How Do Golf Tournaments Work? Know In Details

Golf tournaments make the sport more exciting for players. Pro players often participate in these tournaments. However, a player with a lower handicap can also take part in them and gather experience. 

But how do golf tournaments work?

Actually, a golf tournament is like a competition where players compete individually or in teams. The tournaments are officially organized using a variety of scoring formats. The entire event is held, maintaining the golf course’s policy. 

How Do Golf Tournaments Work?

How Do Golf Tournaments Work

Golf tournaments offer the thrill of competition that you need to enjoy a game. Most times. There are around 120 participants in each professional golf tournament. Each tournament has four rounds that are played over four days on the course. 

Usually, the event starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday. Each day, the game lasts 3-4 hours. When two rounds of golf are played, the top 50 players shift to the final rounds. 

There are various scoring formats in the tournament that I’ll discuss later, but the most popular is the stroke play format. Most PGA tournaments follow the stroke play scoring format. In this format, players compete by comparing their total scores. 

As I told you earlier, golf tournaments are played in four rounds of 18 holes, which means 72 holes. A team of two players is formed to play, and the highest-scoring players start first.

At the end round of the game, the player who has the lowest combined score wins. A playoff will take place if these two players tie.

7 Most Popular Golf Tournament Formats

how does golf tournament work

Golf tournaments use different golf scoring formats to make the game competitive, exciting, and enjoyable. Also, different golf courses use different formats which makes the sport more compelling. Here are some formats that you should know about.

1. Strokeplay

Strokplay tournaments are the most common playing format. When it is a professional tournament, this format is preferable. Here every shot counts. This is like counting how many shots you take in total.

The golfer with the fewest shots at the end wins. It’s like adding up all the points you score on every hole. For multiple rounds, your scores will add together from every round. 

In the case of an amateur tournament, your handicap will be subtracted from your final score. Tournament winners are those who have the lowest score.

2. Stableford

Stableford is another common golf scoring format when the tournament is for amateurs. Here, it’s about earning points for how well you do on each hole. The better you do, the more points you get. It’s like a reward system – the more points, the better.

For example, if you stroke the hole, you will get two points for a par. For a bogey, you will get one point, and zero points for a double bogey. Your point score will increase for shots under par. You need to gather as many points as you can to win the game.  

3. Matchplay

Matchplay is a game format where a player competes head-to-head with an opponent. This is a rare format in professional and amateur golf tournaments. It’s a knockout structure of scoring where the player with the minimal score wins the hole and moves on to the next one. 

Typically, the format is used in amateur golf leagues and lasts for several days or the entire season. The PGA Tour never uses this format except for the WGC Dell Technologies Championship.

4. Skins

This format isn’t too common for golf tournaments, but still, it’s a great way when amateurs want to make a buck off their buddies. The first official skins match was held in 1983 with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer.

In this format, each hole has a fixed monetary value or a skin. If you make the lowest score at the end of the hole, you will win the skin. It is quite similar to Matchplay. These skins can be like golden tickets, adding up as the game goes on.

If there’s a tie for the lowest score on a hole, the skin carries over to the next hole, making it even more valuable. The player with the most skin wins the tournament.

5. Better Ball

Better Ball is a team-based format that is often utilized in amateur tournaments. It’s usually paired with the Stableford scoring system.

In a Better Ball tournament, two players team up for two-ball better ball. You and your partner need to take the most points from each hole. The four-ball Better Ball is another variation where each group contributes its best score. 

At the end of the round, points accumulate, leading to the crowning moment when the team with the highest overall points emerges as the tournament victor.

The format is a delightful blend of individual skill and collective strategy, resulting in an exciting and enjoyable experience.

6. Scramble

In a Scramble tournament, your tee shots and approach shots take center stage. Each player in your group takes their first shot, and then the team selects the best-positioned tee shot among them.

This sets the stage for an exciting challenge as everyone strives to find that ideal starting point. Once the best tee shot is chosen, each player plays their own ball from there. 

