How to Play a 'Knockout Stroke Play' Golf Tournament

Knockout Stroke Play is the name of a golf tournament format that at first glance combines elements of both stroke play and match play. But this format is played entirely under the rules for stroke play.

The basics are these: A Knockout Stroke Play tournament begins with golfers matched up one-vs.-one. Golfer A is playing Golfer B, Golfer C is playing Golfer D, and so on. In each game, the two golfers are playing straight stroke play. At the end of the round, the golfer with the lower total score advances; the golfer who lost is knocked out of the tournament.

Clearly, that is very similar to a match-play bracket: Win and advance, lose and go home. But as noted, Knockout Stroke Play is, in fact, stroke play under the rules. Match-play elements such as conceding a putt or a hole do not exist in Knockout Stroke Play tournaments. Scoring is cumulative throughout the round until the golfers' total scores are compared at the end, unlike in match play where golfers compete to win individual holes.

Knockout Stroke Play tournaments might also go by names such as Singles Knockout or, in the event of a team format (so each game is two-vs.-two), Doubles Knockout or something like Four Ball Knockout or Better Ball Knockout.

Let's go back to our example with Golfers A, B, C and D from above. Let's say that A is playing B in one game, and it's C vs. D in the other. Golfer A shoots 78 for the round, Golfer B has a 75. Golfer B wins that game and advances. Golfer C has an 81 and Golfer D scores 82, so Golfer C advances. Golfers A and D are knocked out, because they lost their games. Golfers B and C advance, and meet in the next round. In Round 2, Golfer B shoots 80 and Golfer C has a 79, so Golfer B is knocked out and Golfer C advances.

You can also play Knockout Stroke Play using 9-hole games rather than 18-hole games, in order to condense play into fewer days.

In 2018 and 2019, the European Tour schedule included a tournament called the Belgian Knockout. The field started at 144 golfers who played 36 holes of qualifying, after which the field was cut to 64. Those 64 golfers were seeded into a bracket based on the qualifying scores. They then played 9-hole "matches" ("games" would be the technically correct term since it is stroke play) in which the winners were determined by total strokes over those nine holes.

An earlier European Tour event, the Piccadilly Medal, used the knockout stroke play format in several years. The format was used a few times in PGA Tour events in the past, too.

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