The Masters Playoff Format, Rules and Holes Played

What happens when The Masters Tournament completes 72 holes with two or more golfers tied at the top? Those golfers go into a playoff. So let's go over the playoff format and rules and reveal which holes at Augusta National the playoff takes place on.

The summary: The Masters uses a sudden-death playoff format that begins on the 18th hole and continues, if necessary, on the 10th.

The Masters Playoff Format Is Sudden Death

In its earlier history, The Masters used an 18-hole playoff and even a 36-hole playoff. Today, the playoff is as short as one hole, because the format is sudden death. That means the golfers in the playoff play one hole at a time. And the first golfer to win a hole outright wins the playoff.

Who tees off first in the playoff? The order of play is determined by drawing numbers out of hat. That process is done in front of the television cameras once all the players in the playoff have arrived on the tee of the first playoff hole.

The Masters is the only one of the four men's major championship that uses a sudden-death playoff format, and it has used that format since 1976.

Playoff Holes at The Masters: 18 and 10

Only two holes at Augusta National are used during a Masters playoff, no matter how long the sudden-death playoff lasts. Those two holes are: Golfers in the playoff play the 18th hole first, then, if necessary, the 10th hole. If two (or more) golfers are still tied after the 10th, they go back to the 18th, then the 10th, then the 18th, and so on until the winner is crowned. (No sudden-death playoff at The Masters has yet lasted more than two holes, however.)

Why those two holes? It's about proximity and maximizing crowd control. The 18th and 10th holes both end at the clubhouse; their fairways run next to each other; one's tee is close to the other's green. So it's easy for the players, the tournament officials, the television crew and the fans to get to those holes and get going with the playoff.

The 18th and 10th holes have been the designated playoff holes since 2004. In sudden-death playoffs at The Masters prior to 2004, the playoff started on the 10th hole, continued to the 11th, and, had it been necessary, the golfers would have continued playing the back nine in order. (This is why a couple of earlier Masters playoffs ended on the 11th hole.)

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Photo credit: "Masters Tournament 2008-5" by johntrainor is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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