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How does countback work in golf?

Golf Care, 27th September 2022

how does countback work in golf


So, you’ve put in what you think is a competitive score that surely has a chance of winning; you then hear someone has matched it.

What then? Who scoops first prize? You may have your own way of deciding who takes the honours when playing with a group of friends—perhaps a game of rock, scissors, stone—but most club competitions use the countback system.

This isn’t The Open—extra holes don’t come into it. Instead, a simple bit of number crunching is used to determine the winner. We say ‘simple’, but in some cases, it can get a little complicated.

However, here’s how countback generally works in golf…

how does countback work in golf

If a competition reaches its conclusion and there are players tied at the top, the winner is determined based on the scores for the last nine, six, three, and the 18th hole. It can be a frustrating way to lose, but this is the way a lot of club competitions are settled. If unsure, you can always consult your club’s Terms of Competition for each event.


What if there’s still a tie?

It’s unusual, but this does happen, and in this case, the competition committee can look at the last six, three, and the final hole of the first nine.

Countback is usually only used to determine first, second and third places. After that, if there’s a tie, they remain that way. In other words, it’s not used to determine every single place. For example, if you shoot 75 and finish in a tie for 12th, you finish in a tie for 12th—no one will be looking at your last three holes to separate you from the other 75s.


What about multi-tee starts?

how does countback work in golf

If you’re playing in a shotgun or two-tee start, your ‘back nine’ is obviously going to look different. Consistency is recommended, so the ‘back nine’ taken is generally holes 10-18 on a standard scorecard, regardless of which hole you teed off on.


How does countback work in Stableford golf?

The process for a Stableford competition countback is the same as a stroke play competition. However, the countback uses the total Stableford points instead of the standard net or gross scores. The number of holes used in the countback is the same, starting with the back nine, then the back six, back three, and the final hole.

The way countback is calculated can vary according to club rules or the rules of a particular competition, but this is generally how countback works in golf.


What about handicap competitions?

If a competition committee sets a stroke index allocation, you’d apply those handicap shots as you would for the competition itself.

Confused? Your competition committee will probably be only too happy to answer any questions you may have.

You may also want to check out the R&A Committee Procedures.


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Okay—it might take you a while to fully get to grips with how countback works. But you might also want to consider golf insurance in the meantime—especially if you play regularly.

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