What Is The Difference Between Strokeplay And Matchplay?

What Is The Difference Between Strokeplay And Matchplay?

Difference Between Strokeplay and Matchplay
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Strokeplay and matchplay are the most common formats in golf. Get to know the difference between the two here.

What Is The Difference Between Strokeplay And Matchplay?

One is a format where you face a number of players, whilst the other is a simple 1v1 or 2v2 scenario. Both, however, provide great enjoyment on the golf course.


Strokeplay is one of the most common formats in golf, with the concept being to go around the course in as few strokes as possible.

Golfers who are playing strokeplay must register their score on every single hole. It doesn't matter how many shots they've had, they must still produce a score.

What Is The Difference Between Strokeplay and Matchplay

A scoreboard is seen during Day One of The 149th Open. (Photo by Harry Trump/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

After the completion of the 18-holes, each player adds up the scores to give an overall result. The winner is the one who has the lowest score.

Related: What Is Strokeplay In Golf? (opens in new tab)


Although there are some similarities between matchplay and strokeplay, the two are significantly different.

Like strokeplay, the aim in matchplay is to get the lowest score possible on a hole-by-hole basis. However, matchplay differs in that the individual is also playing an opponent, with the lowest number of strokes on the hole taking victory.

The match is over when one player, or side, leads by more holes than there are still to play. So, if a player is four holes up with only three holes to play, then they have secured a 4&3 victory.

What Is The Difference Between Strokeplay and Matchplay

The Ryder Cup is a matchplay format. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Matchplay tends to provide a more relaxed format as, unlike strokeplay, not every shot needs to count. If a player makes a seven at a par-4, and his opponent makes a four, he only loses one point in matchplay; whereas in strokeplay he would be three shots adrift of the other player.

Related: Match Play Golf Rules Explained (opens in new tab)

We also see differences in the rulings of the formats. In strokeplay, there would usually be a one or two shot penalty incurred for breaking the rules. Whereas in matchplay, breaking a rule will likely incur the loss of a hole.

Another difference involves the conceding of a hole, or match, to the other player. In matchplay this is allowed at any time, e.g. on a short putt. However, in strokeplay, a player is not allowed to concede at any time, and the ball must be in the hole to register a score.

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.