Four Ball Golf: Rules, Strategies & How It Works In Match and Stroke Play

Are you looking for a fresh and exciting way to play golf? Four-ball is an ideal choice for those who want to add some strategic competition to the game. It’s fast-paced, fun, and designed to give every player on the course an equal chance of winning or improving their score with each round they play.

As with any classic game, understanding the rules and basic strategies is essential for success – so read on to find out all about four-ball match play (and stroke play) and how you can use it to get ahead in your next tournament game!


What Is Four-Ball Golf?

Four-ball golf, also known as better ball or best ball, is a type of golf game where two teams of two golfers compete against each other. Each player on a team plays their own ball throughout the round, and the team’s score for each hole is the lowest score of the two players. In other words, the team takes the best score for each hole, and that score is used as the team score for that hole.

For example, if one player on a team scores a 4 on a hole and the other player scores a 5, the team score for that hole is 4. If both players score a 4, the team score is 4. If one player scores a 3 and the other scores a 6, the team score is 3.

Four-ball golf can be played in match play or stroke play formats. In match play, the team with the lowest score on a hole earns a point, and the team with the most points at the end of the round wins the match. In stroke play, the team with the lowest total score at the end of the round wins the tournament.


Where Is Golf Four-Ball Played?

Four Ball In Golf
Four Ball Golf is often played in the Ryder Cup

Four-ball golf is often played in team events such as the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, as well as in casual rounds among friends. It is a popular format because it allows players to play their own ball while still being part of a team, and it often leads to lower scores due to the ability to take the best score for each hole.


What Are The Four Ball Golf Rules?

Four-ball golf is a format where two teams of two golfers compete against each other. Each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round, and the team’s best score on each hole is used for the team’s score. Here are the basic rules of four-ball golf:

  • Team Selection: Two teams of two golfers are selected to play against each other. Each team member plays their own ball throughout the round.
  • Scoring: The team’s score on each hole is the lower score of the two team members. For example, if one team member scores a 4 and the other scores a 5, the team’s score for the hole is 4.
  • Tee Shots: Each team member tees off on every hole, and the team decides which tee shot they want to use for the hole. Once the team decides which tee shot to use, the player whose ball was not selected hits the second shot.
  • Order of Play: The team can decide which player will hit the next shot after the tee shots. The player whose ball was not selected for the tee shot can choose to hit the second shot or defer to their teammate.
  • Subsequent Shots: After the second shot, the team can choose which ball to play for the remainder of the hole. The team member whose ball was not selected for the previous shot hits the next shot, and the process continues until the ball is holed out.

Overall, four-ball golf is a fun and exciting format that allows golfers to work together as a team while still competing against their opponents. Success requires strategy and teamwork and can be a great way to mix up your regular golf game.


How Does Four-Ball Golf Work In Stroke Play?

Four Ball Golf Rules
Four-Ball Golf Work In Stroke Play

In stroke play, four-ball golf is typically played as a team game where each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round. The team score for each hole is the lower of the two scores recorded by the teammates.

For example, if Golfer A scores a 4 on a hole and Golfer B scores a 5, the team score for that hole would be a 4.

At the end of the round, the total number of strokes each team takes is added to determine the winner. Four-ball stroke play can be played with two-person teams or with larger groups, depending on the tournament or event.

One key strategy in four-ball stroke play is to play aggressively on holes where one or both team members have an advantage while playing conservatively on more challenging holes. It’s also important for teammates to communicate and work together to strategize and choose the best shots for the team.


How Does Four-Ball Golf Work In Match Play?

In match play, the rules of four-ball are similar to stroke play, except that the competition is based on winning the most holes rather than having the lowest overall score. Each hole is worth one point, and the team with the best score on the hole earns the point. The hole is considered halved if the scores are tied, and each team earns a half-point.

The team with the most points at the end of the match wins. Matches can be won by a margin of 1 up (winning one more hole than the other team), 2 up, 3 up, and so on. Matches can also tie if both teams have the same points.


What Makes Four-Ball Format Different From Other Golf Formats?

The four-ball golf format is different from other golf formats because it involves two-person teams competing against each other rather than individual play. In four-ball, each player on the team plays their own ball throughout the round, and the lowest score between the two players on the team is used for the team score on each hole. This means that the team has the potential to score better than either player individually, which can make for an exciting and dynamic game.

Additionally, the scoring system in four-ball is different from other formats. In stroke play, for example, the player’s individual score for each hole is added up to determine the total score for the round. In match play, the focus is on winning individual holes, rather than the overall score. In four-ball golf, the team’s score is determined by the lowest score between the two players on the team for each hole, with the goal being to win the most holes overall. This adds a strategic element to the game as players must decide when to take risks and when to play it safely to ensure the team’s success.

The four-ball format allows for a more collaborative and team-oriented approach to golf, which can be a refreshing change for players who are used to individual play. It also requires players to be strategic and work together to maximize their success on the course.


