What Is Better Ball Format in Golf: Everything You Need to Know

Colin McCarthy

Better Ball Format In Golf

Golf, a sport steeped in tradition, offers a myriad of formats to test players’ skills and camaraderie. Among these, the Better Ball format stands out as a captivating and strategic game within the game. 

As golfers gather on the lush greens, the Better Ball format introduces a fascinating twist to the conventional stroke play. In this format, two players form a team, each playing their own ball throughout the round. 

What sets it apart is that, at the end of each hole, the lower of the two scores becomes the team’s score for that hole. This dynamic creates an environment where players collaborate, strategize, and celebrate each other’s successes. 

Join us as we delve into the exploration of ‘What Is Better Ball Format In Golf’, exploring its rules, strategies, and the unique blend of individual brilliance and team dynamics that make it a cherished format among golf enthusiasts.

What Is Better Ball Format in Golf?

The Better Ball format, also known as Four-Ball, is a team-based approach to golf where two players form a team. What distinguishes it from traditional stroke play is that each player plays their own ball throughout the round. 

At the end of each hole, the lower of the two scores becomes the team’s score for that hole. This dynamic scoring system encourages collaboration and adds an extra layer of strategy to the game.

The Basics of Better Ball

Let’s unravel the basics of Better Ball and delve into the intricacies that make this format a compelling facet of the golfing world.

Team Formation 

Better Ball embraces versatility in team composition, catering to both casual and competitive settings. Whether it’s friends enjoying a weekend round or professionals vying for championship titles, teams can consist of pairs with varying skill levels. 

This inclusivity adds a dynamic layer to the game, where partnerships flourish regardless of individual abilities.

Scoring Mechanism

At the heart of Better Ball lies a simple yet strategic scoring mechanism. After navigating each hole, the team selects the lower of the two scores to represent their performance for that particular hole. 

For instance, if Player A completes a hole with a score of 4 and Player B records a 5, the team’s score for that hole is a collective 4.

This scoring method not only rewards excellence but also requires thoughtful collaboration to achieve optimal results.

Strategy in Team Formation

Choosing a partner wisely becomes a pivotal aspect of Better Ball. While teammates don’t necessarily need matching skill levels, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses forms the cornerstone of effective collaboration. 

The dynamic interplay between players of diverse abilities adds an extra layer of strategy, making Better Ball an intriguing chess match on the fairways.

Unveiling the Scoring Dynamics

The scoring mechanism, though straightforward, introduces a strategic dimension to every shot. Players must constantly assess their partner’s performance, deciding when to take risks and when to play conservatively. 

The emphasis on the lower of the two scores fosters a cooperative mindset, as success hinges on mutual achievement rather than individual brilliance.

The Inclusivity of Better Ball

One of Better Ball’s standout features is its accessibility. Golfers of varying skill levels can join forces and partake in the format without feeling overshadowed. 

This inclusivity not only broadens the appeal of the game but also creates an environment where golfers can share the joys of the sport, regardless of their individual proficiency.

Embracing Better Ball Across Tournaments

Beyond casual rounds, Better Ball finds its place in prestigious tournaments, adding a layer of excitement to the competitive landscape. 

Witnessed in events like the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, elite golfers showcase their collaborative spirit, making the format an integral part of golfing history.

What Are Some Effective Strategies for Playing the Better Ball Format?

What Are Some Effective Strategies for Playing the Better Ball Format

The Better Ball format in golf is a unique amalgamation of individual skill and collaborative play, presenting golfers with a canvas to paint their strategic prowess.

To navigate the intricacies of this format successfully, players can employ various effective strategies that go beyond individual performance. Let’s delve into some key tactics that can elevate your Better Ball game to new heights.

Know Your Partner

Understanding your teammates is fundamental. Recognize their playing style, strengths, and areas where they may need support. A collaborative approach starts with knowing how to complement each other on the course.

Strategic Tee Shots

On par-4s and par-5s, consider taking calculated risks with tee shots. One player can opt for a more aggressive line, aiming for distance, while the other plays a safer shot to ensure consistency. This dual approach maximizes the chance of securing an advantageous position for the team.

Green Management

When approaching the green, assess pin positions and your partner’s proximity to the hole. If one player is in a favorable position, the other might play more conservatively to ensure a reliable par or better. Always prioritize putting the team in the best overall position.

Strategic Recovery Shots

In instances where one player faces difficulty, the other can adopt a recovery mindset. Instead of both players taking high-risk shots, strategically choose the safer option to minimize the potential damage on a given hole.

