Different Forms of Foursomes

The basic Foursomes competition (also known as Alternate Shot) is a form of golf where two players play as partners and use only one ball. The partners strike off alternately from the tees (eg Player A hits off the odd tees, Player B off the even tees) and thereafter strike the ball alternately during the play of each hole. Scoring is done as for a stroke round and, for a handicap event, the total is subject to a deduction of half the partners’ aggregate handicaps. If either player incurs a penalty stroke it does not alter the rotation of play.

The rules for this form of play are essentially the same as for individual play. Rule 22 of the Rules of Golf detail the specific rules and variations which apply to foursomes only.

Foursomes competitions may be played as Men’s, Women’s or Mixed events. The majority of Club games are played as Stroke Play, although Foursomes can also be played in Match Play. In Mixed Foursomes the women use their own tees and observe their own local rules, if any, when it is their turn to play. The committee will usually stipulate which gender plays from the 1st tee, so that all teams play under the same conditions.

There are also several variations to the standard Foursomes that can be played. They may be called by different names, but Golf Australia suggest the following rules for American Foursomes and Canadian Foursomes as detailed below. Other forms can be played if defined by the Committee – eg Chapman, Pinehurst or Two Stroke Canadian.

Note that the Rules of Golf detail the way in which the rules are modified to apply to “normal” foursomes, so the Match Committee has to make clear what differences are to apply for the event compared with “normal” foursomes. Golf Australia notes that they will not make any determinations about other forms of foursomes other than as described in the Rules of Golf.

CANADIAN FOURSOMES: This event is played as for Foursomes, except that both players play tee shots at every hole, then decide with which ball to continue play of the hole. They then continue with whichever ball they nominate, with the partner of the player whose ball is chosen playing the second stroke. Handicap allowance is normally ⅜ of aggregate stroke handicap for stroke competitions (0.5 is rounded up), but OneGolf will automatically apply the required handicap deduction.

AMERICAN FOURSOMES: Both players play tee shots at each hole, then play a second stroke with their partner’s ball. One ball is then selected and play proceeds as in foursomes, so that if Player B hit the second shot with the selected ball, Player A hits the next shot and play alternates until the hole is completed. (Said another way – the “owner” of the chosen ball plays the third shot.) Handicap allowance is normally ⅜ of aggregate stroke handicap for stroke competitions (0.5 is rounded up). GA suggests that this event is sometimes called “Pinehurst Foursomes”, but some authors suggest that “Pinehurst Foursomes” is an alternate name for “Chapman Foursomes”.

CHAPMAN FOURSOMES: Although not mentioned in the GA advice, this form is generally specified to have both players play tee shots at each hole, then play a second stroke with their own ball. One ball is then selected and play proceeds as in foursomes, so that if Player B’s ball is selected, Player A hits the next shot. Play then alternates until the hole is completed. Handicap allowance is normally ⅜ of aggregate stroke handicap for stroke competitions (0.5 is rounded up). Some writers suggest that this event is sometimes called “Pinehurst Foursomes”, after the Pinehurst Golf Club where the reputed “inventor” Dick Chapman supposedly played it. It may also be called “Two Stroke Canadian Foursomes”.

Because of the various interpretations of the different forms of Foursomes, the Match Committee will normally specify the way each team must play from the tee at each hole before reverting to the “true” foursomes format so that players are in no doubt, and the form specified complies with the way the competition is defined in OneGolf.