Stroke Play Vs. Match Play
Golfers watching or, especially, playing match play need to be aware of the differences in the rules between match play and stroke play. Some of the differences are major, some are minor and some involve a different type of penalty when rules are broken.
Here is a rundown of some of the most important differences in the Rules of Golf for match play:
The Way It's Played
In this sense, match play is a whole different game than stroke play. In stroke play, golfers accumulate strokes over the course of 18 holes. The golfer with the fewest strokes at the completion of the round wins.
In match play, each hole is a separate competition. The player with the fewest strokes on an individual hole wins that hole; the player winning the most holes wins the match.
Golf Rules Many Golfers Break
The stroke total for 18 holes simply doesn't matter in match play. Stroke play is more a player vs. the course approach; match play is directly player vs. player, or side vs. side. There is one opponent you must beat, and that's the opponent you're facing in the match you're playing right now.
In friendly rounds of golf, golfers often ask for and give "gimmies," very short putts that one simply picks up rather than holing out. Gimmies, needless to say, are illegal under the Rules of Golf, but many recreational golfers use them anyway.
In match play, however, conceded putts are perfectly legal. Your opponent can concede a putt to you at any point, whether it's six inches from the cup or 60 feet. But conceded putts almost always come, of course, on very short putts.
Fellow-Competitor vs. Opponent
This is a semantic difference. In stroke play, the golfers you are playing against are your "fellow-competitors." In match play, the golfer you are playing against is your "opponent."
Hit That One Again
There are several scenarios in match play where a transgression might result in your opponent canceling your shot and requiring you to replay it; whereas in stroke play, the same transgression would result in a 2-stroke penalty or no penalty at all.Playing out of turn: In stroke play, order of play is a matter of etiquette. If you hit out of turn, it's a breach of etiquette, but there is no penalty. In match play, if you hit out of turn your opponent can require you to replay the shot in the proper order. And if your first shot was a great one, you can bet that you'll be replaying.
I hope this helps for when you’re playing your first match out on the links or watching the PGA Match Play Events.