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How Do Golf Tournaments Work?

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Published: 7 April 2024
Written By Ifrah Tanveer

Reviewed by Farrukh Mehmood

Facts checked by Zafar Mehmood

How Do Golf Tournaments Work? Is a very interesting query to discover for people who play golf or watch golf. Golfers compete in tournaments, either as individuals or as teams, using different scoring schemes and tee times that follow the rules of the particular golf course that is hosting the event.

Even though the typical format is a 72-hole stroke play, which entails finishing four rounds of 18 holes each, different start times, playing strategies, and scoring schemes can be used in tournaments to add excitement to the game.

Gaining an understanding of the structure of golf tournaments can help one better understand the competitive dynamics of this well-liked sport. To learn more about how tournaments operate, continue reading.

How Do Golf Tournaments Work?

Professional golf tournaments usually have about 120 players and are played over four days, starting on Thursday and ending on Sunday, with four rounds. A typical round of golf lasts three to four hours. Only the top 50 competitors move on to the final rounds after the first two rounds.

Teams of two players are frequently formed, with the player with the highest score starting the game first. The player with the lowest cumulative score is declared the ultimate winner. If two players are tied, they play a playoff to see who will win in the end. This structure adds an element of competition and suspense to the tournament.

Different Golf Tournament Formats:

Golf tournaments use a variety of scoring systems, the most popular of which are stroke play and stableford. In addition, match play, scramble, alternate shot, team play, and fourball are less commonly used formats.


In amateur competitions, the Stableford scoring format is frequently utilized. A player receives two points for a par, one point for a bogey, and zero points for a double bogey depending on how well they perform on each hole. The winner is the player who has accrued the most points. 

Stroke Play:

In stroke play, every stroke is tallied, and the total of the scores from every round is added. Professionals prefer this format, and to level the playing field in amateur tournaments, players’ handicaps are frequently deducted. The winner is the player with the lowest cumulative score.


Each player in a group of four takes a shot in a scramble, also known as best ball, format. The team then chooses the best-positioned tee shot and discards the others. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins in this simplified format.


A less popular format that features head-to-head competition in one-hole competitions is match play. Going on to the next hole, the player with the lowest score on a given hole wins. Usually, there are just two players at a time in this format.

Most Common Golf Tournament Start Formats:

How the first round is played in a golf tournament is determined by its start format. Three common beginning formats are as follows:

Shotgun Start:

Every player group tees off simultaneously at a different hole during a shotgun start. This format works well with groups that are larger than sixty people. With a ceremonial shot into the air, the competition starts and ends at the same time.

First-Hole Start:

Each group tees off at the first hole in the traditional manner, with play occurring in succession at prearranged intervals—typically ten minutes apart. Because the final group may not even be starting when the first group is done, this format takes longer. For smaller groups of 36 players or less, it works well. 

Two-Tee Start:

Shotgun and first-hole formats are combined in the two-tee start. At holes 1 and 10, two groups simultaneously tee off and play consecutively. This format works well for groups of 40 to 56 players that are in between the size thresholds of the shotgun and standard first-hole formats, with tee times of 10-15 minutes for each group on each stroke. You may like to read our article on Is Golf a Target Game?

What Are the Major Golf Tournaments?

The Grand Slam of golf is made up of the four major tournaments that are considered to be the major championships. These events are:

1. Masters Tournament – U.S. Masters:

The Masters is held at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in April. There are no qualifying events held prior to the tournament; instead, participants receive invitations.

2. U.S. PGA Championship:

There are strict requirements to participate in the PGA Championship, which is only open to professionals. A lifetime invitation to U.S. PGA tournaments and a 5-year entry into future Grand Slam events are among the benefits awarded to winners.

3. Open Championship – British Open:

It is the oldest golf competition, called the British Open, and it alternates between a number of elite golf courses in the UK. Though it is theoretically open to amateurs and professionals alike, only a select few amateurs are eligible.

4. U.S. Open Championship:

The U.S. Open is renowned for its difficult course conditions and is thought to be the most difficult. The 72-hole, four-round stroke play format determines the winner, who is the player with the lowest total score. The competition began in 1898.

A Grand Slam would be winning all four majors in one year, which has not been done yet, but Tiger Woods did a Career Grand Slam by winning all four events in two years. 

Conclusion-How Do Golf Tournaments Work?

How Do Golf Tournaments Work? In fact, amateur and professional golf tournaments add a great deal to the sport’s allure, drawing in spectators and competitors alike. The variety of tournament formats enhances the golfing experience, ranging from stroke play in professional competitions to stableford in amateur events.

The more aficionados learn about the nuances of different golfing systems and competitions, the more they will naturally appreciate and enjoy this sophisticated sport.

Frequently Asked Questions – How Do Golf Tournaments Work?

How are golf tournaments scored?

There are several formats available for scoring golf tournaments. The two most popular are stableford, in which players receive points based on how well they perform on each hole, and stroke play, in which every stroke is counted.

What is a shotgun start in a golf tournament?

When multiple player groups tee off simultaneously from separate holes, it is known as a shotgun start. Especially with larger groups, this format is frequently used to start and end a tournament efficiently.

What are the major golf championships?

The Masters Tournament, U.S. PGA Championship, Open Championship, and U.S. Open Championship are the four major golf championships, commonly referred to as the Grand Slam tournaments.

How does the Masters Tournament work?

There are no qualifying events for the Augusta National Golf Club-hosted Masters Tournament, which is an invitation-only competition. It is a prestigious and distinctive competition where players are invited to participate.

What is a Grand Slam in golf?

In the world of golf, winning the Masters, U.S. PGA Championship, Open Championship, and U.S. Open in the same calendar year is known as a Grand Slam. Throughout the course of a career, winning these titles is necessary to accomplish a Career Grand Slam.

How does a two-tee start in a golf tournament work?

In a two-tee start, players tee off simultaneously on the first and tenth holes. This hybrid format, which combines elements of traditional first-hole starts and shotgun starts, is frequently utilized for groups of moderate size.

How does matchplay work in golf tournaments?

Players compete head-to-head in the matchplay format, with the player with the lowest score winning each hole. Unlike stroke play, it places more emphasis on the results of individual holes than the total number of strokes made during the round.

Muhammad Zafar