How to set up your own match play competition

By Dan McDonald,
Published on

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So, you watched the Presidents Cup, are gearing up for the 2020 Ryder Cup and think, “it would be a lot of fun to hold a competition like this with my friends.”
Well, you’d be right to think that.
Competitions on the golf course are certainly not just reserved for the professionals and you can easily put together your own matches.
Here’s a look at how to organize it and some tips to make it fun for everyone.
Choose a format
You can make things as easy or as complicated for yourself here.
The easiest route to go would be to have a one-day Ryder Cup-style event where you break up into two teams and square off against each other in your preferred style of match — fourball, foursomes or singles.
In terms of ranking them from “most enjoyable for golfers of varying levels of ability” to “most intense” it would go foursomes, fourball, singles.
If you plan on making it a weekend-long competition or as part of a larger golf trip, plan on spending more time working through the logistics. As a trip or competition organizer, it can be best to ask for two captains to step forward and help handle the pairings for you.
Overall, the most important thing when making teams is to have balance. A good method to help that is to order your list of participants by handicap and make sure the top and bottom names on the list are split evenly between the teams. Random draw or a captain’s draft can then fill out the rosters.
Hunting for courses
In order to find the right course(s) to stage your competition, you’ll want to do a little research.
Money can be a taboo topic, but make sure you understand the general feelings of your group about how much they’re willing to spend before you start booking tee times. If everyone is all in to play a bucket-list course, then go for it. But otherwise, be mindful and do your homework to find the best deal so everyone can enjoy themselves and feel included.
In terms of the course itself, you’ll want to find layouts that are conducive for both a fun time and exciting golf. Playing the hardest course in your region where bogeys and double bogeys are winning holes will leave everyone feeling like nobody really won.
Choose a course that provides a fair test — a mix of a few challenging holes with a few that allow you to relax and have some margin for error.
The trophy
When the final putt has dropped on the day or the weekend, you will need a trophy for the winning team to raise.
There are many ways you can go here. Visit a local trophy shop or one online to see what options they have available. If there’s a great inside joke between your group, play off of that and let your creativity run wild.
Since there is only one trophy, it also helps to have a small prize for each member of the team.
Let’s say if you went with creating a replica Ryder Cup, you can then have a bottle of wine for each member of the team.
Having a difficult time figuring out where the trophy will live until the following year? Take a page out of the Stanley Cup celebration process and let the trophy travel around for a set amount of time to each player. It will keep your group engaged with each other in emails and text threads throughout the year and build excitement for the next matches.
The simpler the better
Overall, the simpler you can keep things, the better.
At the end of the day, the goal of putting together a match play competition is to bring together friends for some healthy competition and a fun time. If you keep that at the center of your plans, you’ll create an event that everyone looks forward to each year.
If you need some help making things run smoothly, contact your local PGA Professional and they'll be happy to provide guidance and resources to ensure your group has the best time possible.
Wherever your golf journey is heading, let’s get you there. There are nearly 29,000 PGA Professionals ready to help. Find yours at