Alternate Shot Golf: How to Survive the Ultimate Test

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An alternate shot tournament is one of the most challenging aspects of golf. It’s also known as “Scotch” format which I think was named appropriately… because after a round chances are, you will need to drink some scotch!

Alternate shots are arguably the most difficult test for two golfers. My guess is that it’s 10X harder than a scramble or a best-ball tournament as you will see in the next section. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a ton of fun if you’re up for the challenge. 

Continue reading to find out more about this unique format and its common variations. 

Alternate Shot Golf 101 

Alternate shot is also known as foursomes or Scotch ball. golf format composed of teams of two players. The ball is the same on each hole, and team members can switch hitting tee shots at odd or even holes. 

Player A will tee off on the first hole. However, player B will also play on odd-numbered holes (e.g. 5, 7, 9, etc.). Player B will only tee off on the even holes. That’s right, only one tee ball per hole vs. two tee balls in a Chapman golf tournament.

This format does not allow a player to hit the same shot twice. 

It can be difficult to find your groove while playing golf. It’s hard to only hit a few shots every hour and expect to play your best (at least for most amateur golfers). Not to mention, it’s hard to score well. 

While it’s one of the most popular golf tournament formats in pro golf, it’s much harder than a best ball match play competition. Many amateur golfers struggle to manage the team score, especially when penalty strokes occur.

But if you’re up for the challenge, foursomes golf is a great way to test you and your partner’s game. This is a traditional format. Match-play event where you’re paired with another team. This allows for faster stroke play. (You’ll see alternate shot a lot in member guest tournament playoffs.)

In big events like Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, alternate shots can make for great memories. It’s awesome to watch the best players in the world have to hit their teammates’ shots, especially after less than perfect drives. 

Variations of Alternate shots 

There are many variations of alternate shots, just like many formats. The first is known as Chapman or “American Foursomes” and is a combination of alternate shot with four ball. 

Each player tees off, then they switch balls (Player A hits B’s second shot, vice versa). After both second shots have been hit, each player chooses one ball to finish the hole with and alternate strokes. Click here for more information about Chapman tournaments. 

Another version is known as greensomes or “Scotch foursomes.” This is a slightly easier version than standard alternate shot as both players tee off on every hole. Teams pick the best ball and then play foursomes until the hole has been completed. 

Final versions are known as bloodsomes, gruesomes. It’s the same format as greensomes with one diabolical twist – the opposing team selects which ball is used after both tee shots are hit. I’ve never seen something like this in a tournament (yet) but I think it would be as challenging as the greenskeeper revenge format. 

Handicaps for Foursomes

Handicaps in foursomes get a little tricky and actually vary based on whether it’s a stroke play or match play event. 

Let’s say Team A has a combined handicap of 30 while team B has a handicap of 20. 30-20 equals 10. You would then divide that number by 2 (since there are two players teams) to get 5. 

Team A would get a stroke on the five hardest handicap holes – which you can find on the scorecard. If both teams score the same five holes, team A would win them based only on handicap.

For stroke play events, however, the handicap system changes. This is much easier – simply average the two players handicap and it will be subtracted from the total score. This will result in a gross and net score. Most events have both divisions. 


Alternate shot golf rules 

The rules are simple and follow match play rules. A team can win, lose, or split the hole. 

If it’s a stroke play event (which is quite rare), the team would need to finish every hole. Only one player is required to sign off the score at the end. 

The most important rule to remember is that players should alternate after each stroke. A player should never hit the same shot twice. 

A provisional is a shot that a player on a team must hit. This is done by the player who should be hitting the next shot. If player A hits a questionable drive but tees off, player B would play the provisional. 

According to the USGA (Rule 22.2), here are the three other rules to remember.

  • “Either partner may take any allowed actions for the side before the stroke is made, such as mark the spot of the ball and lift, replace, drop, and place the ball, no matter which partner’s turn is to play next for the side.
  • A partner and his or her caddies may help the other partner in any way that the other partner’s caddie is allowed to help.  
  • Any action taken or break of the Rules by either partner or either caddies applies to the side.”

Alternate shots strategies (How to Play Alternate Shoot in Match Play).

As you can imagine, alternate shot format is not easy since you’re only playing one ball per hole! If you or your partner hits a bad tee shot, it’s not always easy to get the ball back in play. 

These are some alternate shot strategies that can help you win these difficult tournaments.

  • Practice rounds can be played with the same golf ball. This is especially important if you both play different types of golf balls. 
  • Be patient with one another. Golf is a game that has both good and bad shots. You’re going to hit plenty of both so make sure to stay patient and not berate your partner after a bad swing or putt. 
  • To create a solid strategy, you should research the holes in advance. You want to ensure that the right person is teeing off at odd or even holes. To give your team a better chance of reaching the green in two shots, you might ask player B to play the par-5 tee shots. 

FAQs about Alternate shot Tournaments 

Are you interested in alternate shot (or foursomes), golf tournaments? Continue reading to learn how you can play well in these types events.

What is an alt shot? 

It’s named this way as players alternate the order of hitting shots. The round is played in a single order. Players must alternate between A and B at all times. 

Is foursomes equal to four-ball or foursomes?

No, four-ball tournaments have four players but each player is hitting the exact same ball throughout the hole. The lowest score of the team is taken and partners compete for better ball scoring. Foursomes have one ball on the hole, and players alternate hitting the shots.

Is Chapman the same shot as an alternate shot?

Chapman events have both the players hitting tee shots, and second shots. The format changes to alternate until the third shot.

Warum are foursomes also called alternates? 

This name is also somewhat confusing. Its a bit like best ball, where each golfer plays their own hole. The reason it’s named foursomes is that four players are in the group. This is why it’s commonly known as alternate shot or a variation is played. 

Who is the provisional in an alternate shot? 

If player A hits their ball on the tee, and it is required for a provisional, they dont hit the second shot. Player B would instead hit a provisional, as the penalty shot is not included in the order of play. 

What does it take to make penalty shots work in foursomes

In a foursomes match, penalty shots will not affect the order. 

For example, if you hit a ball out of bounds on the tee shot, your partner would hit the next shot even if it’s the third shot of the hole. The same rules apply to provisional balls. 

Can you swap golf balls in an alternate shot? 

This is another reason why alternate shot format proves so difficult. Players are forced to use one type of golf ball for the entire round and can’t switch based on who is hitting. This is why it’s important to play practice rounds with the golf ball you will use in competition. 

How are foursomes scored? Is it strokeplay?

Foursomes are usually scored in match play events. For the round, your team will be paired with another team in match play. But stroke play or handicaps can also be included. 

What is the role of pros in foursomes?

Yes, this format of golf has made great memories at big events such as the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup, Walker Cup and Presidents Cup.  

Final Thoughts on Foursomes golf tournaments

After playing in all formats of golf, I can safely say that this is the most challenging format for everyday golfers. It can be a long day on the course, as you only have one tee ball per hole.

Even if your team hits it well off the tee, it’s still not easy scoring well with approach shots and putts. You should be patient and have a game plan in place if you are going to be playing in one of these events. The difference in your total score can be made by having the right player tee off on odd holes or holes. 

Make sure you understand the rules and scoring before you tee off on the first hole. If you need an easier format, we suggest a shamble or scramble type of event – even the weakest driver can still have fun.  

Take a look at our best gambling games or how to play wolf for more ideas to mix up your round. 

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