Foursomes: How does it work?

First Tee Ryder Cup

Foursomes is a type of golf match played between four players.

Golfers compete in teams of two, using only one ball per team, and take it in turns to hit shots until the hole is completed. The team that completes the hole in the fewest shots wins. 

Team members also take it turns to tee off. For example, Player A will tee off on odd-numbered holes and Player B will tee off on even-numbered holes. 

This means that, technically, calling 'foursomes' 'alternate shot' - as some have taken to doing - is wrong, given that Player A could hole a putt but also be the person with the honour on the next hole.

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Strokeplay Foursomes

Foursomes is most common in matchplay competitions but it can also be applied to strokeplay. As you can probably guess, the team with the lowest score wins. You can also apply Stableford scoring in Strokeplay for a twist.

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What happens to handicaps in Foursomes?

The handicaps in Foursomes depend on what type of format is being played.

Matchplay: Take Team A and Team B and first add the handicaps of both golfers on each side. For example, say Team A’s combined handicap is 15 and Team B’s is 30. Subtract the lower handicap total from the higher one. In this example, that would be 15 (30-15). Then, divide that total by two (7.5). This rounds up to eight meaning Team A must give Team B eight shots.

Strokeplay: Handicap allowance is 50% of the partners' combined course handicaps. So, add the course handicaps together and divide by half.

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Variations of Foursomes

Greensomes: Also known as Scotch Foursomes, it’s the same as regular foursomes except both players tee off from every hole after which the best ball is chosen and the hole completed in alternate shots. Read more about it here.

Bloodsomes or Gruesomes: Follows the same format as Greensomes, except the opposition pairing choose which tee shot is played.

Chapman: Also known as Pinehurst System or American Foursomes, this is a combination of alternate shot and fourball. Each pair plays two balls and then pick the best ball for the third shot to be played by the player who drove it. It is named after American amateur golfer Dick Chapman.

Foursomes in major events

Foursomes is one of the most recognised formats in golf on account of its appearance in some of the game’s most high-profile team events. They include:

Ryder Cup: The first match was in 1927 and Foursomes has been a feature in every edition.

Solheim Cup: Foursomes has been part of every Solheim Cup since it was first played in 1990.

Presidents Cup: Foursomes has been part of every Presidents Cup since the first in 1994.

Foursomes is also used in the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup.

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