What is Four Ball in a Golf Match?

By Ben Jarratt •  Updated: 07/14/23 •  20 min read

Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. If you buy anything through these links I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

When an experienced player thinks about golf the first things that may come to their mind is the smell of the freshly cut grass, the satisfaction of a perfect shot, the plunk of sinking a putt, or simply time enjoyed on the course with friends.

For some golfers, it is not just a seasonal sport but rather a passion — a lifestyle they want to keep throughout their lives. While it can be frustrating, a golfer knows their competition is truly against themselves.

What is Four Ball in Golf Match?

However, there are a lot of different ways to play golf, and a lot of factors that influence how a person experiences the game. Some of those factors include course location and type, techniques and formats, the club set they have chosen, club knowledge and experience, and even the type of ball used. Other factors can be the way you play — and there are many different ways.

If you’re looking for information on different golf formats — for example, if you’ve been asking yourself, “What Is Four Ball,” you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss Four Ball as well as other formats, compare them, and also discuss what equipment is most suitable for these variations.

Most Played Golf Formats

Golfers have different skill levels. That much is patently obvious to anyone who’s set foot on a course. While some may be well-experienced, others may just be starting or are casual/seasonal players who play golf just as a hobby. So, too, are there various golf formats, each with different rules.

Players can choose the format they prefer the most, whether they want to excel in it or even just learn it to upgrade their skill. Let’s discuss a few of the most commonly played formats for you to understand them better.

Four Ball

One of the most popular formats of playing golf is Four Ball or ‘Best Ball’ as some call it. This format involves two teams with two partners each and requires each partner of a team to get as low a score as possible with a single ball.

In case one of the partners fails to complete the play of the hole, there is no set rule of any penalty. To make it simpler, this format consists of four balls belonging to four different players, each playing their best ball to win the game by scoring the lowest.

This is a great game for not-so-serious outings among friends and adds the fun of partnered competitiveness. Your partner may have a killer drive that sets him up well for the rest of the hole, or vice versa. There’ll be friendly competition within partners as well since no one wants to be outdone all the time.

Skins Game

A more competitive form of playing golf is the Skins format, as this is where a prize is involved, and that prize is referred to as ‘Skins’. Each hole has a certain amount of monetary benefit which increases as you move on to the next hole. It’s played with either three or four balls, which is decided at the beginning of the game.

The interesting part about this format is, if one player wins the hole — i.e. has a birdie when everyone else has a par — that is a straight win and they collect the skin for that hole. However, if no one wins outright, then the prize of that hole gets added to the next hole’s prize and they move on to playing the next round until the last hole.

Alternate Shot

Also known as ‘Foursome’, this format involves the participation of two partners to play against each other by taking alternate shots at one ball. It can either be played with Match Play of Stroke Play format and rules are essentially the same for that of an individual play match, except the one difference that is requiring for each player to take an alternate shot.

Another variation of this format of play is ‘Threesome’, where an individual player competes with two partners who play under the same rules. The interesting part about this format is that you can give or ask for help if required, obliging Rule 10.


Another commonly played golf format is Scramble, which consists of a team of four players in total and each player plays throughout the whole match. The team captains choose the best shot and each player then has to use the same spot for hitting their shot.

For this format, the rules are relatively relaxed and informal, which is why it is played for charity events mostly according to the organizer’s rules.

Only one shot is picked out of all four members of the team, hence one score is counted per hole. To determine the rating of a Scramble team, the best scores are added from the total number of best shots taken.

The team with the lowest score overall becomes the winner of the tournament. In case there is a tie between teams then the organizer picks a random hole number through a draw, and the team with the lowest score for the particular hole wins.

Stroke Play

Stroke Play is also referred to as Medal Play and is a format of golf that works based on a scoring system. The number of strokes taken to put the ball in the hole are counted over one or more rounds. The total number of strokes are then added and the player with the lowest score wins the match.

Most tournaments enforce a certain cut, whereby the participating players have to make it to the ‘cut line.’ If a player fails to make the cut, then they do not continue playing the tournament further.

In case there is a tie between players, the usual ways to decide a winner is through playoffs and scorecard countback.

