How To Play the Scotch Golf Game (Alternate Shot)

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Scotch, or Alternate Shot, is a popular golf format for up to four players or two teams to play each other. In this complete Scotch golf game guide, we’ll go over:

  • How to play Scotch and key rules you should know.
  • Tips and strategies to win the Scotch golf game.
  • Reasons you should try this golf format the next time you are out on the course.

If you have played Scotch, or Alternate Shot, before, let us know below!

After this guide, check out other popular golf game formats, including Match PlayTexas ScrambleWolfNassauBingo Bango Bongo, or Peoria System.

What is the Scotch Golf Game?

The Scotch golf game, also known as an alternate shot format, is a popular golf format involving two-player teams. In this game, both players on a team take turns hitting the same ball.

One player tees off on the odd-numbered holes, while the other tees off on the even-numbered holes. After teeing off, the players alternate hitting shots until the ball is holed.

The team with the lowest score on each hole wins that hole. This format requires coordination and communication between teammates, as they must strategize and make decisions together to achieve the best outcome. Playing alternate shots is a gift and a curse because you can have your partner bail you out, but you are still relied on to make pressure shots.

The Origins of Scotch

The origin of the Scotch golf game can be traced back to Scotland, the birthplace of golf. The game is believed to have been developed in the 18th century by Scottish golfers who wanted to add a new level of challenge and strategy to the sport.

The name “Scotch” refers to the Scottish origins of the game, and “foursomes” or “alternate shot” refers to the format where two players take turns hitting the same ball. Over time, Scotch foursomes have become popular in casual and competitive golf, enjoyed by players worldwide.

The Unique Appeal of Scotch

The unique appeal of the Scotch golf format lies in its emphasis on teamwork, strategy, fairness, and social interaction. It offers a refreshing and enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels.

Players must strategize and make decisions while concentrating on hitting good golf shots. Both players also get the opportunity to contribute to the game.

There are also many variations of the Scotch golf game, including six-point Scotch and five-point Scotch.

Lastly, a game of Scotch usually speeds up the pace of play, allowing you to complete an enjoyable, efficient round of golf.

how to play the scotch golf game

How is the Scotch Golf Game Played?

The Rules of Scotch

  1. Scotch golf is played in two teams of two players. Each team takes turns hitting the same ball.

  2. The players decide who will take the first tee shot. The player who tees off on the odd-numbered holes will tee off on the even-numbered holes of the round.

  3. After the tee shot, the players alternate shots, hitting the ball until it is holed. For example, if Player A takes the tee shot, Player B will hit the next shot and continue alternating until the ball is in the hole.

  4. The player whose ball is farthest from the hole plays the next shot. The player’s partner takes the next shot if the ball is in a hazard or out of bounds.

  5. Penalty shots are incurred for various infractions, such as hitting the ball out of bounds, into a hazard, or a penalty area. The penalty shot is added to the team’s score.

  6. The team’s score is the total number of strokes taken to complete the round. The team with the lowest score wins the game.

  7. Handicap strokes may be applied to level the playing field if a players handicap is slightly lower than his opponent’s. This helps if you have golfers with varying skill levels.

  8. Scotch golf follows the same etiquette as regular golf, including repairing divots, raking bunkers, and maintaining a good pace of play.

Understanding the Scoring System in Scotch

The scoring system in Scotch is relatively straightforward. Each team’s score is determined by the number of strokes taken to complete the hole.

The team with the lowest number of strokes wins the hole and has points awarded.

One point is given for each hole you outright win. If both teams tie, the hole is halved, and each team receives half a point. At the end of the round, the team with the most points wins the match.

In different variations, a handicap system may level the playing field by adjusting each team’s score based on their respective handicaps.

The Role of Teamwork in Scotch

Teamwork plays a crucial role in the Scotch golf game. In this format, two players form a team and work together throughout the round. Both players collaborate on every shot, strategizing and communicating to achieve the best possible outcome.

The success of each shot depends on the ability to coordinate and support each other. This includes discussing club selection, analyzing the course, and deciding on the best approach to each shot.

Team members rely on each other’s strengths to navigate challenges and maximize their combined skills. Effective teamwork enhances the overall performance and enjoyment of the game.

scotch golf game tips and strategy alternate shot

Scotch Golf Common Varians

Five Point Scotch

In Five Point Scotch, there are five points given out each hole to make the game more exciting. Points are awarded for:

  • Lowest net score

  • Total low net score for the round so far

  • Lowest total putts for the round so far

  • Closest to the pin

  • A point if one team (but not both) gets a birdie

Six Point Scotch

In Six Point Scotch, there is no point awarded for the lowest total putts. Instead, the other four points from the Five Point Scotch game are used, plus two points are given for the lowest net score on each hole and the lowest total net score for the round so far.

