Also known as Alternate Shot, what is foursomes and how do you play it? Here's what you need to know about this fun golf format

Foursomes is a golf format where two players compete as a team playing a single ball between them in alternating order.

Also known as ‘Alternate Shot’, foursomes is played in many of the huge team events of professional golf, like the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and Presidents Cup.

Foursomes is a fun way to bring a sense of team comradery to the course, requiring extra thought and strategy while helping to speed up play.

How to play foursomes

One player tees off hitting the first shot. Their partner then plays the next shot, with the first player returning to hit the shot after that. This alternation carries on until the ball is eventually in the hole.

Team members also take turns to tee off on each hole, meaning one player tees off on all the even holes and their partner tees off on all the odd holes. This means calling foursomes ‘alternate shot’ is technically wrong, as a player who holes out may also have the honour on the following hole!

As per the R&A rules, either player may take allowed action for their team before a stroke is made, such as marking the ball or dropping and placing it in a penalty situation.

Foursomes is most common in match play competitions but can also be applied to the stroke play format. In match play, the team that completes each hole in the fewest shots wins the hole. In stroke play, the team that completes all 18 holes in the fewest total strokes is the winner.

Playing with handicaps

In foursomes, the team’s handicap allowance is half of the two players’ combined handicap.

For example, if player A has a handicap of 8 and pairs with player B who has a handicap of 20, their team handicap would be 14 (20+8=28) (28/2=14).

In match play foursomes, the difference between both of these calculated allowances determines how many shots are given.

For example: Team A has a combined handicap of 28 (20+8), giving them a team handicap of 14 (28/2). Team B has a combined handicap of 15 (10+5), giving them a team handicap of 7.5 (15/2).

Team B therefore gives Team A 7 shots in match play foursomes, as 14 subtracted by 7.5 is 6.5, which then rounds up to 7.

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