Best Ball or Four Ball Golf Tournament Format Explained

by Andrew Pritchard

“Best Ball” and “Four-Ball” are the same game. The most basic fact, and hence the name, is there are four balls in play. If you have ever watched the intense competitions in any Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or Solheim Cup competition, then you have seen a four-ball match (or best ball match). It’s the perfect golf tournament competition for combining the fun of team play with the personal glory of playing well individually.

Best Ball/Four Ball is a competition where two golfers play as partners, each playing his own ball. The lower score of the partners is the score for the hole (so pick a good partner!). If one partner fails to complete the play of the hole, there is no penalty as a team only needs one golfer to finish the hole and post a score. In Best Ball/Four-Ball each two-person team plays their “best ball” against the “best ball” of two other players.

Scoring in best ball is easy peasy. Two teams of two golfers each play their own ball. After each hole, the low score is counted as the team score. For example, one team is playing a par-4 hole. Golfer “A” takes four shots and golfer “B” takes five shots. Because golfer A’s score is the better of the two, the team’s score will be four. In match play best ball, the team’s score of four will be compared against the other team’s best score to determine which team won the hole. In stroke play best ball, the low team score is cards and a final score is tallied at the end of the match. We told you it was easy.

18-hole team scores in the 50s are not uncommon so you can tell your friends you shot a 59! No need to admit to being part of a team in a best ball golf tournament unless follow-up questions are asked.

Best Ball Strategy

While the concept is simple, success at best ball is all about executing a smart strategy on every hole. The most reliable strategy is for one player to “play safe” and protect a good score. Having their partner safely in the fairway, allows the other player to go for broke in hopes of making the lowest score possible. Players using this strategy successfully to win hole after hole are often described as “ham-and-egging it.” Give me a side of toast, please!

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