Chapman Golf Format 101: How to Play

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Chapman tournaments can be one of the most entertaining formats in golf. It’s a perfect mix of competition, teamwork but still a great challenge.  

Chapman events are a lot more difficult than other formats, but much more challenging than scrambles or shambles. Not to mention, it’s only a 2-person event, which means you need to have your A game as you don’t have as many people to pick up the slack.

Continue reading to learn about this unique format and other variations of the Chapman Golf System. 

Chapman Golf Tournaments 101 

What exactly is a Chapman? Personally, I think it’s one of the best golf games around (You can also find other popular games of golf here).

First, let me say it’s unlike other common formats which include shambles, scrambles, and best-ball (four ball) events. 

Instead, a Chapman would be a hybrid of two events – it combines the best of alternate shot (also known as foursomes) and four-ball. This tournament does not require four players like scrambles, but only two. 

This event is named after Dick Chapman who won the 1940 US Amateur as well as the 1951 British Amateur. It was created by Dick Chapman in the late 1940s at Pinehurst Resort. At that time, Dick played with one man and one lady team.

Dick Chapman has a remarkable record of winning the Masters an incredible 19 times! Imagine playing Augusta National almost 20 times as an amateur golfer. Most professional golfers don’t even get to step on those hallowed grounds that often. 

Anyway, let’s get into how this type of format works. 

Chapman System golf format

A Chapman golf format works like this (also known as the Pinehurst system or American Foursomes)… 

Both players tee-off on every hole – this is the biggest change from an alternate shot format. Alternate shot allows only one player to tee off on each hole. Players alternate teeing off at odd or even holes. Chapman events allow both players to tee off on all 18 of the holes.

Here is where the fun begins.

After the tee shots, golfers switch balls – golfer A hits’ golfer B tee shot and vice versa. The team will choose the ball in the best position after both players have hit their second shots.

The third stroke will be played by one golfer, and then the two will alternate until the hole is completed. It’s great for players with differing playing abilities as you don’t need to rely on one golfer too often.

Here are some examples of the Chapman system working with different types holes. 

Chapman Golf Example 

Par 3s allow both players to hit their tee shots first, then chip or putt their partners shots. This could lead to two birdie shots if both golfers hit regulation.

If one player has not made a (2) birdie, the players would alternate and choose the best second shot until the holes end. These should be your easiest holes to score! 

With par 4s and par 5s, both players hit their tee shots and then golfer A is playing B’s ball and vice versa. Once both players have made their second shots, they alternate until the hole has been completed for a team score.

The third stroke is where things get complicated. After both players have made two shots, they will need to choose a ball to complete the hole. 

This could lead to a putt for birdie/eagle or a full third shot into a green. Par 5s are usually the easiest holes. However, a bad third shot could pose challenges. 


Variations of Chapman System 

There are two types of Chapman system. But don’t forget, it’s already a spin-off of foursomes and traditional four-ball events. 

One variation is known as greensomes or “Scotch foursomes.”  Both players tee off like Chapman but once the team chooses the best ball, it’s an alternate shot for the rest of the hole. Both players don’t get to hit approach shots like in a Chapman system.

A second event for two people that is similar to the Chapman is bloodsomes or Gruesomes. It’s the same format as greensomes where each player tees off. The catch is that the opposing team chooses the ball they will alternate in to complete the hole. 

Chapman Handicaps

Section 9-4 of the USGA handbook explains how handicaps work at Chapman events. Here’s how the handicap allowances work.

For Match play events, the partner with the lower course handicap gets 60% of that number. The player with a higher course handicap receives 40%. These two numbers add up to the average team handicap.

The other team does the same and the team with a lower handicap plays from zero. If team A has 12 handicap and teamB has 20, then teamB gets eight strokes. This will be determined based on the handicap from the scorecard.

The same scoring applies for stroke play (the most common method of playing Chapman). 60% of the lower handicap and 40% of the higher handicap are used to calculate a team handicap. This is subtracted off the final gross score.

For stroke play tournaments there is a gross score (no handicaps added) and a net score. Handicaps are subtracted. 

FAQs about Chapman Golf Tournaments 

Do you have any questions about playing in Chapman tournaments of golf? Keep reading to learn how to play in these types events.

What is a two-man Chapman?

A two-man Chapman can be considered a spinoff of traditional alternate shot golf. 

Both players tee off and then hit each other’s golf balls on the second shot. After each player has hit two shots, they decide which ball is best to finish the hole. 

What is the Pinehurst Chapman golf format?

Pinehurst Chapman is exactly the same as a normal Chapman. It was named after Dick Chapman, who donated 2 trophies to Pinehurst resort during the 1940s for their event. 

What are the rules for Chapman-system events?

The rules will depend on whether the match is a stroke play match play event or a match play event. If it’s a stroke play event, nothing changes and the team must finish the hole or will get DQ’d.

If it’s a match play event, teams can either win, lose, or half the hole. Teams don’t need to finish the hole if it is conceded from the opposing team. 

Who is the Chapman provisional? 

Player A does not hit the provisional if they hit a tee shot which requires a provisional. Player B would instead hit the provisional because the penalty shot is not included in the order of play. 

What are the rules for penalty shots at Chapman events

Chapman events have a trickier Penalty shots. 

For example, player A might hit his tee shot out-of-bounds, but player B is still in play. No provisional would then be hit. Player A would hit the next shot, and player B would alternate to complete the hole as usual. 

Things can change if something happens during the third shot. Let’s say player A hits it in the water on their third shot, player B would still play the next shot (even though it’s the fifth shot of the hole). Penalty shots don’t count towards a player’s stroke. 

Can you swap golf balls in Chapman tournaments 

Each player will use their own golf balls for the tee shot. After the tee shot, teammates will switch balls which means player A will hit player B’s golf ball.

But you cannot swap your ball out at this time – this is why it’s a good idea to play the same golf ball if possible. A different distance or spin rate could result, which can cause you to play differently from ball to ball. 

How did Chapman score? 

Chapman scoring is a stroke play event, but it can also be used as a match play. Both are excellent two-man events and can be played with a weaker partner. Some tournaments will offer betting games during play. Calcutta auction as well to bet on teams. 

Do pros play in Chapman events?

No, this format isn’t used at professional levels who tend to use four ball or foursome format. 

Final Thoughts about Chapman Golf Tournaments

Chapman events are a great way to play foursomes, which can be too difficult for most golfers.  Plus, you don’t need four golfers and can pair a better golfer with a higher handicap player and still have fun.

I love it when you can find a tournament with nine holes Chapman and nine holes alternate shot. Some tournaments feature six holes Chapman, six shambles or scrambles, and six holes foursomes. 

These events require less research than alternate shots, which can be played by both players. You should still consider who should hit the 3rd shot on par 4s and 5s, as only one player has that opportunity. Also, don’t forget to consider playing the same golf balls too. 

Final note: Make sure you confirm scoring and other rules before you check in for the tournament. 

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