If you play golf in groups often, you likely play a lot of match play. Of all the game types to choose from within the game of golf, match play has to be the most popular format in the amateur game. Matchplay golf is exciting because it’s competitive, and it allows each player to quickly recover from one bad hole without it ruining your round or your chances to win.
Matchplay is most often played head-to-head between two players, but it can also be played with two players on a team against two other players, or with three players individually, which makes it a versatile format. Come learn how to dominate without reading any books!
How to Crush Your Competition in Match Play
What is Match Play in Golf?
In match play, you earn one point for each hole in which you score better than the opponent you’re facing. For example, if you score a Par-4 on the first hole and your opponent scores a Bogey-5 (without any handicaps) you will be one up or +1 on your opponent going into the second hole.
This continues until you reach the final hole or until one player has a lead from which the other player cannot come back with the number of holes left to play. For example, if you are up by four holes with three left to play, the match is over.
This is where the phrase ‘gimmie’ comes from. This is not done in a Stroke Play format because all of the strokes need to be counted and each player must complete each hole to enter a valid score. This is not the case for match play.
Another interesting detail about match play is the fact that you can concede a hole at any given time.
This will come into play if you are struggling on a hole to the point where you’re confident that you will not be able to come back and win or tie on that hole.
For example, if you’re on a par three that’s surrounded by water and you put two tee shots into the water and your opponent hits his first shot to a few feet, you can concede the hole and move onto the next hole with a loss. This allows you to speed up the pace of play.
The game of match play is intricate, and it can be determined by your mindset and how you play against the course and your competition.
Each hole is a new challenge and a chance to win one over on the person you’re playing against. If you follow a few of the tips that we lay out below, you will be an unstoppable force on the golf course the next time that you and your buddies decide to play a match!
Crush Your Competition in Match Play With Theses Tips
Start Your Round With Low Scores
It may seem obvious that you want to start a round of golf with low scores, but it’s important to focus on when you’re playing in a head-to-head match.
To score low right from the start, you need to focus on hitting your shots into places where you can miss on either side with the least amount of negative effect.
It’s very important to avoid large numbers because it will give your opponent an easy point.
To avoid large numbers, you need to minimize your mistakes which can be done by not taking any risky shots.
Focus on what your competition is doing and play conservatively for as long as you can and only take a risk when you need to. By playing with your competition’s score in mind, you will have more success.
Practice Before You Play
Adding to the goal of getting off to a hot start and obtaining an early lead, there is one tip that will help you more than anything, and that is to practice before you play. By that I mean, try to get to the course with enough time to at least chip and putt for a while to get used to the green speeds and get a feel for your swing before the round begins.
If you can get to the course early enough, spending some time on the driving range can help you greatly. Avoid hitting a large bucket of golf balls because you don’t want to tire yourself out before your round begins.
Instead, get a small bucket and work your way through your set; starting with your wedges and ending with your driver. Avoid starting with a driver because you will get a better swing tempo by hitting your wedges first.
Treat Each Hole as a New Challenge and Forget About The Previous Hole
Unlike in stroke play where each hole combines for one win, match play combines 18 individual wins for one large win. With every hole you play in a match, you and your opponent will be starting with a fresh slate and a chance to win.
As you get to the tee box on each hole, you need to only be thinking of where you plan to hit each shot for that hole and then execute that plan.
As a golfer, forgetting about the last hole can be one of the biggest challenges that we must overcome to score low.
Whether it was the best hole of your life or the worst hole of your round, you need to put it aside once the final putt drops and begin focusing on the next hole.
Aim For The Center of The Green
One of the best tips for golfers of all skill levels in any type of golf format is to aim for the center of the green on your approach shots. Golf courses are designed to tempt people to aim for the pin and punish them for not hitting a perfect shot. How often do you hit the perfect shot?
If you aim for the center of the green, you take the risk out of the approach shot by avoiding the bunkers and rough around the green.
Additionally, you increase your chances of having a putt instead of a difficult chip shot by a significant amount. If that’s not enough, hitting the greens in regulation will pressure your opponent and cause them to take more risks.
Know Your Game And Play It
It’s always important for a golfer to understand their game. This means that you need to know the shots you typically hit well, the ones you hit poorly, and the direction you typically miss.
If you’re a beginner player who slices the ball consistently, aim in a spot where you can miss right and where you won’t be penalized if you end up hitting it straight. This will help you avoid those big numbers.
Not only is it important to know your shot type, but you should also consider which clubs you hit well and the clubs that you struggle with. If you don’t typically hit your three wood well, don’t play it in a match when you need to hit a good shot. Instead, hit the next closest club that you feel comfortable with, like a 4 iron.
Focus On Your Opponent
In a match-play style format, you must understand where your opponent stands on that hole and the general match.
If you sliced one in the woods on a par four with a risky shot to the green through the trees and a safe shot back into the fairway, you will need to gauge your decision on what your opponent has done.
If they hit their tee shot into the fairway and then onto the green, you will know that you need to attempt the risky shot to have a chance at winning or pushing the hole.
If they also hit it into the woods, you can play it safe and hope to get up and down from the fairway. Remember, each hole is a new match.
Be Aggressive Around The Greens
When you are attempting to beat an opponent and each hole is worth a point, you can’t be leaving putts short and duffing chip shots because you will put yourself out of contention in a hurry. When I say aggressive, I don’t mean that you should try risky shots that you don’t often hit, I simply mean that you need to get the ball to the hole on all of your putts and chips.
If you are consistently putting it short, aim beyond the hole and do all that you can to at least get it past the hole to have a chance at making the putt. These matches will often come down to who putts the best and the least. With chip shots, try to hit it a low lofted wedge as much as possible so you can run the ball up to the hole and lower the chances of duffing your chip shots.
Don’t Give Up and Don’t Give In
In a match, one player will likely have a good stretch of golf for several holes in a row. If this stretch happens at a time where the other player is off, it can result in being down several holes in a short period which can be stressful.
If you find yourself in this situation, keep playing your game and don’t give up. You never know when you might hit a groove or your opponent will fall apart.
If you find yourself in the opposite position where you’re up by a handful of holes, do as much as you can to increase the lead without letting it slip. As we said before, keep playing your game and following the tips that we have explained to hold onto the lead throughout the rest of your round.
Be Aware of Any Handicap Holes
If a player gets five strokes from another player, these five strokes will be assigned to the five most difficult holes. (Listed on the scorecard from 1-18, 1 being the most difficult)
Be aware of any strokes that you are giving or receiving from your opponent as this can change the decisions you will make for that hole. As an example, if you get a stroke from another player on a hole, you will not have to play aggressively because you will have a stroke to spare.
Crush your opponent in your next match!
Matchplay is one of the most fun ways to enjoy the game of golf, and it can be the perfect way to test your competitive skills on the course. If you follow these simple tips in your next round of match play, you will have the advantage on your opponent before you even step up on the first tee!