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What is the Golf 4 Ball Format?

The Golf 4 Ball Format is a popular format of play in golf, often used in team competitions such as the Ryder Cup. In this format, teams of two players compete against each other, with each player playing their own ball throughout the round. There are two main variations of the format: foursomes and four-ball. In foursomes, teammates alternate hitting the same ball, while in four-ball, each player plays their own ball and the best score of the two is taken as the team score on each hole.

The format can be played as match play or stroke play, and the teams’ handicaps are often taken into account when determining final scores. This format requires a high level of teamwork and strategy, as players must coordinate their shots in foursomes and rely on their partner’s performance in four-ball. The Golf 4 Ball Format is a challenging and engaging way to test players’ skills and teamwork on the golf course. 

What is Golf 4 Ball?

Golf 4 ball is a format of play in the game of golf where teams of 2 partners compete against each other in a match consisting of 18 holes. It is also referred to as “four ball” or “best ball” by golfers. Here is a more thorough explanation of what golf 4 ball is and how it is played.

Definition of 4 Ball in Golf

Golf 4 ball is a match play format in which teams of two compete against each other on a golf course. Every player plays his or her own golf ball throughout the round and on each hole, the player with the lowest score from each two person team counts as that team’s official score for that hole. So if partner A scores a 5 and partner B scores a 4, the 4 is the team’s official score for that hole.

This is why the format is also referred to as “best ball” because the best score of the foursome on each hole is what counts. This continues throughout the entire 18 hole round and the team with the lowest total accumulated 18 hole score wins the match.

How does scoring work in Four Ball?

In the sport of golf, scoring in Four Ball is determined by the performance of each individual player within a team. Four Ball, also known as best ball, involves two teams of two players each. Unlike in alternate shot format, where players take turns hitting the same ball, in Four Ball each golfer plays their own ball throughout the entire round.

At the end of each hole, the team records the lower score of the two players as their team score. The team with the lowest total score at the end of the round wins the session. This format is often used in tournaments such as the Solheim Cup.

Where players play in the order that they choose, rather than of by handicap, and the team with the most session wins takes the match. Scoring in Four Ball adds an element of teamwork and individual performance, as the focus is on each player’s contribution to the team’s overall score. 

How Golf 4 Ball Differs From Stroke Play Golf

Golf 4 ball, also known as four ball golf, differs from stroke play golf in several key ways. In four ball golf, each player on the team plays their own golf ball throughout the entire round, as opposed to stroke play where the team’s score for that hole is the total of both players’ scores. Additionally, in four ball golf, each player is given a handicap allowance based on their individual skill level, which can impact the overall team score.

Teams often utilize this format in competitions like the Presidents Cup, scheduled to take place this Saturday. Players need to understand how the format works, as it requires a different strategy and mindset compared to stroke play. In four ball golf, a player’s partner can play their own ball and does not affect the other player’s performance on a particular hole.

4 Ball Scoring and Match Format Basics

Scoring in golf 4 ball may seem confusing initially because each team records only one score per hole. A quick overview:

  • 2 person teams compete directly vs another twosome on the same hole
  • Each player plays their own golf ball the entire round
  • The low score between teammates is the official team score for that hole
  • Ex. Player A scores 6. Player B scores 4. Team score is 4.
  • At the end of 18 holes, the team with lower total score wins the match

In every hole, each team produces four individual golf scores, but only the lowest score advances. This is why communication, teamwork and strategy plays a much bigger role than in stroke play golf. Players must work together, not against each other, to prevail in 4 ball matches.

4 Ball Golf Terms and Glossary

When you start playing golf 4 ball, you’ll hear some new terminology thrown around by players and rules officials:


Another term for a two-person team in four ball play. We have three matches between both teams today.


When a team goes up by more holes than the number remaining, they are “dormie” and have almost an insurmountable lead. Ex. Team 1 leads Team 2, 5 up with 6 holes to play. Team 1 is now dormie.


Players may verbally “concede” a hole or even the entire match when they recognize a hole or match is essentially over. This speeds up play. Ex. If a player hits in the water, the other team may “concede” the hole.

Why Golfers Enjoy 4 Ball Match Play

There are several unique reasons why golf 4 ball has become such a popular format amongst pros and amateur golfers alike:

Team Camaraderie

Playing as part of a coordinated team effort brings more interaction, conversation and new friendships versus always playing individually. Golf can often be quite a lonely solo pursuit when playing by stroke play rules. Playing in 4 ball teams generates more energy and engagement.

Strategy and Thought

Match play forces golfers to carefully assess risk vs reward on every single shot. There is also more creativity in shotmaking and planning since just finishing holes in the fewest shots is not the ultimate goal. Plotting ways to beat the opposing side over 18 holes resembles a chess match and puzzle.


In match play, there is significantly more big moment, clutch shot drama because players directly win and lose holes. Comebacks are always possible right up the 72nd green. Every single hole matters right up until the end, keeping everyone engaged. Stroke play can feel like a long, gradual grind to total the fewest overall shots.

When and How to Play Golf 4 Ball

Since it requires evenly matched teams competing directly against each other, golf 4 ball works perfectly as a member-guest or member-member tournament format at private clubs. It is also seamless to facilitate 4 ball events at public courses by having players sign up as 2 person sides. Golf 4 ball enables players of varying handicaps and ability to partner together and still compete on a level playing field vs similar sides. There are no handicaps or strokes given in 4 ball match play like there may be in stroke play events. Using services like make it easy to organize equitable matches.


What is a 4 ball match in golf?

A 4 ball golf match pits teams of 2 players against each other, with the best individual score from each team counting as the team score on a given hole.

What is 4 ball in Ryder Cup?

In the Ryder Cup, 4 ball (also called best ball) is a match format where 2-player teams from the US and Europe compete to see which team can get the lowest score on every hole.

Why is it called Four-Ball?

The term “four-ball” derives from the fact that, despite comprising teams of 2 players each, there are technically 4 balls in play on every hole – one for each golfer.

How do you score 4 ball match play in golf?

In 4 ball match play, the player on either team who shoots the lowest score wins that hole for their team. The team only records the best individual score as the team score. At the end of the round, the team with the most holes won claims the match victory.


Whether playing competitively in tournaments or just recreationally with friends, golf 4 ball adds entertaining twists of match play, strategy discussion and dramatic holes into the age old game. It has remained popular for over 100 years and created memorable showdowns like when Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker took down Ernie Els and Retief Goosen at Harding Park. If looking to enhance the way you enjoy golf, grab a partner and take on an opposing side in an epic 4 ball match at your club.

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