Explaining the Taft System Golf Format

President William Howard Taft holding golf club

"Taft System" is an old name of an old golf game, a format that is played by four golfers, two per side (two vs. two). All four golfers play their own golf ball throughout, and on each hole two points are available for the winning. High points at the end wins the game. Now, let's get into the details.

First, note that Taft System has another old name, "Best Ball and Aggregate." The first name, Taft System, dates to circa 1910 when the game was allegedly (emphasis on allegedly) invented by U.S. President William Howard Taft, who served from 1909-13. The second name actually tells you how the game is played: points are based on a side's best ball score, and on its aggregate score.

Here are how points are awarded in the Taft System format:

  • On each hole, one point goes to the side with the lowest individual score. For example, if Golfer A on Side 1 scored a four, and that was the lowest any of the four golfers in the match, then Side 1 earns a point.
  • On each hole, the side with the lowest aggregate score of its two golfers earns a point. So for this point, each side combines it two scores — Golfer A's 4 plus Golfer B's 6 makes a 10 for Side 1. If that is lower than Side 2's aggregate, then Side 1 wins that point.
So, to play the Taft System (Best Ball and Aggregate), four golfers pair off into two teams. On each hole, there are two points at stake: one for the lowest score among the four, one for the lower combined score of two partners.

What about ties? Let's say Golfers A and B are one side, Golfers C and D the other side. Golfer A scores 5, B 7, C 6 and D 6. In this case, Golfer A earns one point for the A/B team. But both sides scored 12 in aggregate, so that point goes unawarded.

Now imagine all the scores are the same except that Golfer C scores 5 instead of 6. Now A and C are tied for best ball at 5, so that point goes unawarded. But the C/D side now has the lower aggregate of 11, so wins that point.

Variation: Three-Point System

For a simple variation on Taft System/Best Ball and Aggregate, try the Three-Point System. It's exactly the same, except that the best ball is worth two points and the aggregate score one point. Clearly, that puts more importance on individual excellence than on team consistency. So, if you wish, you can reverse it: award one point for the best ball and two points for the aggregate.

More golf formats:

Photo credit: President William Howard Taft holding golf club, public domain via the Library of Congress

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