Strategies For Golf Four-Ball Format

Four Ball Golf
Credit: Jopwell

The key to success in four-ball is developing a strong strategy and working together as a team. Here are some strategies that can help maximize success when playing this format:

Choose The Right Partner

It is important to play to your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses in any endeavor. This is especially true when choosing a partner, whether for a business venture or a game of golf. If you are a strong driver but struggle with putting, it only makes sense to team up with someone who excels on the green. By complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you can create a winning combination that sets you apart from the competition.

Choosing a partner who is a good fit for you not only improves your chances of success but also allows you to learn from each other and grow as individuals. So take the time to assess your own skills and find a partner who complements them – the results will speak for themselves.

Be Aggressive

Four-ball golf is a game of strategic skill that requires players to be bold and daring. This type of golf rewards aggressive play, providing ample opportunities for players to take risks and push themselves to their limits. While the notion of playing it safe may be tempting, it is important to remember that playing to win is the ultimate goal.

Being aggressive on the course not only showcases a player’s skills but also helps them stand out from the crowd. So, next time you hit the links, don’t be afraid to take a few chances and play more intensely. You may surprise yourself with the results.

Focus On The Team

In four-ball golf, you are part of a team, so it’s important to focus on what’s best for the team rather than individual success. Encourage and support your partner and make decisions that benefit both of you.

Plan Ahead

In order to maximize your chances of success on the golf course, it’s essential to plan ahead with your partner is essential. By discussing your individual strengths and weaknesses, you can work together to determine the best strategy for approaching each hole.

Taking the time to decide which holes to attack and which ones to play conservatively can make a big difference in your overall score. A thoughtful game plan will help you stay focused and make confident decisions throughout the match. .

Manage Your Emotions

Four-ball golf can be an emotional rollercoaster, with highs and lows for both partners. Stay calm and focused, and don’t let a bad hole or shot affect your performance.

Stay Patient

Playing four-ball golf requires a steady mindset and patience throughout the game. With each shot, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude and stay present in the moment. Focusing too much on the outcome can negatively impact your performance, causing unnecessary stress on and off the course.

Remember, this is a long game, and success comes with consistency and persistence. Stay patient and keep your eyes on the prize, one shot at a time.


Tips For Beginners To Get Started With Four-Ball In Golf

Four-ball can be an intimidating format for beginners, but with the right strategies and attitude, it can be a great way to have fun while improving your game. Here are some tips to help get beginners started: 

  • Make sure to warm up before your round and practice hitting various shots with each club in your bag. 
  • Choose your tee-off order strategically, considering which players have longer drives and shorter putts. 
  • Be bold and take risks with shots and play aggressively when appropriate. 
  • Pay attention to the course rules and regulations and any local rules set by the golf course or tournament director. 
  • Make sure you know what type of four-ball format you are playing (match play or stroke play) and the rules associated with that format. 
  • Work on your communication skills and be willing to offer constructive feedback. This will help everyone stay focused and increase the chances of success for the team. 
  • Take time to practice before hitting the course. This will help build confidence and set you up for success when playing four-ball in golf.



Golf four-ball can be a fun and challenging way to enjoy the game of golf. Match play and stroke play are two distinct styles that bring with them their own set of rules, strategies, and competitive dynamics. Being aware of these nuances will help you understand the game better and become a more successful competitive golfer.

Regardless of which style you’re playing at any given moment, it’s important to remember that golf four-ball is about camaraderie and having a good time. Enjoy the game in whichever way works best for yourself or your group, stay mindful of all the specifics involved in match or stroke play, and you’ll be a winner no matter where the scoreboard ends up!


Golf Four-Ball FAQs

Why Is It Called Golf Four-Ball?

The term “four-ball” is used in golf to describe a match where two players compete against two other players. The name “four-ball” comes from the fact that four balls are in play at any given time, one for each player. Each team’s score is determined by the better score of its two players on each hole. So, the team that wins the most holes, with the better score of its two players, wins the match.

Is Four-Ball Similar To The Best Ball?

Yes, four-ball golf is similar to the best ball format, where two players compete as a team, and the lower score of the two on each hole counts as the team’s score.

How Do I Win Golf Four-Ball?

To win a golf four-ball competition, you and your partner must score the most points by the end of the match. In match play, you win a hole by having the lowest score on the hole. The team with the most holes won at the end of the match wins the competition. In stroke play, you and your partner’s scores are combined to form a team score. The team with the lowest combined score wins at the end of the competition.

What Are The Differences Between Foursomes And Four-Ball In Golf?

Foursomes and four-ball in golf are both team formats, but they differ in a few key ways. In a foursome or alternate shot, each two-person team takes turns hitting the same ball from the tee to the hole. Teams alternate shots until the hole is completed. In four-ball, each player plays their own ball throughout the entire hole. The lowest score of the two players on each team is counted as the team’s score for that hole. Four-ball is typically played when teams are competing against each other, while foursomes are more commonly used for friendly games among friends.





  • Alvin Daniel

    Hello everyone, I'm Alvin Daniel. I was born in the Philippines and came to the United States when I was 16 years old. I started playing golf at that age and have loved it ever since. I turned professional when I was 21 and have been working as a golf instructor and guide ever since. My goal is to help everyone know more about this great game of golf. And, hopefully, through my instruction, they can improve their skills and enjoy the game even more.

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