What is Match Play in Golf? Rules & Best Practices

By Chris Moore •  Updated on 02/28/22

Match play is one of the two most common ways to play competitive golf, alongside stroke play.

If you’ve watched The Match series lately, you know it’s gaining a lot of popularity due to its easy-to-watch, entertaining format.

Even when I’m going out to play with a friend, we’ll typically play match play for these same reasons.

In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about match play so you can do the same!

What exactly is match play?

Match play is one of the most common forms of golf competition. It’s what happens when two players or teams tee off against each other in head-to-head competition.

The object of the game is to complete each hole in fewer strokes than your opponent. If you finish the hole with fewer strokes than your opponent, you get a point.

The winner is determined by who has won more holes (or points) after all eighteen are played.

Why you might want to play match play

Match play is one of the easiest and most fun ways to play against other golfers. It is a competition just like any other, but what’s great about it is that you don’t have to keep a close score!

In match play, regardless of what happens on each hole, it will only count as one point keeping the overall score much closer than if you were to play stroke play.

It’s a more casual way of competing, keeping the game more fun and less intensive.

How does match play work?

Match play is played with the same rules as stroke play, but each hole on the course has an equal point value.

So if you score a par on a hole and the other golfer gets a bogey, you’ll receive a point.

If you both get an equal score on the hole, it’s a push and the next hole will be worth two points.

After the round of golf is finished, whoever has the most holes or points is the winner!

What’s the difference between match play and stroke play?

Match play is all about winning individual holes, while stroke play is more focused on the overall score.

In match play, what you shoot on each hole doesn’t matter as much as who wins the most holes.

This can make it a more exciting and unpredictable way to play golf!

On the other hand, in stroke play your score on each hole matters a lot more.

So what you shoot on a hole is what counts, and the winner of the round is determined by who has fewer total strokes after the round is complete.

If you find match play and stroke play aren’t for you, it’s worth taking a look at Stableford scoring.

How to win in match play

To win in match play, it’s simple: win more holes than your opponent by scoring less strokes on each individual hole.

At the end of the round, whoever won more holes is the winner.

Adjusting scores for net matches

Handicaps are established at the start of each round, and the difference between them is determined. An additional stroke will be given to the golfer with the highest handicap on as many holes as there is in that calculated difference number.

For example, if a handicap of 5 is established by player A, and player B establishes a handicap of 10, there is a difference of 5 (10 – 5 = 5).

To keep things on a level playing field, Player B will get a free stroke on holes with difficulty ratings of 1 through 5.

This is how you adjust your match play for handicap, which is very common in tournaments.

Variations of match play

The primary variation of match play is four-ball, where there are two players on each team competing.

Each golfer will play their own ball, and a side’s score for the hole is whoever had the lowest score on the hole.

To win the hole, you see who of the foursome had the lowest score on the hole and their team gains a point.

Final thoughts

Match play is a lot of fun because it’s a very casual way of playing golf, and what happens on each hole isn’t as important.

It is the most common form of head-to-head competition in golf!

So if you’re looking for a fun and easy way to compete against other golfers, match play is the way to go!

You don’t need to keep track of a scorecard, and what happens on each hole won’t count towards your final total. All you have to do is win more holes than your opponent – simple, right?

Chris Moore

Hi, I'm Chris Moore and I'm the guy behind As an avid golfer since 2010, I decided to create this blog to share everything I've learned over the years. Whether it's golf equipment, swing tips, or anything in-between, I want to make sure you have everything you need to become a better golfer.