What Is Four Ball In Golf?

While many of us might be accustomed to the one-on-one method of playing golf, there are a few other variants of golf you can play that can include more players in a single game, with the most popular of these being four ball.

What Is Four Ball In Golf?

With four players all swinging at the greens as part of the same game, four ball has become a popular way to play golf that can not only be seen being played in professional golf team tournaments such as the Ryder and Presidents Cups, but also a fun way to make a casual game a little more exciting when you want to switch things up from the norm. 

Here is all you need to know about four ball including how to play it and what the rules are. 

How Is Four Ball Played?

Four ball is also commonly known as best ball or better ball and is sometimes abbreviated to 4BBB in tournaments. In four ball, two teams are formed to compete against each other with each team being comprised of no more than two players.

Each individual player will still play his or her own ball, making this a great way to incorporate multiple people into a game without needing to keep track of four scores at once. This is different to a foursome game where the pairs strike the same ball and take turns to alternate between hitting it to equal their score. 

Rules Of Four Ball

While each player will hit their own ball in four ball, the score for the team will be the lower of the two players’ scores. As the game goes on, the pair with the lowest score on a hole will win that hole, however if both teams record the same score, then the hole is halved. 

These are the basics to four ball, however there are some deeper rules and details to know about when playing this fun and frantic version of golf. 

For one, any penalty strokes must be added to the individual players score, and not the teams score overall. However, there can be certain punishments for the entire team if specific rules are broken such as carrying more than 14 clubs.

A player within a team is also allowed to take actions concerning their partners ball before they take a stroke. This includes replacing the ball, dropping it and marking the area to hit the ball correctly.

This is actually an incredibly generous rule since it means even if you have a friend on your team who may not be as familiar with golf, you can still help them out in certain ways to make their experience as enjoyable as possible.

When one partner in the team has completed all the holes, their score will be the overall score for the team, and the other partner will not have to finish completing their holes. If, however, neither partner in a single team (see also: What Is A Shamble In Golf?)completes the hole, that team will not have a score for the hole. 

This situation can lead to two different scenarios depending on if you’re playing match play or stroke play. In match play, the side loses the hole unless the opposing team has already conceded it.

In stroke play, the side will be automatically disqualified unless the mistake is corrected in time by their partner. 

What Is Four Ball In Golf?

Keeping Score In Four Ball 

Since there are so many people paying at once in a game of four ball, it’s more important than ever to keep track of everyone’s scores so that you can accurately keep track of which team is ahead, and how many swings could prove fatal for your chances of winning. 

During a game of four ball, each side’s gross score must be recorded on their own scorecard to make things easier. There is no penalty for two players in a team recording their scores on a single scorecard, as long as you can clearly make out who has the least amount of strokes by the end of each hole. 

It’s also incredibly important to remember that the partner who is responsible for the score on a particular hole must be clearly indicated on the scorecard. If this is not made clear, in tournaments this can lead to immediate disqualification for the entire team. 

If the committee finds that only one score is recorded for a hole, then that score will be the one that counts for the side, which is why it’s always vital to make sure the partner with the lower score for the team is made clear on the sheet, otherwise it can be mistaken for the other players which can end up ruining your chances of winning. 

How Is Four Ball Different From Foursomes In Golf?

The major difference is that while foursomes are played with each of the players recording their individual scores, four ball uses a team system instead. Additionally, in tournaments, four ball is most commonly played during the morning sessions, while foursomes tend to be played in the afternoon. 

Over recent years there has actually been a slight shift in terms of what parts of the world prefer to play which type of golf.

While American captains tend to prefer to choose to play foursomes first, European captains have been seen to prefer playing fourballs with it being played a lot more often, especially in a more casual setting. 

With that being said, there are several professional tournaments that incorporate four ball into their games, specifically the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup which are always a fun change of pace from the regular singles games.


Fourball puts an exciting spin on the regular singles format by introducing teamwork into the game, something very rarely seen in golf as a sport, and while it can be seen in action in particular tournaments, it is just as fun to try out for yourself when you have a few buddies who might want to join in on a game.

Garratt Shmidt
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