Match play pits golfers against each other hole by hole, and is a completely different format than the more common medal (stroke) play, which is scored by total number of strokes during a round. In match play, each hole is won or lost until one player/team wins the majority of the total number of holes played. Essentially, match play is one-on-one, and medal play is every player against the field.

Here are some of the main differences between match play and stroke play:


In match play, whoever has the least number of strokes on a hole wins that hole. However, if one player/team is the obvious winner at any time while the hole is being played, the other player/team should concede the hole. A match is over when a player has won the most holes and the opponent cannot catch up. For example, if one player is three holes up on the opponent with two holes left to play, the match is over.

The scoring in match play is rendered relationally. For example, if you or your team has won 5 holes and the opponent has won 4, the score is not shown as 5 to 4; rather, it is rendered as 1-up for your team, or 1-down for your opponent. If you have won 6 holes and your opponent 3, then you are leading 3-up, and your opponent is trailing 3-down. Essentially, match play scoring tells golfers how many more holes than his opponent the golfer in the lead has won. If the match is tied, it is said to be "all square." Match play matches do not have to go the full 18 holes. They often do, but just as frequently one player will achieve an insurmountable lead and the match will end early. Say you reach a score of 6-up with 5 holes to play - you have clinched the victory, and the match is over.

Score cards should be returned to the captains after play, and should indicate clearly which team has won, showing the match play scoring described above (e.g., 3 up, all square, 2 and 1, etc.)

Information provided by Lorraine Crosby