Greensomes And Foursomes - What Are The Differences?

Greensomes and Foursomes are some of the most popular formats in golf. Find out what the differences between the two are here.

Difference Between Greensomes And Foursomes
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

There are a fair few similarities between Greensomes and Foursomes; both involve being played in groups of two or more and you don’t actually get to play every shot. 

However, one is far more forgiving than the other. In Greensomes, both players get to hit a tee shot, whereas only one player gets to tee off in Foursomes. From there, tee shot duties alternate from hole to hole, with players hitting alternate shots until the ball is holed out. 


Foursomes really is no more complicated than that. One player will hit all the tee shots on the even-numbered holes and the other on the odd-numbered holes. 

Should the pair have to play a provisional ball or another ball at any point, it is whoever didn’t hit the original shot who will play.

The Ryder Cup features foursomes and fourball series, but not greensomes

The Ryder Cup features foursomes and fourballs, but not greensomes.


The only real difference between Greensomes and Foursomes, other than slightly different handicap allowances, is that in Greensomes, both players tee off and then choose which ball to play from there. 

The player whose drive or tee shot is not chosen, plays the second shot, and they then play alternate shots from there until the ball is holed out. 

On the next hole, both players again tee off and the process is repeated. There is nothing to stop the same player’s drive being selected all the way round in normal Greensomes, though there have been different variations before. 

One such example is the St Andrews Foursomes. With this format, you still select the better drive, but then one partner plays all the second shots on the odd-numbered holes, and his/her partner plays the second shots on the evens. 

In the appropriately named Gruesomes, your opponents get to choose which drive you should use, and you can imagine what that might sometimes mean for your scoring!

Strategy and tactics

Like any golfing format, strategy plays a big part, and it's the same here. In foursomes, for example, selecting a partner can make or break your event before you even begin. Even here, opinions differ as to the ideal partnership. 

Some will say a similar standard of golf is the best. This is so your clubbing will be the same and you can both discuss shots from a similar perspective. Others will say that opposite games are the best. So if you’re not particularly long and your partner is, you can work out a good overall strategy; for example most of the shorter par 4s fall on the even-numbered holes.

Greensome And Foursomes Difference

Which format do you prefer?

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

In Greensomes, because you both get to drive, strategy may be more down to who should drive first. If one of you is driving well and the other one is struggling, you may decide the one driving well should tee off first and get it safely in play, taking the pressure off the struggler a little.

Alternatively, if the hole is risk and reward and you have one short hitter and one long hitter, then the shorter hitter may elect to go first to put one in play, allowing the longer one to go for the green without any pressure.

Equally, the typical shot shape and hitting distances of both players should be factored in when selecting which ball to play and, for that reason, it may not always be the longest tee shot that is chosen, especially if the shot left doesn’t suit the shape of the player required to hit it.

Overall, Greensomes is a slightly more forgiving format in that one of the pair could be struggling off the tee, yet they could still compete if the other is driving well. Not every shot both players hit ultimately counts, whereas in Foursomes, every shot both partners play really counts.

Foursomes And Greensomes Difference

Sometimes the better drive isn't the best option...

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Handicap allowances

Due to the recent changes to the World Handicap System, working out handicaps for Greensomes and Foursomes is slightly different to the older system.

The first thing you need to do is work out each player’s Course Handicap based on the slope rating of the course, rounding to a whole number. Once you have done that, then you can work out the Foursomes or Greensomes handicap for the pair.

For a Foursomes handicap, it is 50% of combined Course Handicaps. For a Greensomes handicap, it is 40% of the higher handicapper and 60% of the lower Course Handicap, rounding to a whole number after calculation. As an example, if Player A is off 16 and Player B is off 11, then Player A will have a Handicap Allowance of 40% and Player B 60%. This will equal 6.4 and 6.6, which when added together is 13.

In Strokeplay this number is the Playing Handicap for the pair, whereas in Matchplay, the shot allowance is the difference between the two whole numbers.

Matt Cradock
Freelance Staff Writer

Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.