The Games we Play

These notes are only intended to assist in the general concept of how various competitions are played.

They must be read in conjunction with the Rules of Golf.


This system of scoring by points was introduced by Dr Frank Stableford of the Wallasey Golf Club (Liverpool, England) in 1932 and is the most common event played at club level.

Stableford involves scoring points based on results at each hole. Using the index for each hole, players are able to make a mental allocation of their full handicap for each of the 18 holes. For example, a player on a handicap of 18 will add one shot to the par value of each hole to determine their own par for the hole. Thus a hole rated as a par 4 becomes a par 5 for the player.

The points scoring method is then calculated by allocating two points for a par, one point for one over, three points for one under, four points for two under, and so on. For example, a player receiving a stroke on a par 4 hole scores 4 giving them a net 3; for this the player receives 3 points. A player at a par 3 hole scores a 4 but does not receive a stroke; for this the player would receive 1 point.

Players who exceed their own par by two strokes score no points for the hole and, since they cannot improve on that result, they should pick up their ball. At the end of the round all points scored are added up and the player having the highest number of points is the winner.

When marking the score card, the number of strokes taken must always be shown for holes where points are scored. Thus, the card records both strokes and points.

Stroke (Medal)

The score at each hole is entered on the score card, totalled and the player’s full handicap deducted. The player who completes the stipulated round in the fewest net strokes is the winner. Usually a gross winner is also determined.


Players need to allocate full handicap strokes to each hole, as explained for Individual Stableford competition. Once players mentally determine their own par for each hole, the Individual Par competition challenges them to beat their own par. If players do exceed their par, they score a ‘+’ (plus) for the hole. If players equal their own par, they are said to have halved or squared the hole which is scored with an ‘O’. If par is not achieved, a ‘-‘ (minus) sign is recorded. At the end of the round the plus and minus signs are added and the net result written in as so many ‘up’, ‘down’ or ‘all square’.

A player is allowed their full stroke handicap and the strokes are taken at holes as indicated on the card. Where the handicap is more than 18, two strokes will be allowed on the number of holes that the handicap exceeds 18. These strokes will be taken in the same order as followed for the first 18 holes unless the index goes beyond 18.

Once again, when marking the score card, the number of strokes taken must always be shown for holes where an ‘O’ or ‘+’ is scored. Thus, the card records both strokes and plus, half or minus.

Ambrose Competition

This event can be played as a two, three or four-person event, although the four-person event is the most popular. Each player plays a tee shot at each hole.  The Captain then selects the best drive which is then played by its owner.  The other members retrieve their balls and in turn drop within one club-length of the selected position and play their second shots.  This procedure of selecting the best position continues until a ball is holed.  When on the green, balls are placed on the selected spot.

This event can be played as a gross event, with each group having a spread of handicaps, or as a handicap event where a fraction of the aggregate handicaps is used.  The most common method of determining handicap is: Two-person event – ¼ of aggregate stroke handicap; Three-person event – 1/6 of aggregate handicap; Four-person event – ⅛ of stroke handicap.

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