Best Way to Understand Matchplay in Golf

This is the form of competition in which you compete hole by hole against one individual or a partnership.

Matchplay is different from strokeplay, in which you are competing against the whole field of players on the score overall. In matchplay, the player with the lower score on each hole wins that hole, playing either level or off handicap.

Understand Match Play in Golf Best Way to Understand Matchplay in Golf

Assume, for example, that golfer A is playing a match against golfer B and they are playing level. A wins the first hole with a four to B’s five. A goes one up and correctly B should state the score – that she is one down. On the second hole, both players have live and they therefore halve the hole and A remains one up. A wins the third and goes two up, while B then is two down.

Say A is eventually three up after 15 holes -that is, three up with three to play. We now say that she is ‘dormie three’, meaning that she cannot lose unless they go into extra holes. A and B halve the 16th, so that A remains three up with only two holes left. At this point B cannot catch her and so we say that A has won by three holes up and two holes to play, abbreviated to 3 and 2.

If, for example, B won the 16th, 17th and 18th, the players would finish the match all square. It would depend on the rules of the competition and the format as to whether they went on to play extra holes. That would mean going down the 1st again, which then becomes the 19th. Or the match ends there.

If it is a knockout competition, then they would go on to the 19th, 20th and so on, until there was a definite winner. If it is a club or international match, then often the play would finish at the 18th and a halved match would be recorded.

Here are some points on golf etiquette:

  • On the first tee you should toss for who gets the honour of playing first, unless there is a set draw saying who should play. It is not correct simply for the lower-handicap player to go first.

Understand Match Play in Golf 1 Best Way to Understand Matchplay in Golf

  • The player who wins the hole gets the ‘honour on the next tee and drives first. She keeps the honour until the other player wins a hole.
  • Correctly, the player who is down should declare the score alter each hole. This is not always done, but it should be. There is no need to keep a card of the match, provided this is done. In matchplay, you do not hole out and the hole by hole score is not relevant.
  • If receiving a stroke when playing matchplay tinder handicap, the player receiving the stroke should announce this. She is responsible for claiming the stroke.

Rules for matchplay and strokeplay differ. In matchplay you are playing only against your opponent, whereas in strokeplay you are playing against the whole field.

It is not possible to go back and change the score. You must also state correctly the number of shots taken, if asked. If you do not, and do not correct the information before your opponent plays, you forfeit that hole. This is an example of a rule that does not apply in strokeplay. Try to grasp the difference in the rules.

The thinking side

This is very important in matchplay. As a general rule, try to play matchplay in the same way as you would strokeplay – in other words, just play the course and try to build up a good score without thinking too much about what your opponent is doing. If your opponent plays a bad shot, don’t alter the way you play the next one. Don’t change your approach to a hole until you know what your opponent has scored. It is very easy to assume she is going to hole a putt of, perhaps, 1.2m (4ft). If you arc too bold with your 3-metre (10-ft) putt and she then misses hers, you will probably miss yours as well.

It is very easy to be sidetracked by your opponent. Typically you see her drive out of bounds. Your first mistake is that you probably think ‘Good! . Your second mistake is that you change your driver to a 3 wood for safety. You then change your second shot from a 3 wood to a 7 wood, again for safety. Meanwhile your opponent crashes her ball onto the green in two more splendid shots, right by the hole. Put off by this, you take sis, she takes five and you lose the hole. Easily done, and the match can be lost through that one silly error.

Remember that the match is not lost or won until the final putt is holed, and always think positively about the shot in hand, as you would in strokeplay. If you were five up and are suddenly only two up, forget what is past. Again, just live for the moment – the here and now. Remember, you cannot change what has gone before on the golf course.

Understand Match Play in Golf 2 Best Way to Understand Matchplay in Golf

Huge swings of fortune can take place in a match. You can be 5 up and lose; you can be 5 down and win. The golden rule is that, if you are the player who is up, you must never, ever feel sorry for your opponent – even if she is very young, very old or slightly tearful! She won’t be feeling sorry for you. Don’t relax or experiment with silly shots. Aim at winning by the biggest margin you can. Don’t take any notice if she apologises for not giving you a game. The golf course and your own inadequacies give you a game and a challenge without any help from her.

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