A Guide to Playing Four-Ball Golf

Strategy is the key to success in this team game.

Golf involves more than hitting the ball with a club to put it in the hole, and who understands that better than golfers themselves? But while most people think golf is a game that is played alone, the reality is completely different. You can also play golf between teams, the most popular format being four-ball. In fact, some of the biggest golf tournaments like Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Seve Trophy and Solheim Cup use four-ball as the preferred format for team competitions.

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What is Four-Ball Golf?

Four-ball is a match between two teams of two players. The two players on each team play their better ball against the better ball of the other team. This format is also known as "better ball." Though the concept is simple, success in four-ball depends on strategy. The secret is to play in such away that the team can score better than what the individual players could have done on their own.

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How to Play

During a four-ball golf match, four players make two teams of two. Each player plays his or her own ball. After each hole, the teams use their lowest scores. For instance, if the first player takes six shots and the second player takes five, the team's score is five. In a match play format, the better score of one team is compared to the better score of the other team to decide which team won the hole. At the end of the match, in both stroke play and match play, the team with the lowest score wins.


The strategy for playing four-ball golf should be different from that of single play. If one player on a team plays excellent shots, it will negate the less praiseworthy performance of his or her teammate. It is wise to team a consistent player with an aggressive player. This strategy lets the aggressive player take chances to score low, while the consistent player saves the team in case the aggressive partner's tactics don't work. On the other hand, if the consistent partner hits a ball to a safe spot, the aggressive partner can take a chance to play a risky shot. Thus, when playing in a four-ball match, the partners must keep a watchful eye on each other's shots.

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USGA Rules

As in other golf formats, most of the standard rules in the USGA's Rules of Golf apply to four-ball stroke play and four-ball match play. But since it is a team game, there are certain differences in procedures and penalties. The USGA's Rule 30 defines them for match play and Rule 31 for stroke play.

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Topics: GOLF