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Match & Medal

Each month we will try to bring to you straightforward examples of popular - and not so popular - games on the course; games that will make your rounds more challenging and fun to play. In this first installment of Game of the Month, we'll tackle two of the basic games people play on the golf course: 'Match' and 'Medal' Play.

Medal Play: Sometimes terms in golf hide simple explanations. In a Medal game, the players simply add up their scores and compare. You shot a 97? I shot an 87. I win.

So where does your handicap come into play? Well imagine that I usually shoot in the 80's, and you usually shoot in the 100's. I should win most of the time. One purpose of a golf handicap is to help players of different skill levels to create a fair match. Take the difference between each handicap (e.g. 25 - 13 = 12) and that is the number of strokes given to the higher handicap player. In the example below, Jack is a 13 handicap, while Tom is a 25. In their medal game, Jack 'gives' 12 strokes to Tom. So who won? Even though Jack shot the lower score, Tom won because he played better compared to his own potential.

Medal Match Example

Match Play: So what then is match play? Match play is a hole-by-hole game where the lowest score wins the hole. If I shoot a five, and you shoot an eight, then in medal play I should gain three strokes. However, in match play I only win one point (no matter how many strokes better I played the hole). If the players tie the hole, it is 'halved' (no one wins a point). Once we are finished the golfer with the most points wins.

So how does the handicap come into play here? Let's stick with the same example. In the card shown above, there was a row called HDCP:


HDCP stands for Handicap, and rates the difficulty of each hole (1 being the hardest, 18 the easiest). In the Jack and Tom example above, Tom would once again receive 12 strokes, but this time he would receive one stroke on each of the twelve hardest holes. In the example below, these holes are marked with a red x on the HDCP line.

Medal Match Example Continued

So who won here? First let's note a few things. Since Jack kept score, he marked the holes he won as positive points, and the holes he lost as negative points. Second, on hole number six, although both players had fives, because it was the sixth hardest hole, Tom 'gets' a stroke, and wins the hole. Third, on hole number seven, both players bogeyed the hole. Since Tom did not receive a stroke, the hole was halved.

Note that a match game does not have to turn out in the same manner as in medal play, as 'blow up' mistakes are more likely to be forgiven in match play. For example, although not shown on the card above, Jack shot an 11 on the 15th hole (compared to Tom's 5). In medal play Jack would have lost 6 strokes, but in match play he lost only one hole.
Both match play and medal play are fun games. In fact, many people like to play both at the same time. Next time someone asks if you'd like to play 'Match & Medal,' you'll know exactly what they mean.

There are also other variations on these games. Many people like to play 'The front, the back, and the aggie,' where separate match (or medal, or both) games are played for the front nine, the back, and the total 18 holes. In a foursome, partners can team up to create another variation, playing total score, highest and lowest, or other variations.
As you can see, there are quite a few ways to play these games. If you come up with a good variation, send it in - we'd love to hear it!

Best of luck on your next Match & Medal game!

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