While many competitions will have a traditional format, a Committee creating a new event must decide on the form of play it wishes to adopt.
(a) Match Play
If the competition is to be played on the basis of match play, it can be singles, threesomes, foursomes or four-ball match play and can either be scratch or on a handicap basis.
If the competition is to be played on the basis of handicap, the Committee must confirm what stroke allowance should be given, e.g. the full difference between the players, 3/4 of the difference, etc. bearing in mind any handicap allowance requirements stipulated by the governing body for handicaps.
The method of determining the field in a match play competition may vary. It may be that the field is restricted to a certain number, there may be stroke play qualifying preceding the match play stage or the Committee may accept all entries and tailor the draw accordingly.
Where the field is restricted to a certain number, usually that number will be such that all players would have to play the same number of matches to win the event, therefore, total fields of 64, 128 or 256 individuals or teams are common.
In events that have stroke play qualifying, it would be normal for Committees to look for 16, 32 or 64 qualifiers. With such events it is essential that the Committee decides in advance how it will settle a tie for the last qualification place, e.g. by hole-by-hole play-off or by matching score cards, or the Committee may decide to have a preliminary round to ascertain who will progress to the first round.
Once the requisite number of qualifiers has been established, the Committee must make the draw for the match play. In events with stroke play qualifying the “General Numerical Draw” is the recommended method. With this method each player is assigned a number based on his qualifying score, i.e. the lowest qualifier is No.1, the second lowest No.2 and so on.
For purposes of determining places in the draw, ties in qualifying rounds other than those for the last qualifying place should be decided by the order in which scores are returned, the first score to be returned receiving the lowest available number, etc. If it is impossible to determine the order in which scores are returned, ties should be determined by a blind draw. If players start from the 1st and 10th tees during stroke play qualifying, it is recommended that a blind draw be used for ties.
For a full list of the pairings for events with 64, 32, 16 and 8 qualifiers, see Appendix I, Part C in the Rules of Golf.
If there are insufficient players to complete the draw then byes should be given in order of lowest qualifiers, i.e. if there is one bye, the No.1 player should receive it, if there are two byes, the No.1 and No.2 players should receive them, and so on.
It should be noted that in some match play competitions with stroke play qualifying, the defending champion is not required to qualify. Although this is a matter for the Committee to decide, such a practice is not recommended, as the qualifying is an intrinsic part of the competition.
(b) Stroke Play
If the competition is to be played on the basis of stroke play, it can be singles, foursomes or four-ball stroke play, however in addition, it can be played on the basis of Stableford or bogey/par.
The Committee must decide how many rounds are to be played, whether or not the field is to be reduced at any stage of the competition and whether it is to be a scratch or handicap event.
If the competition is based on handicap, the Committee may seek to establish different handicap classes with prizes being awarded in each class, thereby allowing competitors to compete against others of comparable ability. The Committee may wish to determine such classes in advance or await entry and then divide the field evenly into their respective handicap classes.
(c) Other Forms of Play
The Committee may decide to use a form of play that is not covered by the Rules of Golf, such as greensomes or the best-ball of four players or a “scramble”. As these forms of golf are not specifically recognised in the Rules, the Committee must establish Rules and conditions that will be specific to these events. For example, in a “scramble” the Committee may need to determine how and where the ball of a player whose ball is not in play is to be dropped or placed at the spot from which a stroke is to be made. In addition, the Committee must be prepared to answer any query that arises during such a competition, as The R&A cannot answer a query that has arisen in a format not covered by the Rules of Golf.