While playoff requires the participating players to decide a number of holes and replay for a new score, the countback, however, is used more in amateur competitions or if a playoff is not practical for any reason. This method does a ‘count back’ for the player with the lowest cumulative score over the last 18,9,6,3 or 1 hole.

What is Four Ball in Golf and How is it Different?

Four Ball format itself is a combination of either Match Play or Stroke Play. With reference to Rule 31, this format requires a team of two players to compete using their own ball each and scoring as low as possible in order for one player to win.

This format was first introduced in the 1908 R&A Rule book. As there are four balls in a play at a time during the match, the game was simply called Four Ball.

If looking at it from the perspective of a learner, this format can allow you to learn not just about different competitions but also how a certain ball of your collection performs on different surfaces and whether or not you can count on a specific ball for important shots.

Four Ball vs Skins

The Skins format is more competitive than Four Ball, as with this format, there is a certain amount of monetary benefit involved. Every hole has stakes, which often double as you move on to the next hole. However, in the Four Ball format, there is usually no prize or monetary benefit involved, which in turn reflects less pressure and allows for the golfer to practice their best shot with their best ball.

Four Ball vs Alternate Shot

The difference between Four Ball and Alternate Shot (also called Foursome, with variation called Threesome), is that Four Ball is played by two opponents who each use their own ball for every hole.

On the other hand, Alternate Shot requires a team of two who each take alternate shots on the same ball until the hole is complete. Four Ball does not allow any caddies to help you, while Alternate Shot has an extent of help that can be acquired in form of advice or guidance.

Four Ball vs Scramble

While playing a Scramble format, players hit the ball from the tee and the spot where the best shot was taken is chosen for the next stroke. That’s where the next shots are taken from by all the participating players.

However, in Four Ball format, each player hits their own ball through the whole round, and at the end of the game when all the balls have been sunk, the player with the lowest score of the ‘best ball’ out of them  wins.

Four Ball vs Stroke Play

When we talk about Four Ball, it is a format that actually uses either Stroke Play or Match Play, whereby the participating golfers are required to compete as partners with their own balls.

The winner in both these formats is decided as per the score, whoever has the lowest number of strokes wins the match.

Hence, if technically looked at, Four Ball, Match Play, and Stroke Play are all effectively the same format, just with the introduction of teams.

Selection of Golf Balls

There are countless options in the market when you go out to choose which club set works for you, whether you are an experienced player, a beginner, man, woman, or junior player.

Similarly, there are two categories when it comes to golf balls: Recreational and Advanced. While recreational balls are designed for seasonal golfers, advanced balls are used by experienced players as they allow easy spinning and lofting.

These categories have further variations, which include Practice or Range Balls, Recycled Balls, or X-outs. Each of these 3 kinds of balls has its own set of characteristics and offer a difference in experience. We’ll walk you through the difference between each ball type and how they can be useful for you according to your skill level in golf.


Also known as Practice Balls, these are relatively less expensive than other balls and fall under the category of recreational balls which are used by seasonal or ordinary golfers.

These balls are designed specifically to be played within narrow areas and cover a short distance due to being lightweight. You can find practice or range Balls in two materials: plastic and foam.

The difference between the material of the ball is merely the place where you practice, the cost, durability, and mimicry of the flight.

The feel of these balls is quite different from real golf balls, but they are considered great for those who want to practice at home without spending too much. Some of the most used practice balls are:


When we talk about Recycled Balls, we do not want to confuse them with refurbished balls. As seasonal or beginner players are not as practiced as experienced players, they tend to lose their balls quite frequently, especially if they are playing on intensively grassy or sandy surfaces or areas near water.

The balls that are lost and are later found by other golfers or are sold by sellers without any touchups are called recycled balls, so the quality, type, and brand can vary.

On the other hand, refurbished balls are worked on to try and bring them back to their original shape by making them smoother with either repainting or sandblasting and stamping.

This leads to uncertainty in knowing whether you are even buying the ball that it says it is. Recycled balls can be a good call if you merely want to practice. However, with refurbished balls you are at risk of being sold a fake ball.


