What Does Dormie Mean In Golf?

'Dormie' is a term that can only ever be used in matchplay golf where no extra holes are being played. We explain why...

Dormie in golf - Ryder Cup scoreboard
'Dormie' is possible in the Ryder Cup where all matches are decided after 18 holes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What Does Dormie Mean In Golf?

The first thing to say is that the term ‘dormie’ is only ever used in matchplay golf and never in strokeplay golf. Matchplay is golf’s head-to-head format in either singles or pairs, in which each individual hole is won, lost or halved and one side will emerge the victor after 18 holes (or as many extra holes as may be required) or the match could potentially be halved if no extra holes are being played and the result is being declared after 18 holes.

Dormie in Golf - Ryder Cup handsake

There are no extra holes in matchplay games in the Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The term ‘dormie’ is only relevant when extra holes are not being played in matchplay, and therefore where a halved match is possible. ‘Dormie’ simply means that one player or side is leading by as many holes as there are holes remaining, so the other player or side can no longer win the match. So, if you are up by four holes with four holes to play, the match is dormie.

When a match goes dormie, the other side could still halve the overall match if they were to win all the remaining holes, while merely a half on any remaining hole (i.e., the players or sides match each other’s scores on a hole, net or gross depending on the competition) will see the side that is leading win the match. 

Dormie in golf - WGC World Matchplay

'Dormie' is not possible in the knockout stages of the WGC World Matchplay - it took Jason Day 23 holes to neat Victor Dubuisson in 2014's final

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup – golf’s most famous matchplay events - each match finishes after 18 holes even if halved, so matches could go ‘dormie’. In the WGC Matchplay, the round-robin stages follow this same format, but once the knockout stages kick in from the ‘round of 16’, each match is played to a conclusion regardless of how many extra holes are required, so the score could never be ‘dormie’ in the knockout stages.

The word 'dormie' is probably going out of fashion a bit in golf, perhaps reflected by the fact that it doesn’t feature anywhere in the latest Rules of Golf book following the major revisions introduced in 2019. And there is no complete consensus on exactly how or why the term came to be adopted in golf either, although most historians believe it is most likely derived from the French word ‘dormir’ (itself derived from Latin) meaning to sleep, perhaps implying that the player is now dormie so can relax a little as they can no longer lose the match.



Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf