The R&A - Working for Golf
Other Forms of Individual Stroke Play and Match Play
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Purpose: Rule 21 covers four other forms of individual play, including three forms of stroke play where scoring is different than in regular stroke play: Stableford (scoring by points awarded on each hole); Maximum Score (the score for each hole is capped at a maximum); and Par/Bogey (match play scoring used on a hole by hole basis).

Three-Ball Match Play
In Three-Ball Match Play Each Player Is Playing Two Distinct Matches

In Three-Ball match play, because each player is playing two distinct matches, situations may arise that affect one match but not the other.

For example, Player A concedes the next stroke, a hole or the match to Player B. That concession has no effect on the match between Player A and Player C or the match between Player B and Player C.

Other Forms of Playing Golf
Player May Compete in Multiple Stroke-Play Formats at Same Time
A player may compete simultaneously in multiple forms of stroke-play competitions, such as regular stroke play, Stableford, Maximum Score, and Par/Bogey.

A form of match play where:

  • Each of three players plays an individual match against the other two players at the same time, and
  • Each player plays one ball that is used in both of his or her matches.
Match Play

A form of play where a player or side plays directly against an opponent or opposing side in a head-to-head match of one or more rounds:

  • A player or side wins a hole in the match by completing the hole in fewer strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), and
  • The match is won when a player or side leads the opponent or opposing side by more holes than remain to be played.

Match play can be played as a singles match (where one player plays directly against one opponent), a Three-Ball match or a Foursomes or Four-Ball match between sides of two partners.


The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).


Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.