How To Play Greensomes Golf (Scotch & Canadian Foursomes)

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First things first, what is greensomes golf?

Greensomes golf is an alternate shot format played in pairs. If you played the first shot, your partner plays the second shot, you play the third. Simple as that, and you keep playing alternate shots until you finish each hole.

The format has various names and is sometimes referred to as Scotch Foursomes, Canadian Foursomes, Foursomes with Select Drive or Alternate Shot with Select Drive. But essentially they are all the same thing!

It’s very similar to the Foursomes golf format which is used in the Ryder Cup. The only difference is in Greensomes, both players hit every tee shot.

Once you’ve teed off, you pick the best shot between you and play alternate shots from there on. When you go to the next tee, you both tee off again and repeat.

Alex Noren at the Ryder Cup in Paris 2018
Greensomes is a similar format to Foursomes golf played at the Ryder Cup

You score the card like a regular stroke play event, marking down the gross score on each hole. You may have to mark them in two columns depending on which person’s tee shot was chosen as some clubs will enforce a minimum of “x” number of tee shots from each player in the pair over the 18 holes. But otherwise, you score like a usual stroke play event and take your handicap allowance off at the end of the round. 

What are the handicap allowances for Greensomes?

The handicap allowance for greensomes, according to CONGU’s recommendations, are 60% of the lowest handicap, plus 40% of the highest handicap. 

For example, if you are a team made up of a 10 handicapper and 20 handicapper, your greensomes handicap would be 14:

(10 x 0.6) + (20 x 0.4) = 6 + 8 = 14

You can also play greensomes match play (as they play foursomes matchplay in the Ryder Cup). This would basically involve working out the handicaps for each team on the first, and using the difference to determine the number of shots given. 

For example, if the team above were playing a greensomes match play against another team of handicaps 5 and 15, they would receive 5 shots:

Team 1: (10 x 0.6) + (20 x 0.4) = 6 + 8 = handicap 14

Team 2: (5 x 0.6) + (15 x 0.4) = 3 + 6 = handicap 9 

Team 1 handicap (14) – Team 2 handicap (9) = 5 shots

When you play the match play game, you receive the shots as per the stroke indexes on the card, similarly to any other match play game.

Greensomes rules – How to play a greensomes game

Step 1: Work out the handicap allowance of your team. Follow the instructions above with 60% of the shots from the lowest handicapper, plus 40% of the shots from the higher handicapper.

Step 2: Tee off! Remember in greensomes, you both tee off on every hole. 

Step 3: Choose the best tee shot and play alternate shot from there on for the hole. If Player A hit the tee shot, then player B plays the second shot and so on.

Step 4: Once you’ve finished the 1st hole, you both tee off on the 2nd and repeat the process through to the 18th (or however many holes you agreed to play).

Step 5: Once you’ve finished your round, tot up your score and take off you handicap as you worked out in Step 1.

How to win a game of greensomes

The nature of the greensomes format means you rely heavily on each other as partners. It’s also a fun game because as golfers we rarely get to play as a team, or have someone else hit half our shots. For that reason, picking the right partner is key to winning at greensomes!

Golfers putting out on the green with mountains in the background
Picking the right partner is key to greensomes golf

1. Pick the right partner

First and foremost you need to get on well. Playing as a pair can put pressure on some golfers, particularly if there’s a difference between handicaps – the lower handicapper feels the pressure to support the higher handicapper and the higher handicapper doesn’t want to let the other player down.

So to enjoy the best of the greensomes format, pick a partner who you feel comfortable with that won’t put pressure on you, or vice versa. No one tees off with the intention to play badly, but you don’t want to be saying you’re “sorry” to your partner all the way round after missing 3 foot putts and duffing shots into the bunker.

The same can be said for the other way. 

I have golfer mates who were best men at each other’s weddings, but put them on a golf course and it becomes a competition and they end up trying to put each other off – even when they’re on the same team! Avoid situations like this by playing with someone you feel relaxed playing golf with.

Ideally your partner should be someone that compliments your golf game too. The alternate shot format means you’ll only play half the shots. So if you’re a fairway and greens kind of guy, find a partner that’s similar. Last thing you want to do is play with a wild golfer and find yourself on parts of the course that you’ve never seen before.

Likewise, if you’re not the best off the tee, but a good approach shot player, find a partner that’s a good driver of the ball so you take advantage of their drives. If you pick someone that compliments your strengths you’re bound to score better.

This becomes even more important as you reach the green. Some golfers are comfortable missing a putt and running 3 foot past the hole. Others have nightmares about missing 3 foot putts! If you’re a dribbler into the hole, find someone else who does the same so you don’t end up with the yips after missing a couple of short putts.

2. Don’t always pick the longest drive

Just because one of you has hit it 10 yards past the other, don’t automatically go for the longest drive

Golfer hitting a 3 wood off the deck form the fariway
Sometimes it’s better to play from a little further back

Greensomes is a quick format so you can spend a little more time thinking and discuss the approach shots. 80 yards might be a nightmare yardage for your playing partner, in between two clubs, but 90 yards might be the perfect sand wedge for you. 

If you’re a team of a higher handicapper and a lower handicapper, it’s sometimes worth taking advantage of that and picking the drive of the high handicapper if they are in similar positions.  

On average you’d fancy a 5 handicapper to stick it closer from 150 yards than an 18 handicapper from 140. 

3. Don’t tap it in!

It’s almost a natural reaction. You miss a 5 footer, leaving it on the edge of the hole and go to tap it in… well don’t!

Remember, it’s an alternate shot format, so your playing partner has to play the next shot, even if it is from 1 inch from the hole. 

For that reason, always take your putter to the green. Even if you’ve chipped it to 2 foot. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of your playing partner missing an easy one meaning you have to traipse 50 yards to get your putter out of your golf bag!

Frequently asked questions about greensomes golf

Below we’ve answered some of the most common questions we get about greensomes.

Is greensomes medal or stableford?

You can play greensomes as a medal or stableford. The rules are exactly the same, it just changes the way you score. 

If you’re playing medal, you note down your gross score. If you’re playing stableford you work out the stableford points received based on your net score. 

What is the difference between greensomes and foursomes?

In greensomes both players tee off on each hole. In foursomes the two partners in team play alternate shots throughout, meaning only one golfer tees off on each hole.