As can be figured by the notion of the name itself, these are the kind of balls that fail the quality control testing or rather are rejected balls that the manufacturer does not want to sell under its name. These balls come under the X Series, hence, X-outs, and are sold at deeply discounted prices.

The balls do not have huge flaws, other than cosmetic imperfections, however, since they fail the QC testing and are not up to standards, they cannot be used in tournaments.

Although the balls are considered useless, the interesting part about them is that they often offer a higher level of compression and a firmer feel than a regular or advanced ball.

Moreover, you can often unlock a higher speed which can work to your advantage, especially if you want to practice or even just play around with your swing, speed, or distance.

How to Choose the Perfect Ball for Four Ball?

Choosing the right golf ball is just as important as choosing the right club to play with. While you may be a brand-loyal golfer who likes to repeatedly buy from the same manufacturer, it is important to realize that with the development and advancement in technology, there are plenty of other manufacturers that offer some great quality golf balls.

Not only is it advantageous to have the perfect ball but knowing the features of balls is equally important. You can now find balls with various specifications that help with your specialized golf techniques as well. This guide will walk you through some of the important features that you might want to take into consideration the next time you are buying a golf ball.


First and foremost, consider the way a ball is made. This is the most essential feature you need to consider when choosing a golf ball as you want to make sure how the ball will react.

Will it fly high? Will it cover a long distance?

Will you get a sufficient response with it? All these questions and more are dependent on the construction of the ball. Let us further break down the most common type of constructions, how they look, and their performance potential.


One of the most common types of balls that is found mainly on mini-golf courses is the One-piece ball, which is made of surlyn and is made as one strong sphere with a dimpled surface which has a single layer.

This construction of ball is much harder than other types and you will find them easily on driving ranges.

One-piece golf balls are considered one of the most basic and least expensive balls and they are designed purely for beginners and novice players to practice their stroke and power shots.


This construction of the ball is used by most golfers who want reliability and durability with a fair price, as they allow for you to cover a long distance easily while also enhancing your performance.

Two-piece balls are made of a large core, designed specifically to maximize your skill in covering long distances, as this ball flies easily and offers a bit of control as well for short-range shots.


While the one-piece and two-piece balls are all about covers and cores, the three-piece balls, however, introduce the mantle.

In addition to the layer of the cover and core, there is another layer of the mantle which is between the other two layers and it works towards adding a boost to your performance which also having a softer cover which offers more spin impact on the ball.

The mantle is usually a soft rubber-like layer and is great for all levels: from amateur golfers to mid-handicappers to experienced players.


The more a player’s skill set advances in golf, the more technical their choice becomes. This is what the four-piece ball offers, as it is a more advanced construction technique and is relatively more expensive than the rest.

These balls are used to get maximum performance and are made of multiple core or mantle layers. These additional layers contribute towards the performance aspect and increase the short game control while flying high and covering long distances.


As a matter of fact, so far there are only two manufacturers that produce the Five-Piece Balls, which are TaylorMade and Callaway.

As understood by the name, this kind of ball has five layers that work for each category of shot like Driver, Long, Mid, and Short Irons as well as wedges.

Five-piece balls are purely for advanced players and are made with multiple cores, mantles, and a cover. For long distances and a soft landing, this ball construction is the most used by elite golf players.


If you are keen on learning how to spin your ball while taking a shot, then it is important that you get a ball that gives you enough capacity for spinning.

The dimples or ‘dots’ you see on your ball are what help your ball fly high as the air under the low-pressure zone goes upward to the ball due to the difference in pressure. The more air is pushed toward your ball, the more your ball will spin high and fast.

Low Spin

As suggested by the characteristic itself, balls with a low spin tend to have a decreased spin, which allows for the ball to go straighter.

Although the ball may not experience as much loft, however, due to the decreased spin the ball will continue once it lands. Balls with low spin are recommended for those who find it hard to determine the distance on the ground.

Mid Spin

Mid-spin balls are used to cover the gap between the two other types of spinning balls, low and high. They offer you a great balance between distance and the feel of the ball and are used by a wide range of golfers, whether beginners or experienced players.

