It’s golf’s most popular format – but how does it work?

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Here’s what you need to know about golf’s most popular scoring format

Whether you call it stroke play or strokeplay, it is the most common scoring format in golf, with the idea being to play a round in the fewest number of strokes possible.

How to score stroke play

In stroke play, each golfer must record every one of their shots – including penalty shots – on every hole.

The score is then totalled up after 18 holes to give a final score, known as the gross score. The winner is the player with the lowest total number of strokes.

Players can also take their final score and compare it to the par of the course being played. For example, if a player shoots 68 on a par-72 course, they will have shot 4-under-par, often stylised as “-4”. Likewise, if they shoot 76, that would be 4-over-par, or +6.

In serious stroke play competitions, such as medals, golfers are required to finish every hole, regardless of the number of strokes this may take.

Calculating handicaps in stroke play

In handicap competitions, players subtract their handicap from their total gross score. The new total is then referred to as the net score, and again the player with the lowest total is the winner.

For example, if a golfer has a handicap of 12, they can deduct 12 strokes from their final score at the end of the round. A gross score of 84 would therefore produce a net score of 72.

Professional golf

The majority of professional golf tournaments use the stroke play format.

In the case of events played over multiple rounds, each round is simply added up to give a cumulative score. The player with the lowest total after end of the tournament is the winner.

If two or more players have the same score, however, a play-off can be used to determine the champion.

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