Tips and Strategies

Playing To Your Strengths

Assess each player’s strengths and weaknesses and assign roles accordingly. If one player is better at driving, let them take the first shot. If the other is better at putting, let them handle the final strokes.

Capitalize on each other’s skills to maximize your chances of success. This gives you the best chance of winning all the points and the game.

Strategic Shot Selection

Before starting each hole, discuss and agree upon a game plan. Consider factors like distance, hazards, wind direction, and slopes. Analyze the best approach and discuss alternative options.

By having a clear plan for your shot selection, you can make informed decisions and execute shots more effectively. This is also true for recovery shots if your team is in trouble.

Discuss the best plan of action to ensure you stay within your score.

Longest Golf Ball Shot for Distance (Golfer at Lake Geneva Country Club)

Why You Should Try the Scotch Golf Game

How Scotch Can Improve Your Golf Skills

The Scotch golf game can help improve your golf skills in several ways:

  1. It requires effective communication and teamwork, essential skills in any golf format. Collaborating with a partner on every shot helps you strategize and make better decisions.

  2. Playing to each player’s strengths can enhance your overall game, as you can focus on your strong suits while your partner complements your weaknesses.

  3. The Scotch game encourages you to develop a game plan and think strategically about each shot.

It also teaches you to plan for recovery shots and adapt to changing circumstances. By observing each other’s shots and discussing strategies, you can learn from each other and enhance your golfing knowledge.

Common Mistakes in Playing Scotch

Failing To Adapt

Failing to adapt to changing circumstances on the golf course can hinder your team’s progress on the golf course. You may need to adjust throughout the round, including the weather conditions, golf course challenges, and opponents’ strengths.

The team that can adapt the best throughout the competition will win.

Overlooking Individual Strengths

Each player has unique skills; leveraging them effectively can lead to better outcomes. If you don’t use each other’s strengths to your advantage, you can leave a lot of points on the board and ultimately lose the game.

The more points you win, your team wins, so make sure you don’t overlook strengths on the golf course.

Scotch Etiquette

Good Sportsmanship

While playing the Scotch golf game, it is essential to have good sportsmanship for winning and losing. Tempers can flare when teams compete to be the winner, so it is essential to keep your composure and remember you are still just playing golf.

If you lose a hole, move on to the next hole to be the team winning at the end.

Managing the Pace of Play

Golf courses are very strict regarding the pace of play, as they want to ensure that you move along efficiently without holding up others. The good thing about the Scotch game is that it speeds up the pace of play.

One person hits at a time as you hit alternate shots, and then you move on to the next shot. The pace of play is quite a bit faster than even stroke play.

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Why I Love Scotch Golf Game

I love the Scotch golf game because it offers golfers a unique and enjoyable experience. The game encourages teamwork and communication, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared experience. Players can leverage each other’s strengths, strategizing and collaborating to achieve better results.

The game also requires adaptability, as players must adjust their shots based on their partner’s previous shot. The learning aspect of the game allows players to analyze and improve their skills by observing and discussing their partner’s shots.

The friendly competition and shared excitement make the Scotch golf game fun and engaging for all involved.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Scotch Golf Game (FAQs)

How many players can participate in Scotch?

The Scotch golf game is played with two players on a team playing against another team of two.

How are ties handled in Scotch/Alternate Shot?

If there is a tie at the end of the round, you will continue playing sudden death until there is a winner.

Can Scotch be played with more than two players per team?

No, Scotch can only be played with two players per team.

How do handicaps work in Scotch?

Handicaps can be added and averaged, and points are awarded to the teams to ensure a level playing field.

Can Scotch be played as match play?

Yes, Scotch can be played as a match play. Instead of points awarded per hole, you would use match play scoring.

Is Scotch the same as Alternate Shot in Golf?

Yes, Scotch and Alternate Shot are the same general idea and game. Sometimes Alternate Shot simplifies scoring by just taking each team’s score after each hole. Scotch have Five Point and Six Point alternatives that award multiple points each hole.

Ryan William
Ryan William

With over 25 years hands-on experience in the golfing world, Ryan is not just an avid golfer but a topical authority. His journey has had him delve deep into the nuances of the sport, from mastering the swing to understanding new golf technology. As an entrepreneur, Ryan is at the forefront of the latest golf trends, reviewing all new clubs, accessories, and training aids. His insights and expertise are backed by a prolific writing career, with over 1000 articles published across various platforms. Ryan's commitment is clear: to guide and inform the golf community with unparalleled knowledge and passion.

1 thought on “How To Play the Scotch Golf Game (Alternate Shot)”

  1. Hi
    I am the captain for an event at our club. I have to line up our team . We have better ball matches and scotch matches. What should the strategy be for pairing players. Do we put the long ball hitters and lower handicaps in better ball or mix them up. We are playing against other
    Country Clubs and we are hosting the event at our club. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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