Thursday, 8 August 2013

Playing a Four-Ball Match During a Singles Stroke Play Competition

I received this interesting question, which I think many Club golfers will relate to;
“In a club singles strokes competition, playing in groups of four, one of the groups decides to play a friendly four-ball match during the competition. Also, they agree in advance to play the match play order of play from each teeing ground during the round. What is the ruling please?”
First I have copied this related Q&A directly from the USGA web site;
Q.  Our group has a season long match play competition. Some of the players want to play in our weekly stroke play competition, and play their match at the same time. Is this permissible?

A.  No. Rule 33-1 states that certain special Rules governing stroke play are so substantially different from those governing match play that combining the two forms of play is not practicable and is not permitted. The results of matches played and the scores returned in these circumstances must not be accepted.
Now, let me clarify that this latter question concerned playing stroke play and match play competitions at the same time, which as I understand, is different from the circumstances of my subscriber’s question, where the 'match' is only a ‘friendly’ four-ball, probably with a small wager on the result. In this case, providing all four players strictly observe the Rules of Golf for singles stroke play, they are not breaching Rule 33-1. So, for example, players must not ask for, or receive, any advice from the other players in the group, must hole out on every hole, and must not ignore any breach of a Rule made by a fellow competitor that they observe.

Because they are playing in a singles stroke play competition the players should observe the order of play for that competition and not the four-ball order. A Committee could rule that by agreeing to play in four-ball match play order the players were agreeing to breach Rule 10-2a, which would result in their disqualification.

My recommendation is that players should refrain from these friendly four-ball wagers whilst playing in a competition as four singles. Apart from the obvious chance that a Rule of stroke play golf may be accidentally, or unwittingly breached, it is also likely to be detrimental to a player’s concentration if they have to keep track of their own singles score, the player whose score they are marking and the hole by hole status of the four-ball wager.

Good golfing,

If you are any way unsure about the many differences between the Rules for stroke play and match play I recommend that you purchase my 10 page eDocument, ‘So You Are Going to Play Match Play', for just $7 (€5.50 / £4.50). Click here for more details.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.


Anonymous said...

I just watched your video on the Provisional Ball. "She is not allowed to assume the ball is in the water." Great stuff.
I really wish you would do more videos... I'd love to see one on a proper drop. Can I use a driver if I take the headcover off or do I need to use the club that I intend to hit (and where is this covered?)?
Thanks for all you do,

Barry Rhodes said...


Thanks, more about my provisional ball video in my next blog.

Check out my 28th October 2010 blog on 'Club-lengths Don't Have to Be Measured' for the answer to your questions about which club to use in measuring and whether the headcover may be left on.


The Secretary said...

Hi Barry,

So my question would be is it possible to play the same type of competition (ie stroke play) within a competition?

IE For example, a club Winter League competition is a betterball stableford, but on one week my partner cant play, so i score my own card and submit for entry into the Winter League. I also play that day with a partner (not my WInter League partner) and we submit a betterball stableford score.

So i have entered 2 competitions...the Saturday betterball...and the rolling WInter League (my own score for that day)..

Is this allowed?

Hope thats clear!
The Secretary, aka Gavin

Barry Rhodes said...


This would not be permitted within the strict Rules of Golf, as in one competition you may benefit from the play of your partner, who is not your partner for the other competition. There would be no Rules problem in entering two singles competitions with the one round, provided it was permitted by the entry conditions of both competitions.


Unknown said...

Hi Barry,

A couple of scenarios here for you. Our members are determined to play four-ball match play (a knock out cup) while playing in an individual stableford competition. I tell them this isn't allowed, am I correct?

Secondly they want to play their four-ball matches when our competition of the day is four-ball better ball nett (same tees). Am I correct in telling them they are different forms of the game and cannot play their match play and stroke play at the same time. They argue that if they putt out there is no difference and their best nett score on each hole counts for their matchplay and strokeplay...



Barry Rhodes said...


I am not sure what else I can say. My blog emphasises that Rule 33-1 states that certain special Rules governing stroke play are so substantially different from those governing match play that combining the two forms of play is not practicable and is not permitted.

I am aware that many players choose to play a different format within a competition (e.g. a four-ball match during singles stroke play competition), but this should be discouraged, as sooner or later one player is going to incur a penalty that should disqualify them from the competition (e.g. giving advice or receiving advice from a partner).

Committees can (and should) disqualify players who do not adhere to the competition format and conditions of competition.