As I write this, the world’s greatest golfers are set to tee off in the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. It is somewhat fitting that this tournament takes place as the NCAA basketball championship reaches the Sweet 16 weekend. Just like the NCAA basketball tournament, the match play championship pits the top 64 golfers in the world against one another in a format that is unlike what they are accustomed to playing each week on the PGA Tour.
If you are unfamiliar with the match play format, you have been missing out. It is fun, and many golfers prefer it to the standard stroke play format. Match play, unlike stroke play, doesn’t crown a champion based on the lowest score at the end of your round. Instead, the champion is determined by which golfer won the most number of holes during the round. Based on this, match play provides a much more competitive game of golf for the average viewer to watch.
Match play requires a different mindset for a player to be successful. We’ve all heard the saying that golf is simply “a battle between you and the course.” I was taught at an early age to not focus on what the players were doing around me, but to focus on my own game. Well, match play suggests that we pay closer attention to what our opponent is doing. Often times, your shot selection will be determined by the quality of shot or position that your opponent happens to be in at that moment. For example, if your opponent tees off first and hits their tee shot into trouble, you might elect to hit a more conservative club from the tee just to keep your ball out of trouble. On the other hand, if your opponent crushes a tee shot down the middle of the fairway, you may feel inclined to muscle up and power a ball down the fairway, too.
Perhaps the most exciting golf tournament to watch is the Ryder Cup. USA versus Europe. The tournament is intense, exciting and, yes, you guessed it, the format is match play. Partners are paired together based on personalities, as well as the style of their game. If the Ryder Cup were a stroke play event, the action would not be nearly as exciting, and the mood would be far less intense.
For any of you who have participated in a team play competition with your local course, you have already gotten to experience the excitement of match play. Often times, the pressure feels less intense because you aren’t actually shooting a particular score. However, the opportunity to win more holes than your opponent is an adrenaline rush that isn’t matched in stroke play.
Golf will always be known as an individual sport, but if you have an opportunity to compete in a match play format, I suggest that you give it a try. You will enjoy the experience, and you’ll likely be surprised at how competitive you become.