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Score Posting and Four-Ball Match Play

By Terry Benjamin

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

You can post your score when playing four-ball even if you're not holing out. (USGA/Logan Smith)

In a four-ball match play, two common phrases used by golfers are “that’s good” and “you’re on your own.”  By understanding those phrases from a Rules of Handicapping™ and score-posting perspective, you’ll have no issues keeping an accurate Handicap Index®, no matter how often you tee it up in this popular format!

Before we get into how to handle those two scenarios, it’s important to call out the defined term within the Rules of Handicapping that helps match-play scores remain acceptable for handicap purposes: The term? Most likely score.

Most likely score when picking up your ball

The definition of most likely score is implied with the term: It’s the number of strokes taken (including penalty strokes), plus the number of strokes you would most likely require to complete the hole from wherever you pick up.

So, if you lag your 20-foot birdie putt to tap-in distance and your opponent says, “That’s good,” you can pick up and record a par for handicap purposes – since you would most likely make that putt.

With that said, the use of most likely score can extend beyond the “gimme” range. So, if your partner chips in for birdie and you have 12 feet left for par, since you can’t improve the team’s score for the hole, you can pick up and use your most likely score from there as well. This time, your most likely score would be a bogey since you would most likely take two putts from that distance to hole out.

Now, let’s move on to the “You’re on your own” scenario… which translates to “I am playing the hole so poorly that I’m picking up and relying on my partner’s score for the hole.”

But can most likely score be used from off the green as well?

The answer is yes – and there are guidelines within the Rules of Handicapping to help determine your most likely score in those scenarios. However, keep in mind that your most likely score cannot exceed your net double bogey limit – and if you’re having a very rough hole, it’s likely that net double bogey may come into play.

Remember – even if your score doesn’t count for your team, you still have an acceptable score for handicap purposes.

What if an 18-hole match ends before all holes are played?

If the match ends before the last hole, and you go on to play the remaining holes, you’ll simply record your actual scores for those holes.

However, if you return to the clubhouse without playing the remaining holes and the match lasted between 10-17 holes, your score must be posted hole-by-hole so that an 18-hole Score Differential™ can be determined for your round.

One final point – since at least 9 holes must be played for a score to be acceptable, if, in a 9-hole match, the match ends early and you return to the clubhouse without playing the remaining hole(s), that score would not be acceptable for handicap purposes.

For more information on adjusting hole scores, see Rule 3 of the Rules of Handicapping.