The Best Threeball Formats For Golf

Three is often seen as an awkward number for golf but it doesn't have to be. We select some of our favourite formats

Threeball format
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A lot of tournament and medal golf is played in threes but it doesn't generally make for the best game when you are having a social game. But there are some great ways to enjoy the game as a threeball and we've highlighted some of our favourites here.

Strokeplay

The simplest of all. You all play and whoever scores the lowest net score for the round wins. OK, it's a bit dull and has the disadvantages of strokeplay or medal golf - no picking up, one bad hole can ruin your round and so on.

Stableford 

Again this is a lot of threeballs' go-to format given everyone just keeps their scores and the winner is worked out at the end. While it's straightforward and you can blob a few holes and still be competitive, there are more fun ways to enjoy the game as a three. 

Wentworth

This is match play competition with a team of one player taking on a team of the other two. To make it fair, the singleton team changes ever six holes. The team with two in it, their betterball counts as their score. A point is given to each golfer on the winning side on a hole, and whoever has the most points after 18 holes is the winner.

Barracuda/Split 6s

Another matchplay version, but in this one everyone plays on their own. Six points are awarded for each hole. If there is an outright winner and an outright second place then it is four points to the winner and two to the second place. If two people tie for first it is three points each to them. If two people tie for second they get a point. If everyone ties the hole they get two points each.

A player can seem out of it, and then get on a run of a few good holes, and a bundle of four pointers, and they are suddenly be right back up there.

To make things simpler, if you want to leave the pencil in the bag, the scores can be simplified after each hole. So, whoever has the lowest score, that score is taken back to zero and the same number of points deducted eg if the scores are 3-6-12, they can be adjusted to 0-3-9. The scores will always be divisible by three. 

There is a a variation where, if you win a hole by two strokes, then you get all six. 

Threesomes

One player plays his ball throughout, and takes on the other two who are a team playing greensomes. This is a bit of an odd one but it can work well if you all have a go at being the single for six holes each. And greensomes is a brilliant and very underrated format.

On The Perch/Chairman

This takes the idea from squash where only the person who is serving can score a point so, for our benefit, if you are On the Perch or In The Chair or Chairman, only this person can score a point.

The game starts with the perch being empty. The first player to win a hole outright then goes on the perch. If that person then wins the next hole outright, they score a point; if someone else wins that hole outright then they go on then perch. If the player on the perch halves the hole, he or she remains on the perch. If the other two players halve the hole the player is knocked off the perch and the perch becomes empty.

This tends to be a low-scoring affair. The disadvantage with it that it can fizzle out towards the end of the round – such as if you are going down the 18th fairway with the perch empty.

One variant of The Chair is that once you are in the chair you win a point if you win the next hole, but you have to win a hole to stay in the chair. Say A is in the Chair but does not win the hole, then A is out of the Chair. B may win the hole but B is NOT in the chair. The Chair is empty. Points are tough to accumulate but it means that in general all players have an involvement to the 18th.

Ghost

Here the single player plays with the ghost who is off scratch and pars every hole. The other two play as a pair and you play a fourball betterball match. There's probably not a huge sense of achievement when Old Man Par wins a few holes but, equally, you'll be quietly tutting at him as your opponents reel off a load of net birdies. 

Wolf

Each player in turn controls the tee (so six tees each in the round) starting in handicap order from 1st tee, second lowest handicap on 2nd tee etc.

When its your six tees you have to nominate a player you think will score well and you get their points for the hole added to your own points for the hole – you don’t have to nominate until after the tee shots have been hit.

However, on at least one hole of the six that you control you must cry Wolf. Now you have to beat both the other players and you’ll collect their points to add to you own, however if either of them beat or equal your score you’ll lose any points you scored on that hole and get a zero.

The strategy (fun) is in looking at the six holes that you control, to figure out which gives you the best chance of beating the other two players.

If it’s your tee and after seeing the tee shots, if you forget to nominate who’ll win the hole by the time you leave the teeing area then you are automatically crying wolf on that hole.

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.