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Golf foursome explained: What is foursomes golf?

Learn more about foursome golf, what it is and how to play it with our helpful guide on foursomes golf.

09 May 2022 Words by Matthew 3 minute read Golf foursome explained: What is foursomes golf?

Table of Contents

  1. What is the foursomes golf format?
  2. How does foursomes work for match play?
  3. How does foursomes work for stroke play?
  4. Handicap allowance in foursomes
  5. Famous golf tournaments that feature foursomes
  6. FAQs

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia play foursomes on day 1 of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles wearing the Glenmuir Saltire Golf Sweater

Foursomes, as the name implies, is a game of golf that involves four players. The four players are split into teams of two, and the members of each team take alternate shots. This is why this type of golf match is also known as 'alternate shot'. It works the same as a regular game of golf, with each team using only one ball.

Although the popularity of foursome golf tournaments has waned in recent years, it is still played at a number of major tournaments, including the Presidents Cup, the Solheim Cup, and the Ryder Cup. It is also played during major amateur tournaments, such as the Walker Cup.

What is the foursomes golf format?

The foursome golf format is easy to pick up as, besides there being two extra players, it works just the same as the basic form of golf play.

In each pair, a player is titled 'golfer A', and the other is 'golfer B'. 'Golfer A' tends to be the player with the strongest tee-shot, as they have to go first. 'Golfer B' will take the second shot, and each player will continue to alternate until the golf ball has been holed.

For each hole, the roles of the pair are reversed, and 'golfer B' will take the drive shot every second hole. For all odd-numbered holes, 'golfer A' will take the tee-shots.

In major tournaments, partners are generally allowed to share clubs during foursome games, as long as a team's total club count does not exceed 14.

One way that foursome golf differs from other forms of play is that in the result of a draw on a particular hole, the score is halved instead of carried over to the next hole.

How does foursomes work for match play?

In major golf tournaments, such as the Ryder Cup, foursomes will be played in match play. Just like other golf formats, this means that the winner is determined based on how many holes each side have won by the end of the match. A team wins a hole by using the least amount of strokes to get the ball in the hole. If both teams take the same amount of strokes, the point is halved.

How does foursomes work for stroke play?

Stroke play foursomes are normally only played for friendly purposes and are not used in any major golfing tournaments. Just like match play, teams play alternating shots, with player A pitching on all even-numbered holes and player B pitching on each odd-numbered holes.

The only real difference is that the score is based on how many strokes each team makes in total, for the duration of the gameplay, instead of for individual holes. At the end of the game, the total stroke count is calculated, and the team with the lowest strokes overall wins the game.

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What is foursomes in golf?


Handicap allowance in foursomes

In match play, handicap allowance is determined by first calculating a team's combined handicaps. Then the team with the lowest handicap total is subtracted from the other team's higher handicap total. This handicap allowance calculation is sometimes referred to as 'half the difference of the combined'.

For example, if team B's handicap total is 29, and team A's handicap total is 19, then you take 19 away from 29, which would be 10. You would then divide that figure by 2, giving you a handicap allowance, in this case, of 5.

In stroke play, the handicap allowance of each foursome team is 50% of each player's combined handicaps. To determine this, all you have to do is add the two players' handicaps together and divide the total by 2.

Each team is responsible for recording their own handicaps throughout the game. If a team submits a scorecard that does not feature a complete list of handicaps, the team will be disqualified from the game.

Famous golf tournaments that feature foursomes

The foursomes match play format has long been part of many major golf tournaments, including the following:

The Ryder Cup

Foursome tournaments have been a feature of the Ryder Cup since the first-ever edition of the competition back in 1927. During this two-vs-two round, a pair from the British team competes with a pair from the American side.

The Solheim Cup

Foursome rounds often take place during the early stages of the Solheim Cup and have been part of the golf tournament since its inception in 1990.

Presidents Cup

At the Presidents Cup, foursome rounds are played during the initial three days of the event, alongside rounds of four-ball. Like both the Solheim and the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup has hosted foursome rounds from the beginning, in 1994.

Walker Cup

During the Walker Cup 2-day event, the amateur American team takes on the amateur British team in foursome matches at the start of each day. In total, eight foursome games take place throughout the weekend.

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What is the difference between greensomes and foursomes?

Greensomes are similar to foursomes as they are both two-vs-two golf competitions. However, unlike foursomes, both players in a team take a driver shot. After both driver shots have been taken, the team choose whichever tee-shot is better. The player who took the worse driver shot will play the second shot.

Are foursomes the same as four-ball in golf?

Foursomes are not the same as four-ball play in golf, as each team member plays their ball in four-ball. This differs from foursomes, where each team play only one ball. In four-ball golf, four balls are in play at one time, with each member of the team taking alternate shots. At the end of the hole, the team chooses whichever ball scored the least.

Do penalty strokes affect foursome gameplay?

Penalty strokes officially do not affect the order of foursome gameplay. For example, if player A hits a ball in a pond, player B will drop the ball and still take the next shot.

What is the best way to play foursomes?

Foursome golf is always played to the match play scoring system when it comes to major tournaments. However, the stroke-play scoring system is used for recreational purposes. There's no real better or worse way to play foursomes, it just depends on the type of play you'd prefer to try.

Stroke play can be tenser than match play, as every stroke counts towards the final score.

What other names are used for foursomes?

The main alternative name for foursomes is 'alternate shot'. Other common names include 'Scotch doubles'. If each team consists of one man and one woman, the format is sometimes referred to as 'mixed doubles'.

'Alternate shot' is the name normally given by U.S. golfers. This is because the term 'foursomes' is commonly used to refer to simply any four players who are playing golf, regardless of the format they are using.