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Why More Golfers Should Play Match Play

By: | Fri 24 Sep 2021 | Comments

As golfers, we are fortunate that our sport has several formats and each and every one is completely different from the last.

While the majority of us enjoy stroke play, there are several different formats that can freshen up the game and prevent the staleness of repetition from taking over.

However, you may play in a society or your club’s roll-up, which means that you may be familiar with stableford.

The beauty about that particular format is that a singular bad hole does not spell the end of a round.

If we’re playing stroke play and make triple-bogey on the first, there are 17 further holes to contend with whilst trying to craft a good score.

The pressure builds, one bad shot results in another and before you know it, you’ve stopped counting and agreed with your conscious that this will be a ‘practice round’ - we’ve all been there!

Stableford offers a solution to those poor starts; if you card triple-bogey on the first, you simply blob or forfeit the hole and move on to the next.

There is no reeling at a potential card wrecker and you simply put that opening hole behind you before continuing your pursuit for ultimate glory.

The same can be said about match play too, it offers a second chance and a poor beginning does not necessarily result in a bad experience.

Allow us to explain.

No Card Wreckers

Match Play

It can happen on the first hole: your opening tee shot flies into the trees to the left. You reset just to do the same! Five off the tee and before you’ve even taken a step onto the course, you’re angry and deflated.

Alternatively, you can play the opening nine well just to hit an errant tee shot from the 10th which requires a reload and a subsequent lost ball. Again, you’re angry and deflated.

Perhaps the absolute worst time for it to occur is the 18th hole; after battling for hours, you tee your ball up one final time. ‘Kick right’ you think to yourself but the contours have other ideas. A firm bounce to the left and, yep, you guessed it, three off the tee.

You are angry and deflated.

While we all need to accept that we will hit poor shots that will result in lost balls, it still doesn’t fully ease the pain of doing so.

Match play can offer a different scenario. You may have to take three off the tee on the first but you simply concede the hole.

You won’t be +5 after the first hole, you’ll be one down with 17 more chances for revenge. That sounds like a stress-free environment - until you hit the final stretch!

In match play, there are three outcomes: win, loss, half. Every hole, one of those three will occur.

It’s also forgiving, allowing for mistakes that are not too detrimental and therefore, should encourage an immediate response.


While every golfer should deploy some sort of strategy when out on the golf course - regardless of format - match play allows us to get a little more creative.

Additionally, it’s also quite responsive; if your opponent hits the ball into the water, you’ll be less inclined to hit driver and risk the same outcome - you’ll opt for a long iron and the benefit of safety instead.

To say it’s tactical is an understatement: every decision you make will have been based off your opponent's shot or positioning.

Through strategic play and the importance of winning, you’ll unearth another benefit of match play: healthy competition.

Healthy Competition

Match Play

While we always compete with our golfing buddies, fluctuating levels of ability make it difficult to determine who’s outperformed the other.

Naturally, the handicap system is an excellent resource for comparison but utilising that in a match play scenario is completely different.

When playing a round of stroke play, you may identify which holes to be aggressive and which ones to play with safety in mind.

Again, considering match play is reactionary, you can’t afford to have the luxury of choosing when to attack flags or when to shave that particular dogleg off.

If your opponent hits a drive 280 yards to the preferred side of the fairway, you have no other option but to match that quality.

Thus, healthy competition is present on every single hole.

Something Different

Match Play

Undoubtedly, the two most played formats in amateur golf are stroke play and stableford.

While they are vastly different, playing them both so frequently can result in a case of overload or in extreme cases, boredom.

If you feel that you are fed up with the same rigorous scoring system, why not trial match play?

You only need two players to play it efficiently, which means if a three-ball is let down by a player, then a match play scenario becomes viable.

Alternatively, if you’re playing in groups of three or four, you can play a format called skins which revolves around the same premise as match play.

Every hole is worth one skin and if you score identically, that skin would be carried over to the next hole, where you are now playing for two skins - as the first one was not awarded.

It is something different and who knows, you may even prefer the format!

The wonderful thing about golf is that it comes equipped with several formats. While you know what you’re going to get from a game of football, the same cannot be said about golf.

Stroke play, match play, skins, stableford, scramble…the list could go on.

There are so many different formats for you to attempt that we highly advise you give them all a go.

Who knows, maybe you might even schedule in a weekly game of match play once you realise all of the advantages that this wonderful format holds.

The reasons above provide significant detail into why golfers should play match play and the benefits of doing so - don’t miss out!

Related Content

Great Formats to Play on a Golf Break

5 Different Golf Formats to Play With Your Mates

Do We Play Too Much Stableford Golf in the UK?

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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