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What Is Alternate Shot In Golf? – Explained!

what is alternate shot in golf
what is alternate shot in golf

Golf is known to be a technical sport full of technical terms that you may not know the meaning of. One of those golf terms sometimes mentioned on golf courses and TV broadcasts is the expression “Alternate Shot”.

If you are reading this article, you may wonder: What exactly is “Alternate Shot” in golf?

In this article, we will explain to you exactly what the term “Alternate Shot” means in golf.

What Is Alternate Shot In Golf?

In golf, “Alternate Shot” is a tournament scoring format in which 2 groups of 2 members compete to win each golf hole or to get the lowest scores. Each team member alternates playing one ball. The members of a team also alternate who tees off the golf ball for each hole.

In the great game of golf, the expression “Alternate Shot” is sometimes mentioned on golf courses and on TV broadcasts, most notably in tournaments.

In golf, the expression “Alternate Shot” is the name given to a specific playing format that pits groups of golfers against each other. To make the comparison of scores between groups easier, each group only has one score, despite having multiple golfer in each team.

“Alternate Shot” is a scoring format in golf that is typically used in some tournaments with groups of 2 golfers. In the “Alternate Shot” playing format, each team, group or side has 2 golfers, but only uses a single golf ball.

This means that golfers alternate who gets to hit the team’s ball when playing “Alternate Shot”. In fact, each golfer gets one stroke, and then their teammate takes over for the next stroke.

A synonym of the “Alternate Shot” playing format is the “Foursome” playing format.

In addition, the golfers of any particular team must alternate when it comes to teeing off the golf ball. For example, if golfer #1 tees off on hole #5, golfer #2 will tee off on hole #6, golfer #1 on hole #7, and so on.

The “Alternate Shot” playing format in golf is can be used for both match play and stroke play. The “Alternate Shot” playing format is similar to the “Four Ball” playing format, except that the latter format does not alternate balls, and instead has every golfer play their own ball.

In match play “Alternate Shot”, the team who won the most holes in the end wins the tournament. In stroke play “Alternate Shot”, the team with the lowest score wins the tournament.

The “Alternate Shot” playing format introduces some unique challenges in communication with your teammate as both teammates may not be used to the same strategies and shots.

You need to actively communicate with your teammate to know where they would rather take their next stroke from, and you need to do your best to give them that starting point when you strike the ball.

Down below, you can read about a real-world example of a group alternating turns to take the next stroke in “Alternate Shot” format.


Andy, and Bob are teammates in a “Alternate Shot” tournament.

On hole #1, a par 5, Andy and Bob get ready to tee off.

Andy starts by teeing off the golf ball, and hits it in a decent spot.

On the second stroke, it is Bob’s turn, and he hits the ball further.

On the third stroke, it is Andy’s turn, and he hits a good approach shot that lands the ball on the putting green.

On the fourth stroke, it is Bob’s turn, and he holes the golf ball, scoring a birdie.

The team moves to hole #2, and since they must alternate, Bob gets ready to tee off the golf ball this time.

As you can see in the example above, in “Alternate Shot”, the main takeaway to remember is that golfers within a team must alternate who strikes the golf ball.

The “Alternate Shot” golf tournament format also has the great bonus of fostering a great sense of team spirit and camaraderie between the members of a group.

This playing format can be great to play as a team building activity. However, it could also lead to frustrations if one of the golfer’s plays badly, as a bad performance can bring down the teammate’s score.

You can actually find the “Alternate Shot” playing format in certain professional golf tournaments, such as the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.

Your teammate is also allowed to take any actions for you that you normally could do yourself, except for the stroke itself. These actions include taking drops, lifting, replacing, placing, or marking the ball.

In addition, teammates are allowed to share golf clubs, as long as they do not have more than 14 golf clubs together in total.

If you would like to help your teammate get a great score in “Alternate Shot” consistently, you can read our guide: How To Improve Your Golf Score? – 9 Pro Tips.

Origin Of The Term “Alternate Shot”

The origin of the expression “Alternate Shot” in golf is extremely simple and intuitive.

Simply put, in the “Alternate Shot” playing format, teammates literally alternate playing shots on a single golf ball for the team, exactly how the name suggests.

Therefore, it makes complete sense where the term “Alternate Shot” got its name from in golf.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned exactly what “Alternate Shot” means in golf.

Do you have any other golf expressions you wish to know more about? Do you like playing the “Alternate Shot” playing format in golf? Let us know in the comments down below!

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