How to Play a Choker Tournament in Golf

A Choker Tournament is a golf format for three- or four-person teams in which one person per team, on every hole, is put on the spot: come up with a decent score, or choke and hurt your team's chances.

There are several different ways to play a Choker, but the key point is this: the identity of the choker on your team rotates from player to player throughout the round. If Golfers A, B, C and D form a team, then Golfer A is the designated player on Hole 1, B on Hole 2, C on Hole 3, D on Hole 4, and back to A on Hole 5, and so on.

The score of the designated player — the one who plays the Choker ball — counts on every hole, and is combined, in one of several ways described below, with the other team members' scores to create the team score.

So if you are the designated player on the first hole — you are playing the choker ball — you know that no matter what your score is, it counts. If you make a 3, fantastic. If you make an 11, ouch. Either way, that score is going to form half of your team's score on the hole.

Note that the Choker Tournament format goes by many other names, the most common of which are Money Ball and Devil Ball.

Creating the Team Score in a Choker Tournament

Choker score plus other players' scramble score: This is probably the most common way of scoring a Choker Tournament — combining the choker's score with the scramble score of the other players on the team. If Golfer D has the choker ball, then Golfers A, B and C play the hole as a scramble. The A-B-C scramble score is combined with the score Golfer D makes to get the team's score on that hole.

Choker ball plus other players' best ball: In this version, all four golfers are playing their own balls on every hole. The designated choker player's score counts as half the team score. The other half is the best score (the low ball) of the other three players. If the choker ball score is 5, and the other three golfers score 6, 7 and 4, then the team score for that hole is 9 (5 + 4).

Choker score plus other players' alternate shot score: This is a version for three-person Choker Tournaments. If Golfer A is the designated player on Hole 1, then Golfers B and C play alternate shot on the hole. The B-C alternate shot score is combined with A's choker score for the team score. (You can also use this verion in a 4-person Choker — just stipulate the golfer who was the choker on the previous hole sits out the next hole.)

Setting the Choker Ball Rotation

Who decides what order the choker ball rotates throughout the round? It's possible the tournament organizers might do that for you, through a random draw. Or the organizers might tell the players to all do their own random draws on the first tee to set the order.

More commonly, it is left up to the players to decide what order the choker designation will rotate throughout the round. In that case, you might want your best two golfers to be the designated players on the first two holes — that way, they will also be the designated players on the last two holes. They'll get five turns with the choker ball, while the other two golfers will only have four turns each.

Another way to approach it is to look at the water holes and the toughest handicap holes, and try to come up with a rotation in which your weaker players avoid the choker ball on the water holes, and your stronger players get the choker ball on the toughest holes.

There's another alternative that eliminates any designated rotation and usually leads to one or two golfers per team getting most of the choker opportunities. All four golfers tee off and the team selects the best drive. The golfer who hit that drive becomes the choker; the other three continue from that spot playing a scramble. If this version is in use, tournament organizers will let you know.

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