Singles is where a player competes purely on his/her own account, whatever the game format.
Handicap Allowance – Various bodies are now advocating the use of full handicap allowance in all game formats, including matchplay. Some clubs have adopted this recommendation – others retain the ¾ handicap allowance in matchplay
Fourball is where two players play as a team, whatever the game format. This is normally on the basis of ‘betterball’ (sometimes called bestball), where the lower nett score of the pair is the one which counts.
Foursomes is probably the oldest game type of all. Some courses (especially in Britain) are still ‘2-ball’ courses. In other words, singles and foursomes are the only allowed types – with foursomes preferred – mainly because a foursomes game, if played properly, is considerably faster than singles!
Traditional foursomes is where the partners, in advance of a round, agree which holes (on an alternating basis) each will tee off at, with one player driving at the odd-numbered holes (1,3,5 etc) and the other the evens. Thereafter, the ball in play is struck alternately by the players until holed out.
There are a number of ‘variants’ on the foursomes theme (some purists would argue that these are separate game types in their own right, but for the sake of simplicity!
Greensomes (or Greensome Foursomes)
In this game type, both players drive at each hole, and select the most advantageous tee-shot. The partner then plays this ball, and the players then take alternate shots as in foursomes until the ball is holed.
Fensome or St Andrews Foursomes
Both players drive at each hole, but have pre-determined who will play the second shot (odds and evens, as above). It is rumoured that this game type was invented by better golfers (possibly pros) on the basis that this gives them the chance to play their own tee-shot on at least half the holes!
If you want to lose some good friends, have a match of Bloodsomes!. Here the opponents choose which tee-shot has to be played!
In all of the above formats, great care needs to be exercised. Even experienced golfers frequently play out-of-turn and disqualify their team (if the mistake is not spotted immediately). It is also easy to forget the format when you have just missed a short putt, and tap it in! Be especially aware of the sequence when a tee-shot is lost or out of bounds, or a ball is dropped – either on a relief or penalty basis.
Handicap allowance – Foursomes. This is a bit of a grey area. Traditionally, a side was given 3/8ths of combined handicap in standard foursomes stroke- and matchplay. More recently ½ is used at many clubs. Always check the local committee ruling on stroke allowances before play, or at least before returning a signed card! Ignorance is not generally accepted as an excuse!