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What Is Four-Ball In Golf? – Explained!

what is four-ball in golf
what is four-ball 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 “Four-Ball”.

If you are reading this article, you may wonder: What exactly is “Four-Ball” in golf?

In this article, we will explain to you exactly what the term “Four-Ball” means in golf.

What Is Four-Ball In Golf?

In golf, “Four-Ball” 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 individual player plays their own ball, and the group’s score is equal to the score of the lowest scoring group member.

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

In golf, the expression “Four-Ball” 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, the best score scored by a group’s individual team members.

“Four-Ball” is a scoring format in golf that is typically used in some tournaments with groups of 2 golfers. In “Four-Ball”, each member of a group plays their own ball on every hole, but the group only keeps the best score for each hole as the score of the group.

In other words, the group’s score for each individual hole is equal to the best score for each hole scored by the group’s individual members.

The “Four-Ball” playing format in golf is can be used for both match play and stroke play. The “Four-Ball” playing format is very similar to the “Better Ball” playing format, except that it only allows teams of 2 players.

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

Naturally, as “Four-Ball” retains for the group the best scores among multiple golfers, the group’s score is generally lower than the usual scores each individual golfer would score.

The only way the group’s score can be equal to an individual golfer’s score is if one individual golfer in the group scores better than or equal to their teammate on every single hole.

Down below, you can read about a real-world example of a group figuring out what their score is for a particular golf hole in a “Four-Ball” tournament.


Andy, and Bob are teammates in a “Four-Ball” tournament.

On hole #8, Andy and Bob respectively scored +3, and -1.

Since the best score among the group members is -1, a score held by Bob, the group’s score for hole #8 is -1.

As you can see in the example above, in “Four-Ball”, it is possible for a great golf player to carry a weaker player to victory in a tournament.

Therefore, if you have a large gathering of friends with various skill levels, or want to organize your own golf tournament, using the “Four-Ball” playing format can be great.

By putting one of the better players in each group, the weaker players can still feel like they have a chance of winning the tournament.

In addition, you could also incorporate a handicap system so that the weaker players also have a chance to contribute to the “Four-Ball” score on each hole, rather than just being active bystanders in a tournament.

The “Four-Ball” golf tournament format also has the great added 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.

“Four-Ball” can also be a great strategy game because one golfer can go for safe shots, while the other can go for riskier shots that could land a lower score, but also end up in the rough.

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

In “Four-Ball”, the members of each individual group get to choose who tees off first, and do not need to alternate.

An interesting note to make is that if your teammate is feeling under the weather, they can stay out of the tournament and let you play alone against two golfers. However, your side will lose the benefit of being able to pick the lowest of two scores for your group.

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 have a better score than your teammate in “Four-Ball” more often, you can read our guide: How To Improve Your Golf Score? – 9 Pro Tips.

Origin Of The Term “Four-Ball”

The origin of the expression “Four-Ball” in golf is extremely simple.

In the “Four Ball” playing format, there are 2 teams of 2 players competing against each other.

In total, there are 4 players competing, and each golfer is playing with 1 golf ball. Therefore, there are 4 golf balls in play in a “Four-Ball” tournament matchup.

That being said, it makes complete sense where the term “Four-Ball” got its name from, as there are literally 4 golf balls in play in this format.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned exactly what “Four-Ball” means in golf.

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

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