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Golf Match Play Scoring Rules

This page explains the rules of match play scoring system in golf. It highlights fundamental scoring differences to those in traditional strokeplay and Stableford Rules.

MATCHPLAY GOLF: The golf match play scoring format addresses each hole as a mini match. Thus, it ignores the par value for each hole.

A player wins a hole in matchplay golf if they have the lowest net score on any given hole.

In simple terms, scoring match play in golf means you keep account of all the holes that you won against your opponent.

Winning a hole in matchplay can be further simplified as taking at least one less stroke than your competitor. As a general guideline you are not playing the course – such as in strokeplay golfing events.

How to Score Matchplay Golf

  • Taking three shots when your opponent takes four means you win the hole.
  • Winning a hole is being ‘one-up‘ and so losing a hole is being ‘one-down‘.
  • The match is ‘all-square‘ if the scores are level.
  • Winning two holes more than your partner means you are ‘two-up‘.
  • If both players achieve the same score for the hole it is ‘halved‘ and the match score stays unchanged.
  • Scores get recorded by the number of holes won (up) and the number of holes remaining to play. (e.g. You could be 2-up with six holes left to play).

Golf Match Play Scoring Terms

  • Up: Ahead in the match.
  • Down: Behind in the match.
  • All square: Players both have the same score.
  • Halved: Both players taking the same number of shots.
  • Dormie: An example would be two up with two holes to play.
  • 3&2: An example would be three up with only two holes to play.

Note: The match is over if a player is up (ahead) by more holes than there are remaining. (e.g. 3 & 2).

The match term ‘dormie‘ means one competitor is ahead (up) by the exact number of holes remaining. An example is being ‘dormie two‘ so the player would be two holes ahead with two holes left to play. This situation means that the player behind can only halve the match – at best.

Match play scoring in golf tournaments allows the players an option to ‘give away‘ short putts to their playing partner. Professional pairings rarely ask an opponent to hole out when it’s considered to be a ‘gimme‘.

As a rule, putts less than two feet from the cup would get given. Even so, the ‘given‘ putt counts as a stroke played.

Some tenacious match play golfers will often make an opponent hole out from within ‘gimme‘ range. Note that even a short putt should get holed out in Stableford Rules scoring formats.

Golf Match Play Rules Explained for Beginners