How to Play the Round Robin Golf Format

Round Robin is the name of a golf game for a group of four golfers in which the golfers pair off on each hole to play 2-vs.-2. Who plays with who? That's the fun part of the game: Partners change every six holes, so that over the course of the 18 holes all four golfers get to partner each of the other three in the quartet.

An 18-hole Round Robin, therefore, includes three different 6-hole partnerships, three different matches for each golfer. Because the partnerships last six holes, this format is also commonly known by the name Sixes. And for some reason, "Hollywood" is another name some golfers use for this format. The format named C.O.D. is very similar. Note that the scoring method used (e.g., standard match play) remains the same throughout, it's only the partners that change every six holes. (In a format called 3 In 1, partners remain the same but the scoring method changes every six holes.)

In his book Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play (affiliate link), Chi Chi Rodriguez — who has played a lot of round robins — explained this about the format: "Round Robin is a great way for players of mixed abilities to spend an afternoon. A weak player has a chance to win a bet or two, and no one player feels that he or she has to carry the day."

How Partners Rotate in Round Robin

Let's do an example of the Round Robin rotation — three six-hole matches are played, two-vs.-two, with the partners changing every six holes.

We'll label our four golfers A, B, C and D. Here's how Round Robin rotation works:

  • On Holes 1-6, A and B partner against C and D;
  • For holes 7-13, A and C partner against B and D;
  • On holes 13-18, A and D partner against B and C.
How do members of your quartet decide who partners whom for the first match? Really, it doesn't matter who starts off as partners because you'll each partner the other three throughout the match. So don't get into arguments about who starts as partners. Do it by agreement, or do it completely at random. For random draws, you can mark four pieces of paper A, B, C and D and draw them from a cap, then start out A/B vs. C/D (do this drawing in the pro shop or clubhouse, not on the first tee). Or get a golf ball from each of the four golfers and toss them in the air; the two golfers whose balls stop closest to each other form one side for the first match.

Different Ways to Play/Bet Round Robin Format

Round Robins most commonly use variations on fourball as the method of play (each golfer plays his or her own ball throughout), with either the low ball of the two partners counting as the team's score, or with both balls combining for the team score. But you can use any competitive format you like that works for a two-vs.-two match.

If the four golfers are very close in playing ability, then using the two-combined-scores approach puts pressure on everyone to perform throughout. If the group has golfers of varying skill levels, though, stick with one-low-ball-per-hole as the side's score.

If your group wants to wager on a Round Robin, there are two ways to do that. First, each 6-hole match represents a separate wager, and your goal is to be on the winning side in at least two of those three matches. Or, in match play, award one point to each golfer on the team that wins a hole, then pay out the difference in points at the end of the match.

More formats:

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