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Rules Guide to Four-Ball

By Jamie Wallace

| May 10, 2024 | Liberty Corner, N.J.

Everything you need to know about how to play four-ball with your group. (USGA/James Gilbert)

What is it?

Four-Ball, commonly referred to as “better ball,” is a format in which two golfers compete together as a side, with each player playing their own ball. A side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole. It can be played as gross or net and as stroke play or match play.

How does scoring work?

When both partners hole out, the lower score is the side’s score for the hole. When only one partner holes out, that partner’s score is the side’s score for the hole. The other partner does not need to hole out.

Partner do’s and don’ts

A player may take any action concerning the partner’s ball that the partner is allowed to take before making a stroke, such as marking the spot of the ball. Partners are allowed to share clubs or play from the same bag if the total number of clubs they have together doesn’t exceed 14, and partners are allowed to provide advice to each other such as club selection.

Conversely, any action taken by the player concerning the partner’s ball or equipment is treated as having been taken by the partner, and the partner is subject to the penalty. For example, a penalty would be applied to the partner’s score if the player causes their partner’s ball to move in the rough or fails to mark the spot of their partner’s ball before lifting it.

Order of play

Unlike in other formats, the player furthest away from the hole doesn’t necessarily have to play first – rather, each team can play in the order that they determine is best. For example, if “A” and “B” are partners and A is further from the hole, side “A-B” could decide to have “B” play first.

Can you record a score for Handicap purposes?

Yes – here’s how.

For full details on the Rules of Four-Ball, click here.