How to Play a Tombstone Tournament in Golf

What happens when you win a Tombstone Tournament? You'll feel like you died and went to pro shop heaven. How do you win a Tombstone Tournament? By taking an allotment of strokes you are given by tournament organizers and making it farther around the golf course than anyone else. And where your round dies (you run out of strokes) is where your "tombstone" is erected.

Before we more clearly explain the way the Tombstone format works, note that it goes by several different names. One of those is Last Man Standing. Probably the most common name for this format is Flags, or Flag Tournament. "Plant Your Flag" is another name sometimes used.

Handicaps are needed for a Tombstone Tournament. Once tournament organizers have all the handicaps, they calculate each golfer's stroke allotment. Most commonly, the stroke allotment is the par of the golf course plus three-quarters of your course handicap. Let's say you are a 16-handicap. Three-quarters of 16 is 12. And you're playing a par-72 golf course. Seventy-two plus 12 equals 84. That's your allotment: You get to play 84 strokes in the tournament, no more, no less.

Now, you go out and play golf. And play 84 strokes. After your 84th stroke, you walk to where your golf ball is and pick it up. Your day is done. But before picking up the ball, you put your "tombstone" in the ground where your ball is at rest. What is the tombstone? It will be something the tournament organizers give you. Perhaps a sheet of paper (that has your name and stroke allotment) that you simply pin to the ground using a tee; maybe a small flag (hence Flag Tournament) to stick into the ground or some other type of proxy marker.

Every other golfer in the tournament does the same thing: Walk to the golf ball after playing the last stroke of their allotment, and plant that flag or other form of "tombstone."

Who wins? The golfer who makes it farthest around the golf course on his or her allotment of strokes. Some golfers might reach the end of 18 holes still having strokes. Depending on instructions from the organizers, those golfers might go back to the first hole and keep going until their strokes run out. Or, the golfer with the most strokes remaining after 18 might be declared the winner. Most golfers in the field will run out of strokes without finishing the 18th hole.

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