GOLF RULES!: Tournament Basics


Golf tournament season is here and chances are you have been asked to play in a tournament. A golf tournament is an excellent way to fund raise and get outside. There are several tournaments scheduled in Franklin County, including the Clash of the Clubs presented by Leg Up Farm. This tournament is Monday, May 8 at 8 a.m. at Penn National Golf Club 3720 Club House Drive in Fayetteville. 

Clash of the Clubs is a scramble format with a shot gun start. Well if you are like me, you have no idea what that means. Let’s break down what to expect. 

There are basically two ways to begin the golf event; by way of tee times for a shotgun. Utilizing tee times means every means every group is assigned a different starting time throughout the day to begin their round. Start times are often separated by about 8 to 10 minutes and every group begins on the same hole and finishes on the same hole (most commonly beginning on haul 1 and finishing on hole 18).  

A shotgun start means every group begins to tournament at the exact same time.  This is able to be accomplished because every group begins there round on a different hole.  For example, the group that begins their round on hole 7 finishes their round on hole 6, while the group that begins their round on hole 15, finishes their round on hole 14.  

The shotgun format is most common for charity fundraising, because in part, it allows all participating golfers to gather for a post-round meal since everyone finishes the first event around the same time. Typically, these tournaments take a bit longer to complete than a tee time event, so rather than budgeting for a typical 4 hour round of golf, it’s safe to assume a shotgun will be completed in about 4.5 hours.  

While golf has a specific set of rules and regulation for how the game is to be played, there are near infinite variations of formats under which we can all enjoy a round with our friends. A 4-person scramble is the most popular type of event for an organization’s fundraiser because there is little pressure on each individual golfer and there is no format which offers the chance at producing lower scores.  


Typically consists of 4 team members, this format is often considered the most fun as it allows for players to avoid the result of an errant shot.   

Each player hits their tee shot. The group decides which of these shots were best, and all four teammates hit their next shot from the location of that ball. This continues until the ball is holed for a score.  

Best Ball 

The term best ball might sound like the appropriate name for a scramble as the group continues to select the best golf ball after each shot but this is an entirely different format. Best ball, also known as four-ball, is when each golfer plays their own golf ball for an entire hole and the lowest score of all the teammates is counted as the team score for that given hole.  

Alternate Shot 

While this format is officially known as foursomes (not to be confused with four-ball described above), most everyone knows this format by the much more descriptive term of alternate shot.  Typically two golfers are paired as a team and they only use a single golf ball.  One player hits a tee shot and then they alternate turns so the other player can hit the next shot this continues until the golf ball is holed. One golfer tees off all the even holes and the other tees off all the odd holes, regardless of which player was last to hit a shot on the previous hole.  


This format is designed for players to limit the often erratic nature of a tee shot, while still playing most of the shots with your own golf ball.  Each player hits a tee shot, and just as is the case with a scramble, the group decides which tee shot is best and all their shots are then played from that location. This format differs from a scramble because after the tee shot, each player utilizes their own ball to play every other shot until every in the group holes out with their own ball for a score.  

Stableford System 

Individual golf scores are replaced with a point system in the Stableford system. The points awarded for scoring on each hole can be varied based on the ability level of golfers playing the event. The following is an example of scoring you could use: 

5 points = Eagle 

4 points = Birdie 

3 points = Par 

2 points = Bogey  

1 point = Double Bogey 

0 points = any other score 

This allows for a quicker round of golf because golfers finishing with more than a double bogey can pickup their ball and continue to the next hole since they will no longer receive points, regardless of their score.  Fun fact: the Barracuda Championship is the only PGA tour event which utilizes a Stableford type system. 

Golf Rules! is a column written by Jillian Pavlick with the assistance of her amateur golfer husband Jonathan. Join Jillian as she learns the rules of the game and shares some tips and tricks along the way.

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