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What is match play in golf? Medal play?

Match play involves hole-by-hole competition with the lowest score winning each hole. What about medal play? Let’s explore golf styles and terms.

Match play involves hole-by-hole competition with the lowest score winning each hole. What about medal play? Let’s explore golf styles and terms.
Juan Carlos HidalgoEFE

There are two basic forms of competition and scoring in golf: Match Play and Stroke Play, which is also known as Medal Play. All of the men’s golf Majors – The Open Championship, US Open, US PGA Championship, and The Masters – as well as the women’s Majors, and the majority of tournaments on the US and World Tours, are competed for in medal play.

Let’s take a look at the difference between the two:

What is Match Play?

The Match Play competition is played hole by hole, either as individuals or in pairs, aiming at winning as many holes as possible.

The player or team with the fewest number of strokes (net, including the handicap of a player, or gross, depending on whether handicaps are included) wins the hole, while the match is won by whoever wins the most number of holes. If the scores are equal on a hole, that hole is then halved.

What is Medal Play or Stroke Play?

In Stroke play, on the other hand, the total number of strokes is added up over one or more rounds, usually 18 holes. Depending on whether the competition is using handicaps or not (the number that represents the golfer’s ability based on their previous golf round’s scores), the player’s medal score may be gross or net. If the competition is using handicaps, then the player’s score is adjusted by his or her handicap to get his or her net medal score. The winner is the player with the lowest total net score.

Although medal play is the simplest form of scoring, it is not a very easy form of scoring for golf beginners, particularly because a disaster on any one hole can ruin the round to the point where, even taking into account a high handicap, it’s impossible to get back in contention.

Match play tournament

Currently, the WGC Match Play is the only World Golf Championship in the men’s game that uses match play.

With match play in a tournament, the players play each other, with the winner of each match moving on, the other being knocked out, the same as, say, a tennis tournament (and unlike stroke play, where the players are all effectively playing each other, with the winner whoever has the lowest score at the end of the tournament).

In the WGC Match Play, a field of 64 first plays round-robins in groups of four, with only the winner of each group going through to the pure knock-out round of 16. All matches are played over 18 holes.

The 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies MatchPlay

This week marks an end of an era.

The final scheduled World Golf Championship event is taking place this week with the 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. It is the only WGC event on this season’s PGA Tour schedule, and the tour has already announced that the 2023 WGC-Match Play will be the last of its kind.