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What is the fourball format in golf? And how do you play foursomes or alternate shot?

The four-ball golf match play format, used in the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, and Presidents Cup involves two teams of two golfers competing against each other.

Team US golfer Andrea Lee (L) shakes hands with team US' Rose Zhang on the second day of the 2023 Solheim Cup biennial team golf competition.

In golf, the fourball format is a type of match-play competition where two players form a team and each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round. The lowest score of the two teammates on each hole is the team’s score for that hole. At the end of the round, the team with the lowest total score wins the match.

To play fourball, each team consists of two players who each hit their own ball from the teeing ground to the hole. The team score for each hole is determined by taking the lower score of the two teammates. For example, if one player scores a four on a hole and the other scores a five, the team score is four.


Fourball can be played in either stroke play or match play format, depending on the rules of the tournament or competition. In stroke play, the team with the lowest total score at the end of the round wins. In match play, the team that wins the most holes at the end of the round wins.

Foursomes or alternate shot

Foursomes, also known as alternate shot, is a golf format played by two-player teams, where each team plays with a single ball, taking alternate shots until the hole is completed. Here are the basic rules of foursomes:

  1. Players on a team take turns hitting the same ball. One player tees off on the odd-numbered holes, and the other on the even-numbered holes.
  2. After the tee shot, the team selects which ball to play and alternates shots until the ball is holed. For example, if Player A hits the tee shot, Player B will hit the next shot, then Player A again, and so on, until the ball is in the hole.
  3. The team with the lowest score on the hole wins that hole.
  4. The team that wins the most holes during the round wins the match.
  5. In foursomes, there is no order in which the players must take their shots, so the team can decide who will hit each shot based on each player’s strengths.

It’s worth noting that players must be careful not to hit a shot that would make it difficult for their partner’s next attempt in foursomes. For example, if Player A hits a shot into a bunker, Player B will have to hit the next shot from the sand, which can be challenging. Therefore, communication and strategy between teammates are essential in this format.