one ball. For example, if there were two golfers named Ryan and Edwin, Ryan would tee off, Edwin would hit the second shot, Ryan the third and so forth until the ball reaches the bottom of the cup.

The two players would also alternate hitting drives on every other tee box.

📢 Need To Know: Stroke play or Match play formats can be used when playing foursomes.

It’s important to look at the layout of the course and the holes before you tee off, especially if playing for money.

This way, the better driver of the golf ball can tee off on the more challenging holes.

Foursomes Rules and Scoring

The official foursomes golf rules are used when playing this format. Of course, the one change is that the players take turns hitting.

Standard foursomes strokeplay or matchplay scoring is usually used. Amateur foursomes can use their own rules.

Some groups like to change up the scoring but just be sure both teams are in agreement before reaching the first tee.

Are There Different Rules In Mixed Foursomes?

Mixed foursomes are the same as normal foursomes except males and females are teamed up. Two teams alternate shots but each team contains one female and one male.

The rules stay the same as normal golf unless as mentioned above, custom rules are put in place prior to starting the competition.

📋 Keep in mind: In mixed foursomes, adhering to the mixed foursomes rules, either player can mark the ball, pick it up or replace it. All that matters is that the players alternated shots. Teammates are also allowed to give each other advice.

Foursomes In Match Play versus Stroke

Match play when played in foursomes usually uses the rules of standard match play where teams win holes.

For example, if team A completed the hole with fewer strokes than team B, then they win the hole giving them a point.

If team A wins the first hole, then they are considered to be “1-up”. The losing team would be “1-down”. If the teams tie the first hole then they are “AS” meaning all-square.

Matches can end quicker in match play.

If a team is 3-up by the ending of hole 16 with two holes to play then there are simply not enough holes remaining for the other team to come back.

In this scenario, the team would win the match with a score of “3 and 2”.

Holes can be conceded in match play if a player birdies for example and the other team is facing a par putt. There would be no reason to attempt the par.

For foursomes strokeplay, the total number of strokes are tallied up and at the end of the round a winner is determined.

Benefits and Drawbacks Of Foursomes Format In Golf

Match play benefits:

  • Rounds can be finished quicker with less holes sometimes being played and holes being conceded. Tap-in putts known as “gimmies” are also given.
  • If a team blows up a hole by hitting multiple shots out of bounds, the match is still competitive since strokes aren’t counted at the end. Only holes are.

Match play drawbacks:

  • Some golfers would rather use total strokes to determine the outcome but here they are not used.
  • Certain groups would rather play all 18 holes so if the match ends early they can still finish the round but just for fun.

Stroke play benefits:

  • Every stroke in a round is used so golfers feel important hitting every shot.
  • Some golfers don’t like giving each other “gimmies” so a missed short putt could determine the outcome since they aren’t used in official stroke play rules.
  • If a team scored one stroke worse for each of the first three holes, they wouldn’t be down three points so the deficit would easier to make up rather than having to win three holes.

Stroke play drawbacks:

  • If you hit one into the water and your teammate does the same on the following shot, you’re looking at a big deficit compared to match play where you’d only lose the hole.
  • If a team is up by a large number of strokes entering the 18th hole, you are still forced to play it whereas in match play the competition would’ve been over in most scenarios.

How Do You Calculate Foursomes Handicaps?

To calculate foursomes handicaps each set of teams adds up their handicaps.

You then calculate the difference between the two totals.

After doing this, divide the difference by two to determine the amount of shots the higher (worse) handicapped team gets.

In officially regulated competitions the rules of golf state that players must record their handicaps on the scorecard. If not, the team will be disqualified.

📢 Need To Know: It is written in the USGA Handicap Manual: “The allowance for the higher-handicapped side is 50 percent of the difference between the combined Course Handicap of each side.”

Who Hits The Provisional Ball In Foursomes?

If a player hits the ball out of bounds then the next player has to play the provisional ball from the same spot or hit the dropped ball.

Earning a penalty stroke doesn’t change the order in which the golfers play. They always have to take turns.

Foursomes Variations

There are many types of golf games for foursomes. Below we will explain different variations and how they work.


Greensomes is one type of foursomes competition.

Both players per team tee off on every hole in greensomes. The better drive is then picked to be used.

The player whose shot was not chosen from the drive then hits the next shot. From there players continue alternating until the next hole.

The second shot selected doesn’t have to be the longest drive. It can be whatever the team agrees to. For example, in the fairway or out of tree trouble.

📋 Keep in mind: This game is easier to play for each team since they’re able to select a more suitable shot, especially if one player is poor with the big stick.


Bloodsomes is another version of foursomes.

Like greensomes, both players on each team drive the ball. The change in formats is the opposite team chooses which ball their opponent will play.

This makes it crucial to keep the ball in play and preferably in the fairway since the other team will clearly pick the poorer shot.

Chapman (Also known as American Foursomes)

Chapman can be played with just two players in stroke play where they are essentially facing off against the course together or with four golfers in a two versus two setup.

Both players tee off and then the players hit the other person’s ball for the second shot.

Next, the players pick the best spot of the two balls to hit the next shot. From there, they play alternate shot with one ball until it is in the hole.

Chapman can be confusing so here is a video showing how it works with a visual aid.


What’s the difference between foursomes and four-ball?

A foursome is a playing format in which four players are involved and are split into two teams. The teams compete with each other, usually one ball per team, and each team member takes alternate shots. On the other hand, a four-ball is a golf game in which all the members have  their own ball and take alternate shots.

How do you play Scotch foursomes in golf?

In Scotch foursomes, the first player tees off, and then both players of the same team hit the same ball by taking alternate shots until the ball is holed.

Can you share clubs in foursomes?

Yes, you can share clubs while playing foursome. However, you are only allowed to share clubs in case the total clubs between you and your partner are less than 14 before starting a round.  You can also keep adding clubs during a round until the number of clubs reach 14.

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Lawrence Smelser has been part of the Golfible writing staff since 2019 and is a freelance golf journalist. Smelser has covered the PGA Tour including the U.S. Masters with He holds a journalism Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and a Master’s journalism degree from the University of North Texas. Learn more about our team at Golfible on our About Us page.

2 thoughts on “Golf Foursomes Format (Rules and Tips)”

  1. Great article. Thanks for providing this information. In Mixed Foursomes, once the handicaps have been calculated and the number of strokes are determined, are the stroke holes based on the Men’s rating or the Women’s rating?


    • Hi Ted,
      I think this article from England golf will help you here.

      Specifically: In Foursomes tournaments from mixed tees, when a single ball is in play, the Committee must specify in the Terms of the Competition which single set of tees will determine the Pars and Stroke Index that are to be used but it is recommended that the Ladies’ Par and Stroke Index is used. This does not then require Ladies to play holes that have a lower Par than would be recommended. It does mean that Men may return somewhat higher scores than against their own Par, however, to do otherwise would militate against Ladies making an appropriate contribution.

      Kind regards,



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