The soft feel a mid-spin ball offers varies from brand to brand. However, it offers great distance coverage and is suitable for all players.

High Spin

Lastly, high spin balls are specifically designed to have an increased spin for the ball.

As soon as your club hits the ball, it is released with a backspin of a certain degree which increases spin and carries the ball for a longer time.

A high-spin ball won’t have the same carry on the ground that a low-spin ball will. However, they provide greater control and accuracy, especially around greens and in the short game.


Compression is one of the key features of a golf ball, especially if you have a set style of playing and like for your ball to cover distances at a certain speed level.

Compression occurs upon impact, allowing for the ball to fly while being compressed and further energy to be released, propelling it.

You must keep two things in mind when choosing the level of compression in a ball: the core of the ball and the swing speed that is most suitable for you.

There are various options available in compression: the higher the compression the faster your speed, and the lower the compression the lower your swing speed. Let us differentiate between the two compression types: low and high.

Low Compression

Normally, a low-compression ball has a compression rate of around 70 or 80 and is used by beginners, women, juniors, or novice players who are just getting started at the game.

High Compression

For more experienced players or low handicap golfers, high compression balls are great at the rate of 90, which is considered a hard ball and requires the player to hit the ball hard. However, high compression balls are great in terms of having control.


Choosing a golf ball is all about personal preferences, and the feel of the ball is a major part of every golfer’s preference. Compression is closely related to feel as, when you hit the ball, you have a certain goal in mind.

The feel of the ball is a subjective thing that appeals to each golfer differently. The temporary change you see in your ball when you hit it reflects its feel, and the lower compression a ball has the softer a ball will be.

On the other hand, the higher compression a ball has the lesser it will deform, allowing for you to hit faster shots with harder impacts.

What is Four Ball in Golf: FAQ’s

Now that we have discussed various types of golf balls and techniques, we hope you understand the difference between all the different kinds of balls and how to choose the one that fits your requirements perfectly while also contributing towards upping your performance as a golf player.

Let us move on further and answer some commonly asked questions by golfers who need further surety and clarification.

✅ How to Choose the Right Golf Ball?

As one of the key features of a golf ball is compression, you need to know whether or not the ball you are choosing offers a rate of compression that will work for your style of playing.

The easiest way to know how much compression you want is by knowing whether you prefer faster swings or slower. The lower the compression, the slower the swing and vice versa.

✅ Do Dimples on a Golf Ball Help?

Dimples are an extremely important characteristic of a golf ball as they help in breaking the air around the ball during the flight and are measured by two features: lift and drag.

For balls with a comparatively lower spin, the dimples are more like to be a bit shallow, which allows for the ball to fly high and stay in the air for a relatively longer duration.

✅ How Do Golf Balls Make a Difference?

Varying from player to player, the point to keep in mind here is how passionate one is about golf. If you are a seasonal player who likes to play just as a hobby, noticing the difference might take you quite a few rounds.

However, for an experienced player, it does make a difference in terms of swing, speed, and the distance that needs to be covered along with the feel of the ball.

✅ Are Balls That Cover More Distance Better Than Balls That Give More Spin?

Your style of playing determines best which ball type would be more suitable for you.

If you are a player who plays games that require covering long and far distances and struggle with getting your ball to the hole from the tee then you need a ball with a high speed.

However, if your swing is hard enough for the ball to cover the distance but have a hard time with accuracy then you should choose a ball which offers more spin.


Golf is an extensive game considering the numerous types of clubs, balls, formats, and techniques there are. However, for a passionate golfer, choosing the right equipment and style is not as difficult.

With the right advice and guidance, you can excel at golf in a relatively short time. However, if you rely solely on learning on your own, it may take some time.

Now that we have covered all the possible types of formats for you, we hope you understand what is ‘Four ball’ in golf and how interesting of a format it is. Along with that, consider how the different kinds of balls can help you choose the perfect four for this format.

Challenging yourself to different formats can help you stay competitive and passionate about this sport, as having a monotonous technique with no exciting challenges may get dull.

Last update on 2023-06-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API