with Robert Bicknell
When you go out to play golf with your friends, which format do you enjoy the most. Different people have different preferences. For example, if I feel daring and want to have a lot of fun, I'll go with match play because you can take risks and get inside your opponent's head.
However, if I'm feeling grouchy and just want to be left alone to concentrate on my game and shut out the world, I'll opt for stroke play.
These are two very different formats.
Match play which is essentially a one-on-one match which is scored on a hole-by-hole basis (lowest score wins the hole, winner of the most holes wins the match). Stroke play is straight-up lowest total score over 18 holes wins.
The major differences are that, in stroke play, you can goad your opponent into doing something he normally wouldn't do, like take a chance. If you go for a par 5 in two and make it, your opponent now has to decide if it's worth the risk of ending up in a bunker or worse. So, in match play you can actually help influence your opponent's self-destruction. This is part of the mental "mano a mano" part of match play.
The best part of match play is that you can shoot a ridiculous score on a hole and it doesn't matter because you only lost one hole. Make a bogey or a double par and it doesn't matter because you've only lost one hole (providing your opponent didn't make an even bigger mess of things). Whereas in stroke play, every stroke will come back to haunt you at the end.
So match play can be said to favor the swashbuckling style of play… providing you're not a complete maniac. You still have to keep your wits about you and choose your gambles carefully.
Stroke play, on the other hand is more of an individual, you vs the course type of environment. What your immediate opponent does really is immaterial because you have 143 other competitors out there as well. Whoever plays the course in the least amount of shots wins. Very simple.
Stroke play is a little easier to recover from a bogey because you have more holes to regain the dropped stroke. Screw up on the 4th hole and you have 14 more holes in which to recover the stroke. It's a bit less pressure.
In match play, you lose a hole and can find yourself quickly running out of real estate because if you're four holes down with three to play…its game over. You lost. So, while you can take risks, you cannot go overboard.
Another enjoyable form of golf is what is known as "sixes". Each player partners with another partner for six holes and plays against the other two. This allows a bit of camaraderie and strategic play. If my partner is very steady, I can count on him to make a par at worse which leaves me the opportunity to blast it long and try for birdie or eagle (depending on the hole). However, if my partner is erratic, I have to play it safe and be the anchor.
My all time favourite format is, of course, the four-man Scramble. For sheer fun, this format cannot be beat. There are four players in the team. Each person tees off and the group then chooses which tee shot to use. Once chosen, everyone picks up their ball and drops next to the chosen ball. Then they all hit from there and again the best shot is chosen. It continues like this until the ball is holed.
If you have four really strong players, you can go massively low. If I remember correctly, Laurent, Bob, Wisarn and I once put up a gross score of 13-under par in the Bar 5 scramble tournament.
If you have good players, one guy who is always steady makes sure his shot is in the fairway, which frees up the others to blast off as hard as they want. Same for approach shots to the green. One player knocks it to a reasonable putt range and the others shoot to try and hole their approach shots.
It's probably as much fun and pressure free golf as you can find.
With so many formats available, don't get stuck in one. Go have fun! — VNS