British Open Playoff Format and Rules Explained

The British Open, one of the four major championships in men's professional golf, switched away from the traditional 18-hole, next-day playoff format beginning in 1989. And the Open made another change to its playoff form recently, too. So what is it now?

The current British Open playoff format is this:

  • All the golfers tied for the lead at the completion of four rounds (72 holes) go into a playoff that is scheduled for three holes.
  • At the end of those three holes, the golfer with the lowest cumulative score is the winner.
  • If two or more golfers remain tied, they continue playing on a hole-by-hole basis until someone wins a hole outright.
Or, to sum it up, the Open Championship's playoff format is a three-hole, aggregate-score playoff, and if ties remain they continue playing sudden-death.

When the Open switched away from next-day, 18-hole playoffs, it adopted a four-hole, aggregate-score model. That model was first used in the 1989 British Open, then seven more times, and then, finally, at the 2015 British Open.

But during the 2019 British Open, the R&A announced the one-hole reduction, switching from four holes to three holes.

Who tees off first on the first playoff hole? That is determined by the golfers involved in to the playoff drawing numbers in a blind draw.

Which holes are used for the playoff? That is determined on a course-by-course basis by the R&A, considering such factors as crowd control, access for golfers, and the holes being close together. The 18th hole will be involved, however, as it naturally leads golfers and spectators back to the clubhouse.

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