Much like the Better Ball format, players can use the Stableford scoring system in tournaments. This means that the team with the most points at the end of the tournament claims victory. 

7. Foursomes

Foursomes are a captivating format reserved for special occasions like the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. It offers a unique and thrilling twist to golf tournaments. However, most amateurs might not have the chance to experience it. 

In a foursome tournament, you step up to the tee and deliver the opening shot, setting the stage for your partner’s approach. Their precise strike positions the ball near the green, and now it’s your turn to work on the putting green.

It’s a seamless sequence where every stroke matters and each decision influences the team’s progress.

In an amateur foursomes tournament, handicaps come into play, ensuring a fair playing field. To calculate your team’s handicap, simply add yours and your partner’s, then divide by two.

This equitable adjustment ensures that teams of varying skill levels can engage in spirited competition.

Golf Tournaments by Categories

how does pga tour work

Despite the scoring format, golf tournaments can also be divided into categories. 

1. Professional Tournaments

Professional tournaments are the most popular and highly prized golf tournaments. Among these tournaments, are major events like the European Tour and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour take center stage.

A significant divergence lies in the monetary stakes, with the PGA Tour boasting higher purses. On average, the starting purse for a PGA event stands at a staggering $9 million, while the European Tour’s starting purse is a shade over $1 million.

For professional players, financial rewards often drive their determination. This prompts many to channel their energy toward qualifying for the PGA Tour.

However, the path to success is lined with challenges. Qualification for these tournaments is a demanding feat, and once on the green, players face an elite array of opponents.

2. Amateur Tournaments

Amateur tournaments are like special get-togethers for people who love playing golf but aren’t professional players. Even though they’re not as super competitive as the big leagues, they can still get pretty exciting.

The main thing here is having fun and spending time with others who enjoy playing golf. These tournaments are a chance to hang out with like-minded friends and play the game you love. No players get paid in these tournaments. 

It might seem simple, but some amateur tournaments can be quite serious. You usually need to have a certain skill level and qualify by your handicap.

There’s also a fee to join, but it’s not too expensive. In return, you get to play in the tournament and you also get a bag of cool gifts.

3. Pro-Am Tournaments

Next in line are the Pro-Am tournaments – events where professional golfers join forces with 3 to 4 amateurs, creating a dynamic blend of skills and camaraderie.

These tournaments usually take place on a single day, featuring both morning and afternoon sessions. To ensure fairness and accommodate various schedules, organizers often spread the tournament over two separate days.

For instance, Monday Pro-Am tournaments often showcase emerging players and charge a lower entry fee.

Speaking of fees, participating in a Pro-Am event requires an entry fee that can vary widely. Typically, it ranges between $2,500 and $10,000, and in some cases, even exceeds $30,000.

It’s important to note that these entry fees are divided among the team members, which includes both professional golfers and amateurs.

When it comes to claiming the spoils of victory, the prize money goes solely to the professional players on the winning team. For amateur players, there’s a general rule – they can’t accept any prize money. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is golf scored in a tournament?

Different tournaments might use various scoring systems, such as stroke play, match play, Stableford, or modified Stableford. But most PGA tournaments use a stroke play format. 

How many games are in a golf tournament?

The number of games, or rounds, in a golf tournament can vary. Some tournaments are played over multiple days, usually spanning four rounds. However, smaller or single-day tournaments also consist of just one or two rounds.

How are golf tournaments set up?

Golf tournaments are organized by selecting a specific format and structure. Players might be grouped in teams, pairs, or compete individually. The tournament organizers decide on factors like the number of rounds, tee times, and course setup. 

What is a golf tournament format?

Golf tournament format refers to the rules and structure that determine how the event is played. There are various formats, each with its own rules.


Golf tournaments are exciting events for golf fans. These events are great opportunities for golfers to prove themselves, showing their skills and strategy.

Whether it is professional or amateur tournaments, knowing these formats and systems helps you to better understand the game.