Deciding the perfect golf trip format

If you have stumbled across this article, chances are you are looking for a bit of inspiration for putting together a fun and exciting competition for your buddies on your next golf trip. I have some good news for you; whatever format you pick will be fine.

Ultimately whatever type of golf match you set up should pale in comparison to the trip itself, and the shared memories of the group should last years longer than trash talk and banter around who won what, remembering that we are not playing for the Green Jacket or Claret Jug.

In saying that, the format and style of match you pick for your golf trip can play a very important and exciting role in how your golf adventure plays out. A little bit of healthy competition can bond your group together and create some meaningful golf on the course. 

There are plenty of specifics to consider around what format you choose for your group, but here are some bigger questions you may want to answer first.

Team vs. Individual

This one is simple in my eyes. If you are lucky enough to be traveling with 8 or more players, there is nothing that matches the fun of your own Ryder or Presidents Cup-style match. Team golf is great as it takes the attention off the individual, and if you are having a less than memorable day, you can always find a way to help the team. Even if you are playing garbage golf all week, you may find that come the last round of your trip, you all of a sudden have an amazing chance to contribute to the overall success of your team.

The strategy also counts for a lot more in team golf. Regardless of whether you are playing foursomes or fourball or any other sort of format, the strategy and discussion that is generated between your teammates can create a whole different lense for your golf.

Even if you are playing in a smaller group having a teams element in your competition is a great idea. Whether it’s rotating 18 hole matches or even a series of 6 hole matches, creating a team comp within your event is a must-have element to consider.

Matchplay vs. Stroke play

We all strive to shoot a low score vs. the card that we will remember for a lifetime. And regardless of whether you pick a match or stroke play format for your golf event, every golfer can still aim for this.

But when you are putting together the golf format for your upcoming trip, always push for match types that emphasize match play vs. stroke play.

Matchplay is just way less brutal if you are having a tough day or playing a tough course. Pick up your ball when you are out of the hole and move on. You will thank yourself for this rule if you are trying to play 36 holes.

If you do choose to play a more individual format, my suggestion is always to push for a Stableford format vs. pure gross scoring. No one wants to make a 15 on a hole.

Artificial handicapping or playing it as it lies.

For some golf groups, this will not even be a question to consider, but some of my best golf weekends and trips have allowed for some adjustments to be made prior to the final round of the trip to ensure everyone is in the match somewhat.

This could be a case of using all rounds leading up to the final round played as a form of qualification to earn bonus stablefords for the final round. Other options allowing players to drop a bad round or allocating double points for the final round also can keep everyone in the game.

The upside of whatever artificial manipulation you make is that everyone stays in the event to the last day. The downside is that someone who plays the best golf all week may not win if they are not as good on the last day.

The answer to this quandary may depend on what the stakes are for your competition. If you are playing for something meaningful, it may be best to play more traditional scoring methods.

Extra credit … Consider Irish Drop as a rule for your trip

Golf purists will say an immediate no to this consideration, but depending on how hard the courses are you plan to play, and depending on whether you are trying to play 36 holes a day, implementing an Irish Drop rule for your entire golf trip is not a stupid thing to consider.

Allowing the whole group to play every lost ball as a lateral hazard effectively keeps play moving forward and makes it much more palatable to give up on a ball hunt.

Once you have the big questions around format out of the way, it’s not time to consider what games you want to play and what the stakes may be!

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