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How to Keep Score in a Match Play Golf

In match play golf, it is important to properly keep score to determine the winner of each hole and ultimately the match. Each hole is worth one point, and a hole is won by the golfer or team with the lowest score for that hole. If both players or teams tie on a hole, it is considered halved and no points are awarded. The score is kept on a scorecard, with each hole listed and the number of points awarded indicated next to it.

For example, if a golfer wins the first three holes and the opponent wins the next two, the scorecard would show “3 up” meaning the golfer is three holes ahead. Additionally, the golfer’s handicap may be used to adjust the number of strokes given or received on specific holes. It is important to adhere to the specific rules and guidelines of match play scoring to accurately determine the outcome of the match.

Keeping an accurate score and adhering to the match play scoring rules is essential for fair and competitive play in the game of golf. 

Defining Match Play Golf

Match play golf is a variation of the traditional stroke play format, where the highest number of strokes on each hole is not the primary concern. Instead, the difficulty lies in winning each individual hole against an opponent. The rules for match play golf are set by a committee, and each hole is considered a separate competition. Players in a group play match play in pairs, with the correct strategy being to win as many holes as possible.

A hole is won by a player who completes it in fewer strokes than their opponent. If a player is three strokes ahead with two holes remaining, they win the match. The match play format continues until all 18 holes have been played. Players need to keep a scorecard to accurately tally the results of each hole, plus the overall match outcome. 

Scorecard Basics

Although the score is kept differently in match play compared to stroke play, the scorecard itself does not change. Players still record gross scores hole-by-hole, and keep track of putts, fairways hit, greens in regulation, and other stats. The difference comes at the end when matches are tallied.

There is how a basic match play golf scorecard is marked:

  • Hole Scores: Gross scores are recorded for each player on every hole.
  • Concessions: If a player concedes a hole, this is marked with a “C.”
  • Halved Holes: When both players tie a hole, this is marked with a “H.”
  • Won Holes: The player with the lower score wins the hole. This player’s score is circled.

Keeping an accurate tally of concessions, halves, and wins for each player is key to determining the match winner.

Marking Concessions

One of the most unique aspects of match play scoring is the act of conceding. This occurs when a player acknowledges defeat on a hole and allows his opponent to record the lowest score possible. Reasons this may happen include:

  • Having no chance to tie the hole with strokes remaining
  • Facing a very short putt (gimme)
  • Going out of bounds or dropping a ball
  • Showing good sportsmanship

When Player 1 concedes the hole to Player 2, Player 2 records the score they most likely would have carded (such as 4) while Player 1 marks an “C” on the scorecard. This awards the hole win to Player 2. Concessions can occur at any point once a hole begins.

Halved Holes

A halved hole occurs when Player 1 and Player 2 tie scores for that hole after completing it. Some common examples include:

  • Both making par (recording 4s)
  • Both recording the same score over par, such as 6s with a bogey
  • One making par while the other records a double bogey (5 vs. 4)

Halved holes are marked differently than wins or concessions. When players tie a hole, an “H” is written on both scorecards instead of circling a score. Halves slow down decisive outcomes in matches.

Winning Holes

The player with the lowest score on a complete hole wins that hole outright. For example:

  • Player 1 makes par (4) while Player 2 makes bogey (5) – Player 1 wins hole
  • Player 1 scores a birdie (3) vs. par (4) for Player 2 – Player 1 wins hole

Wins are marked by circling the player’s score who posts the lowest score. Most holes in matches will end decisively with a clear winner.

Keeping Match Play Scorecards

With an understanding of concessions, halves, and wins, here is one method for keeping organized match play scorecards:

Top of Scorecard:

  • Write “Match Play” to indicate this is not stroke play
  • Note the date and course name

Hole Scores:

  • Record gross scores normally for each player

Left margin:

  • Mark “C” for concessions
  • Mark “H” for halves

Right margin:

  • Circle the score of the player who wins each hole

Bottom of card:

  • Tally concessions, halves, and wins on each hole
  • Total up wins to determine the match winner

While no standard system is mandated, this organized approach allows for easy tabulation while accounting for all match play scoring scenarios.

Determining Overall Winner

The player or team that wins the most holes outright over the course of a match is declared the victor. Conceded holes and halves also factor in. Here is how to determine the winner:

  1. Tally all holes won for each player/team (circled scores in margin)
  2. Add conceded holes as wins for players who were conceded to
  3. Add up halved holes to demonstrate holes not won outright
  4. Compare totals between players/teams
  5. The player/team with the most holes won outright wins the match

For example:

Player 1 won 6 holes outright, was conceded 2 holes, and halved 3 holes. This totals 6 + 2 = 8 holes.

Player 2 won 4 holes outright, had 2 holes conceded, and halved 3 holes. His total is 4 + 2 = 6 holes won.

Although Player 1 scored more total strokes, Player 2 won more holes. Therefore, Player 1 is declared the match winner 8 holes to 6.

Breaking Ties and Extra Holes

If players or teams are tied after completing their match – such as winning 8 holes each in an 18-hole match – extra holes must be played to determine a winner. Sudden death format is typically utilized. Here is how tied match play scoring works:

  • Players begin extra holes (starting on hole 1 or another designated hole) attempting to win each hole outright as done previously in the round
  • This continues hole-by-hole until one player/team wins a hole outright over the other
  • That player/team is declared the match winner once they win their first extra hole. Halves on extra holes do not factor in determining the winner.

Proper scorecard marking during extra holes follows the same process – concessions, circles for wins, etc. Play simply continues until a winner emerges.

Managing Disputes

Despite the best intentions, disputes can occur in match play when players cannot agree on concessions, halved holes, scorecard markings, or final hole win totals. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Review scorecards together hole-by-hole if tallies do not match
  • Revisit definitions of concessions and halves
  • Rely on the integrity of opponents to mark scores honestly
  • Have a neutral third party referee mediate if needed

Settling disputes amicably ensures an enjoyable match. Players should protect the spirit of the game.


How do you score a match play on a scorecard?

On a match play scorecard, you record each player’s gross score per hole just like regular stroke play. Additionally, concessions are marked with a “C”, halves are marked with an “H”, and the player with the lowest score has their score circled to indicate they won the hole. Tally marks representing these can also be tracked in the margins to summarize wins, halves, and concessions.

How do you score match play with handicaps?

When scoring a handicap match play round, the course handicap is used to determine how many strokes each player receives. Strokes are taken hole-by-hole on the designated handicap stroke holes. On the scorecard, circle the player with the lowest net score to represent the hole winner. Handicap strokes must be applied hole-by-hole before determining the winner.

How do you mark a card in golf match play?

In golf match play, the scorecard is marked by writing gross scores normally and marking concessions with “C”. Any halved holes are marked with an “H”. For holes won outright, circle the score of the player with the lowest gross score. Tally marks in the margins can represent total holes won, conceded, and halved by each player.

What is match play points?

There are no points in match play only holes won or halves. The player who wins the most holes during the match is declared the outright winner. Conceded holes and halves also factor in the total. So there is no points system – matches are decided simply by most holes won.

In Closing

Keeping accurate score during match play golf requires attention to detail on concessions, halves, outright wins per hole, and proper scorecard markings. But mastering match play scoring leads to engaging head-to-head golf either as individuals or team play. Understanding these concepts allows players to follow match play rules and determine outright winners based on holes won.

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