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When playing Alternate Shot, two golfers play as partners using a single golf ball. The two players take turns hitting each shot until the ball is holed. Hence the name of the game, two players alternating shots as they navigate the course.
Alternate shot is also known as foursomes and is most commonly played using the match play scoring format. However, alternate shot can also be played as a stroke play event involving any number of two-player teams.
How To Play Alternate Shot Or Foursomes
Two players (A & B) partner on a team. Player A tees off on the first hole. Player B will hit the second shot and Players A will hit the third shot. The players will continue alternating until the hole is complete.
Normally, the players will also alternate tee shots. If Player A hits the tee ball on hole #1 (as described above), player B will hit the tee shot on hole #2. In this scenario, Player A will tee off on all the odd holes and Player B will hit all the tee shots on the even holes. This is the standard and most common way to determine player order in alternate shot.
However, some golf events will deploy a stricter alternate shot process whereby the players continuing alternating shots regardless of which player hit the first tee shot. In this format, tee shots are determined by which player holed the putt on the previous hole. For example, if Player B made the putt on the first hole, Player A would tee off again on the second hole.
Alternate Shot Games
Alternate shot is usually played as a match play game within one group of four players. This is often referred to as foursomes. Meaning four players (two teams of two) playing alternate shot using match play scoring. The match is determined using normal match play rules and holes are often conceded.
Alternate shot can also be played using stroke play rules. In this case, the games can be expanded beyond a single group of four players and include any number of two-player teams. When played under these conditions, normal stroke play rules apply, and the ball must be holed completely on each hole.
Other side games can be added to alternate shot events, especially when using stroke play. Skins will be a common addition to any large alternate shot stroke play event.
Alternate Shot Strategies
The primary strategic consideration when playing alternate shot is determining which player will tee off on the odd holes and which will hit the tee ball on the even holes.
Always consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two players on the team. You may want want the longer player to hit driver on the par-5s while leaving the par-3s to the more accurate iron player. Knowing the course and your team’s relative talents will help set you up for success.
Another strategic consideration in alternate shot is risk/reward analysis. Alternate shot is a difficult game, and one poorly played ball can easily cascade into very large scores and defeat. You never want to leave your partner in a difficult situation.
For this reason, you should also play alternate shot cautiously. Sacrificing distance for control will serve your team best. Consider hitting hybrids or irons on the tee to keep the ball in the fairway, and always aim for the middle of the green rather than chasing pins tucked close to the edge.
Special Rules For Foursome Matches
Alternate shot or foursomes have specific rules that govern play. The format of the game requires a few extra guidelines to ensure consistent and fair play.
The rules of golf stipulate that penalty shots do not affect the order in alternate shot events. If Player A hits the ball in a water hazard, the penalty shot is applied as normal, but Player B is still required to hit the next shot.
Playing out of order is obviously penalized in alternate shot events. In match play, playing out of order results in immediate loss of the hole. In stroke play, the shot played out of order is cancelled, a two-stroke penalty is assessed, and the correct player is required to replay the shot.
Using Handicaps With Alternate Shot
As with any golf match, handicaps help players compete regardless of skill level. This process is complicated slightly in an alternate shot event.
The general rule for handicapping alternate shot events is to average the course handicap for the two players on the team. All you need to do is add the two players’ handicaps together and divide by two. Normally handicaps are rounded up to the nearest whole number.
For example, if Player A has a 5 handicap and Player B has a 10 Handicap, their combined handicap for an alternate shot event would be 8.
Event organizers can determine handicapping methods, so your tournament may use a different calculation.
Modified Alternate Shot
As with many golf formats, different variations have been developed over the years. Modified alternate shot is one such variation that combines aspects of alternate shot with features of a scramble.
The most common version of modified alternate shot requires both players to hitting the tee shot then select one ball and finishing the hole with alternating shots. This version of alternate shot goes by many names including Scotch Foursomes, Modified Pinehurst, Greensomes, or a more descriptive titles like “selective drive, alternate shot.”
In another version of modified alternate shot, both players will hit a tee shot on every hole. Then, the players will switch balls for the second shots. Player A will hit Players B’s ball, and vice versa. After the second shots are played by both players, the team will select one ball to play and alternate shots from that point forward until the ball has been holed. This version is often called Chapman or Pinehurst System.
Modified alternate shot is a great game and an excellent alternative for less skill players interested in trying the alternate shot format.
Another variation on alternate shot is called Gruesomes. In this version, both players tee off and the worst of the two tee shots is selected. Players then alternate shots until the hole is complete. As you can imagine, this version makes an already difficult game even more difficult.
Alternate shot, also known as foursomes when using match play, is a fun variation to try with your golfing partners. This format allows for team play and plenty of strategic thinking.
However, alternate shot can be very difficult. Small mistakes can leave your partner is difficult positions. These errors have a tendency to compound, making it hard to score good numbers when playing alternate shot.
Try a modified version of alternate shot first to get a feel for this fun and exiting golf format.