Communication Is Key

Constant and open communication is paramount. Share your intentions, discuss strategy, and keep each other informed about course conditions. Effective communication ensures that both players are on the same page, enhancing decision-making on each shot.

Risk-and-Reward Analysis

Evaluate the risk and reward of each shot collectively. There are moments to be aggressive and moments to play it safe. Analyze the potential outcomes of different approaches and make decisions that benefit the team score.

Play to Your Strengths and Strategic Bunker Play

Identify each player’s strengths and leverage them strategically. If one teammate excels at putting while the other has a powerful drive, coordinate your game plan to capitalize on these strengths.

When faced with bunkers, coordinate your efforts. If one player is skilled at escaping bunkers, let them take the lead, ensuring the team has a better chance at saving strokes.

Maintain a Positive Atmosphere

Golf is as much a mental game as it is physical. Foster a positive atmosphere between teammates. Encouragement and camaraderie contribute to a better on-course experience and can positively impact performance.

Strategic Course Management

Study the course layout and plan your strategy accordingly. Identify holes where one player’s strengths align with the demands of the hole and adjust your game plan accordingly.

In competitive settings, analyze your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Tailor your strategy to exploit their vulnerabilities while mitigating potential threats they pose.

Focus on the Team Score and Utilize Handicaps Wisely

In formats where handicaps come into play, understand how to optimize them. Assign shots strategically to take advantage of the allowances while keeping the team’s overall strategy in mind.

Maintain a holistic focus on the team score rather than individual performances. A successful Better Ball strategy involves sacrificing personal glory for the benefit of the team.

Adaptability and Strategic Pacing

Conditions on the golf course can change rapidly. Be ready to adapt your strategy based on weather, course conditions, and how your opponents are performing.

Consider the rhythm of your team’s play. If one player is consistently ahead or behind, it can affect decision-making. Maintain a synchronized pace to ensure that both players are actively engaged and contributing to each hole.

Team Mental Resilience

Acknowledge that mistakes are part of the game. Develop a collective resilience to bounce back from setbacks. Maintaining a positive mindset, even after a challenging hole, fosters a supportive environment that can positively impact subsequent performances.

Adopt a Long-Term Perspective

While each hole is crucial, adopting a long-term perspective can guide decision-making. Sometimes taking a conservative approach on one hole can set up opportunities for more aggressive play on subsequent holes. Balance short-term gains with the overarching strategy for the entire round.

Post-Round Reflection

After the round, discuss what worked well and areas for improvement. This reflective process enhances your understanding of each other’s playing styles, contributing to a more refined strategy in future Better Ball games.

These strategies not only enhance your chances of success on the course but also enrich the shared experience with your playing partner. 

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a competitive golfer, embracing these tactics will undoubtedly elevate your Better Ball game to a level where teamwork and strategy harmonize for golfing success.


How does the scoring work in Better Ball format?

In Better Ball, the team’s score for each hole is the lowest individual score among the two team members. For example, if Player A scores a 4 on a hole and Player B scores a 5, the team’s score for that hole is 4.

Can players choose which ball to play after each shot in Better Ball?

No, in Better Ball, each player plays their own ball from start to finish on each hole. Players do not switch or choose the better ball after each shot.

Is Better Ball commonly used in team competitions?

Yes, Better Ball is a popular format in team competitions, such as Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. It adds a strategic element as teammates can collaborate on strategy while maintaining individual performance.

How is Better Ball different from Alternate Shot?

In Better Ball, both players on a team play their own ball for the entire hole. In Alternate Shot, teammates take turns playing the same ball, alternating shots until the ball is holed.

Are there handicaps applied in Better Ball competitions?

Handicaps can be applied in Better Ball competitions. The team’s overall handicap is typically a percentage of the combined handicaps of the individual players, providing a fairer competition when players have differing skill levels.


The Better Ball format in golf transcends the boundaries of individual play, weaving a tapestry of collaboration and competition on the greens. 

As we navigate the intricacies of this format, it becomes evident that Better Ball is more than just a game; it’s a shared journey of strategy and mutual appreciation for the artistry of each player. 

Whether among seasoned professionals or casual weekend golfers, the Better Ball format adds a layer of excitement and camaraderie, fostering a sense of teamwork rarely experienced in traditional stroke play.

So, the next time you step onto the golf course, consider the allure of Better Ball—a format that not only challenges your personal skills but also invites you to revel in the victories and setbacks of your partner. 

In the world of golf, where individual prowess meets collaborative spirit, Better Ball stands as a testament to the timeless appeal of this sport.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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