Match Play Overview



Match Play:  Match Play is a format of play that is scored in a hole-by-hole competition.  The side that holes its ball in less strokes than its opponent wins that particular hole. In a handicap competition, the side with the lowest net score wins the hole.


Winning:  The side who has won the most holes wins the match.  When a side is winning by more holes than there are holes remaining, the match is won.  A match can be won before all 18 holes are played. For example, if you win the first 10 holes, you’ve won the match because there are only 8 holes left to play.  In The LPGA Amateur Cup, each winning match is awarded 1 point toward the team total and tyed (or halved) matches are awarded ½ point. 

Match Play Terms:   

Score of a Match:  The score of a match is expressed relationally (this was previously referred to as status of a match). Match play scoring does not indicate the number of holes won by a player, but rather how many more holes than his opponent a golfer has won. "Up" indicates that a side is winning by a number of holes and "down" indicates that a side is losing by a number of holes.

Tied (or halved) Hole:  A tied (or "halved") hole is a hole where opponents have the same net score on a specific hole.  The opponents are said to have "tied" (or "halved") the hole and the score of the match remains the same.


All Square:  This term was removed from the USGA Rules of Golf in 2019.  However it can still be used to refer to the score of a match.  This scoring term indicates a match is tied.


Dormie:  This term was removed from the USGA Rules of Golf in 2019.  If you hear someone use it, it simply means that a side has won as many holes as the number of holes remaining to be played, i.e. 3 up with 3 to play. The worst the leading team can do at this point is tie (by losing all the remaining holes).


Major changes were made to the Rules of Golf in 2019.  It is highly recommended that you review the new rules.

Some relevent extracts are shared below.

Rule 3.2 – Match Play


b. Concessions

  • You may concede your opponent’s next stroke, a hole or the match, but a concession is only made when it is clearly communicated.
  • A concession is final – you cannot withdraw it once made and your opponent cannot decline the concession.


See Full Rules for more information on concessions, including how they are made.


d.  Responsibilites of Player and Opponent.


You have a responsibility to:

  • Tell your opponent the right number of strokes you have taken when asked,

  • Make your opponent aware as soon as reasonably possible after you get a penalty, and

  • Know the match score.


In a match, you should protect your own rights and interests under the Rules:

  • If you know or believe that your opponent has breached a Rule that has a penalty, you may act on the breach or choose to ignore it.

  • But if you and your opponent deliberately agree to ignore a breach or penalty you both know applies, you are both disqualified.

  • If you and your opponent disagree whether one of you has breached a Rule, you may protect your rights by asking for a ruling.


See Full Rules for more information on responsibilities and when a penalty applies for giving the wrong number of strokes or failing to make your opponent aware of a penalty.



Rule 6.1  Starting Play of a Hole


b. Ball Must Be Played from Inside Teeing Area


When starting a hole, if you play a ball from outside the teeing area (including from a wrong set of tee markers on the same hole or a different hole):


Match Play. There is no penalty and you play your ball as it lies, but your opponent may cancel the stroke, in which case you must play from inside the teeing area.


See Full Rules for more information on an opponent cancelling your stroke.



Rule 6.4  Order of Play When Playing Hole


a. Match Play


Starting First Hole. The honour is decided by the order of the draw or, if there is no draw, by agreement or by using a random method (such as tossing a coin).


Starting All Other Holes. The player who wins a hole has the honour at the next teeing area. If the hole was tied, the player with the honour at the previous teeing area keeps it.


After Both Players Start a Hole. The ball that is farther from the hole is to be played first.


In all cases, if you play when it is your opponent’s turn to play, there is no penalty and you play your ball as it lies, but your opponent may cancel the stroke.


Exception – Playing Out of Turn by Agreement to Save Time: To save time, you and your opponent may agree to play out of turn.


See Full Rules for more information on an opponent cancelling your stroke.



Rule 20.1 – Resolving Rules Issues During Round


20.1b Rules Issues in Match Play


(1)  Deciding Issues by Agreement.  During a round, the players in a match may agree how decide a Rules issue:

  • The agreed outcome is conclusive even if it turns out to be have been wrong under the Rules, so long as the players did not deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they knew applied (see Rule 1.3b(1)).

(2) Ruling Request Made Before Result of Match is Final.  When a player wants a referee or the the Committee to decide how to apply the Rules to her own play or the opoonents's play, the player may make a request for a ruling.


If a referee or the Committee is not available in a reasonable time, the player may make the request for a ruling by notifying the opponent that a later ruling will be sought when a referee or the Committee becomes available.


If a player makes a request for a ruling before the result of the match is final:

  • A ruling will be given only if the request was made in time, which depends on when the player becomes aware of the facts creating the Rules issue (see further details in Rule 20.1b(2)).
  • If the player does not make the request in time, a ruling will not be given by a referee or the Committee and the result of the hole(s) in question will stand even if the Rules were applied in the wrong way.


**NOTE: playing a second ball is not an option in match play**


Rule 10.2 - Advice and Other Help


10.2b Other Help - A player's partner may take the same actions (with the same limitations) as the player's caddie may take uner Rules 10.2b(2) and (4). This means that a partner may assist with pointing out the line play, but may not stand behind a partner when she begins taking her stance or during the stroke. Penalty for breach is the General Penalty (loss of hole). Player may avoid penalty by backing away from the stance and not retaking her stance until the partner has moved away.