What Is Foursomes?

Foursomes is a golf format whereby a pair of golfers form a team and play a single ball between them

Viktor Hovland celebrates at the 2023 Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every Ryder Cup and every Solheim Cup has included foursomes matches. But what exactly is the format and how do you play it?

Foursomes is a golf format whereby a pair of golfers form a team and play a single ball between them. They take alternate shots with this ball, so the format is also known as Alternate Shot.

The format, which is on display at the biggest golf events like the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup, sees teammates decide which of them will tee off on the even-numbered holes and which on the odd-numbered ones. The players then play alternate shots throughout the play of that hole.

This format can be used in both stroke play or match play. It's more commonly a match play format, albeit the PGA Tour uses foursomes on two of the days in its doubles stroke play event - the Zurich Classic.

Either of the players are allowed to take any action for their side, such as to mark the ball, or to lift and replace it, regardless of which partner's turn it is to play next for the side.

Similarly a player and the player’s caddie may also help the partner in the same way that the partner's own caddie would be allowed to do.

Ryder Cup 1st tee from behind

Foursomes was the first session at the 2023 Ryder Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One partner can also act for the team in actions such as conceding a shot or a hole.

Players can play with their own set of clubs, or they can share a set. However if they share, this set of clubs is still not allowed to contain more than 14 clubs.

In amateur golf when foursomes is played, the team’s handicap is half of the two players’ combined handicap.

Scotch Foursomes is a variation of this format. It is also known as Greensomes. In this both members of the team tee off, and then they select one of the drives and play with this ball for the rest of the hole, taking alternate shots with it. Whoever played the selected drive, his or her partner plays the second shot.

Foursomes is a way for four players to play together at times when courses only offer slots for two balls matches. Played sensibly, foursomes can also be a way to get round quickly. 

As there is no need for the partner who is not teeing off to be on the tee they can move down the fairway near to where the drive is likely to end up.

This has the benefit of helping spot where the errant drive goes. It also enables the second shots to be played swiftly after tee shots.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.