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Chapman Golf Format: Explained in Detail

The Chapman Golf Format, also known as the Chapman System, is a great format that combines elements of stroke play and match play. Named after the American amateur golfer Dick Chapman, the format involves two-person teams where players alternate shots until the hole is completed. The Chapman system golf format is unique in that it allows each player to take their partner’s tee shot and then play alternate shot from there, including a third shot.

This requires precision and strategic play, as both players must work together to navigate the course and achieve the best possible outcome. The format also allows for a lower course handicap to be factored in, making it accessible to players of varying skill levels. The combination of individual play and teamwork makes the chapman golf format an engaging and challenging experience for golfers. 

What is the Chapman Format?

The Chapman format is a 2-person team golf event where both players hit a tee shot, then switch balls for the second shot. From there, Chapman partners select the ball they like best and alternate hitting shots with that ball until holing out. Players receive individual gross scores on each hole based on a number of strokes with their respective golf balls. The format allows for strategy, communication, and teamwork between the two Chapman players on deciding which ball to choose and how to play each hole.

How Does Scoring Work?

Scoring in a Chapman tournament operates on both an individual and team basis. For individual scoring purposes, each player receives gross strokes and scores on every hole with their own golf ball prior to deciding which to play for the remainder of the hole. So if Player 1 hits their tee shot into the woods but Player 2 hits a nice drive in the fairway, the team would likely choose to play Player 2’s ball from that point and Player 1 would take their extra stroke tally.

For overall team Chapman scoring, on each hole the two players combine to take the lower gross score between them for the hole. For example, if Player 1 shoots a 5 with their individual ball and Player 2 scores a 4 with their ball, the team score for the hole would be 4. Generally in Chapman format tournaments, prizes or titles are awarded to both individual low gross and overall team low gross winners.

How play the Hole during Chapman System

When playing the Hole during Chapman System, it is important to consider the differing playing abilities of each team member. The chapman system requires that both teammates hit their drives, after which they switch balls and play their partner’s ball for the second shot. The team then selects the best ball and plays the third shot alternately until they hole out. In this format, a higher handicap player has the opportunity to contribute to the team’s success by potentially hitting the last shot into the hole.

When playing with a higher handicap player, it is crucial to strategize and make the most out of their strengths. Whether playing stroke play or match play, the key to success in the Chapman System is effective communication and teamwork. By carefully assessing each player’s abilities and selecting the best shots, teams can maximize their potential and achieve success on the Hole. 

Key Rules & Considerations

When competing in a Chapman golf event, it is important to understand some key rules and considerations around play:

  • Tee shots must alternate between partners on each hole
  • Both players must hole out every hole with their original ball played off the tee
  • The team score on a hole is whichever partner has the lowest gross score
  • Subsequent shots after the tee must be played alternating from the chosen ball position
  • The format requires strong communication between partners
  • Strategic decisions are crucial – don’t automatically play the ball in better position

Benefits of the Chapman Golf Format

The Chapman golf format offers several benefits for players. With four golfers divided into two-person teams, the format allows for betting games and strategic play. Using the Pinehurst system, each player hits the tee shot, then switches balls and plays the third stroke. This provides opportunities for teamwork and skill development. Additionally, partner with the lower course handicap and hitting the green is crucial, as the lowest score is taken at the end of the round when the ball is holed.

The unique Chapman golf format offers several advantages and benefits for players:

Promotes Teamwork & Communication Skills

With the alternating shot structure and need to pick one ball position, Chapman partners must work together, discuss options, compromise, and make joint decisions. The format builds strong communication, analytical thinking, and team bonding.

Encourages Strategic Course Management

Chapman players need good course strategy and shot planning skills beyond just their playing abilities. Teams must weigh risks vs rewards, analyze angles and obstacles, and position shots to optimize their collective score.

Allows for Individual & Team Competition

The Chapman format allows golfers to compete both for their own score as well as their team score. So it brings out both an individual competitive drive along with the cooperation and coordination required for low team gross.

Accommodates Varying Player Skill Levels

Chapman events can incorporate golfers across different abilities, handicaps, and experience levels by using individual gross score tracking. This helps take pressure off weaker players.

Ideal for Creative & Fun Tournament Play

The blend of individual play, team collaboration, and scoring intricacies makes a Chapman golf tournament creative, exciting and fun compared to standard stroke play events. The format is great for member-guests, charity events, scrambles, and more.

Planning & Executing a Chapman Golf Tournament

Planning and executing a Chapman Golf Tournament requires careful attention to detail. Participants must be organized into teams of four golfers, with each player required to have a USGA handicap. The format includes betting games and the Chapman format, which involves each player hitting a tee shot, playing the best second shot, and then playing alternate shots until the ball is holed. The team handicap is used to determine which team has the advantage, with the lower course handicap receiving strokes and the higher course handicap giving strokes, to even the playing field.

If you are looking to organize a Chapman golf event, some key planning and execution considerations include:

Select the Right Field Size & Players

Most Chapman tournaments work well with 16-32 golfers, split evenly into teams. Make sure a similar number of stronger/weaker players are spread across teams. Consider handicaps or averages if very uneven.

Choose a Scoring System

Will you go by raw gross team scores, a net scoring system, or calculate places based on a points formula? Decide this upfront and communicate clearly to players.

Have a Rules Official On-site

Have someone serve as lead official to help interpret any ruling questions across groups to keep pace of play and promote fair, competitive standards.

Use Scoresheets Specific to Chapman Format

Create scorecards and score posters designed specifically to track individual gross, team gross, and overall standings hole-by-hole. This keeps scoring organized and transparent.

Offer Fun On-Course Contests

Incorporate additional contests like longest drives, closest to pins, skin games by hole, challenges or achievements to add variety and engagement for players beyond just the Chapman team element.

Best Practices for Playing a Chapman Golf Tournament

If you are competing in a Chapman event as a player, here are some top play recommendations:

Communicate Stroke Strategy with Partner

Be vocal with your Chapman partner about intended tee shots, preferred sides of fairways, typical miss patterns, and club decisions. The more strategic information shared, the better.

Analyze Risk & Positioning of Balls

Don’t default to best position or take unnecessary risks. Analyze angles, terrain trouble, shapes of next shots and positioning together with partner before deciding which ball to play.

Stay Engaged on Partner’s Shot Selection

Stay mentally and visually focused on partner’s ball position and strategy, not just your own game. Provide thoughts, reads or advice as allowed when faced with partner’s next stroke considerations.

Stay Upbeat & Don’t Get Down

Don’t sulk or withdraw if your individual ball ends up out of position. Stay positive, rally your partner, help read putts. A team score is only as strong as its communication flow and morale.


What is a Chapman format in golf?

The Chapman format is a 2-person team event where players each hit a tee shot, select the best shot, then alternate hitting the same ball until holed out. Teammates combine for lowest gross score.

What is modified Chapman golf?

Modified Chapman is a version where after drives teams play their own ball into the hole and take the best score between them. Allows for more individual play.

How do you handicap Chapman?

Use Chapman handicapping to account for differences in player abilities. Calculate 50% of combined team handicaps, then deduct from gross score for net Chapman score


The Chapman golf format is a unique, engaging form of tournament play that combines both individual competition with team strategy and communication. With its alternating shot structure and nuanced scoring techniques, the Chapman adds creative elements beyond pure ball-striking ability. Use this guide to understand the format, rules, and best practices that can make a Chapman golf event special for both organizers and competitors. Integrating the tips on planning, executing and competing in a Chapman tournament will ensure all golfers have a strategic, enjoyable day on the course collaborating as teams.

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