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 stroke play the general penalty for a breach of the Rules is two strokes; in match
play it is loss of hole. However, any breach of the Rules that incurs a one stroke penalty
in stroke play is also a one stroke penalty in match play.
- Whereas in stroke play the player must finish every hole by holing out, in match play a
player may concede a stroke to his opponent so that he can pick-up without holing out.
A player may also concede the hole, or the match. Once given, a concession can’t be declined,
or withdrawn under any circumstances. So, if you concede a short putt to your opponent, but
he putts anyway and misses, it does not matter because he is still considered to have holed out
with the putt for the purposes of the match. Rule 2-4.
- If you are unsure of a Rule, or a procedure, in match play the Rules do not permit
you to play a second ball, as they do in stroke play. What you have to do, is try and
resolve the issue with your opponent. If you can not agree, a claim has to be made before
teeing-off at the next hole. You must notify your opponent that you are making a claim,
agree the facts of the situation and make it clear that you will be asking for a Committee
ruling. Rule 2-5.
- In both stroke play and match play, when balls are to be played from the teeing
ground the person with the honor plays first and anywhere else on the course the ball
farthest from the hole is played first. However, there is no penalty in stroke play for
playing in the wrong order, unless players have agreed to do so to give one of them an
advantage, in which case they are both disqualified. It is different in match play. If a
player makes a stroke when his opponent should have played first, there is still no penalty,
but the opponent may immediately require the player to cancel that stroke and play again, in
the correct order, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.
In other words, if you think your opponent played a bad shot when he played out of turn
you say nothing, but if he played a good shot you can ask him to replace his ball
where it was and play again, after you, in the hope that his next shot will not be as good.
- If you play a stroke and your ball hits your opponent, his caddie, or his equipment, you can
choose whether to replay the stroke or accept it and play your next shot from where it
comes to rest. Rule 19-3. This might not seem fair if your wild shank has hit your
opponent where it hurts and stops at his feet, but that is the Rule, so use it when it benefits you.
- Similarly, if a player, when starting a hole, plays a ball from outside the teeing ground,
there is no penalty, but the opponent may immediately require the player to cancel the stroke
and play a ball from within the teeing ground.
- Here is an unusual one, which not many match players know about. If a putt from the putting
green hits another ball at rest on the putting green, whether it is your side or your
opponents' there is no penalty in match play, whereas there is a two stroke penalty in
stroke play. Rule 19-5. Just play your ball from where it comes to rest and ensure that
the ball that you moved is replaced back to where it was.
- Unlike stroke play, where you have an obligation to your fellow competitors to report
every breach of a Rule that you witness, you do not have to in match play situations,
as you may disregard, or overlook any breach of a Rule by your opponent. The reason for
this is that only you, or your side, are affected. It does not affect anyone other entrant
in the match play competition. However, you still must not say anything to your opponent, as
under Rule 1-3 there cannot be agreement with your opponent to waive any penalty incurred by either side.
- If a player gives incorrect information during play of a hole regarding the number of
strokes taken and does not correct the mistake before their opponent makes their next stroke,
they lose the hole, Rule 9-2b.
- Finally, players competing against each other in a match are opponents; in stroke play a fellow-competitor is any
person with whom the competitor plays their round. Neither is partner of the other.
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