Beginners Guide to Golf Tournaments: What to Expect at Your First Event

Are you a beginner golfer looking to put your skills to the test at a tournament? Golf tournaments can be exhilarating, but a little terrifying too if you have never participated in one before. In this beginners guide to golf tournaments we’re going to cover what golf tournaments are, the various types, how you can get involved and participate, and how to find local tournaments near you.

What Are Golf Tournaments?

A golf tournament is basically a competition where all the players play one or more rounds of golf. The lowest total score at the end of the day by a player or team wins. Tournaments are very strictly governed by rules and format.

Tournaments can be tiny local club competitions, but they can be enormous professional tournaments like most of those you watch on television, the PGA Tour for instance. But do not be intimidated – there are many tournaments that are excellent for beginning golfers and any amateur golfer no matter what your ability level.

Types of Golf Tournaments

As a beginning golfer, you’ll encounter several of the following tournament formats:

Stroke Play

This is likely the format you will see the most, especially at larger events. Stroke Play In stroke play, all players play a set number of rounds, typically 1-4. The lowest combined score for all rounds is the winner. Match Play In match play, players compete one-on-one. Scoring occurs on a hole-by-hole basis, with a 1 point for winning a hole. Games can be a one-game or as part of a multi-round bracket.


These multi-player team formats place more emphasis on fun than pure competition. In a scramble, all team members hit, and then the best shot is selected and everyone plays from that spot. Similar to a shamble, players play their own ball into the hole after the team’s best drive is selected.

Skins Game

A skins game has a dollar value attached to each hole played. If two or more players tie for low score, that hole’s prize “carries over” to the next hole.

Beginners Guide to Golf Tournaments

How to Get Involved in a Golf Tournament

Ok, now you know what type of tournaments are out there, but how do you actually get involved? Here are a few tips:

Check with Your Local Courses

Many courses and clubs host weekly, monthly or annual events open to members and guests. Check with pro shop staff members or club newsletters/websites.

Search Online Listings

Several websites list upcoming events in your area. Some of the most popular sites include:, and your state/regional golf association website.

Join a League or Tour

Formal amateur golf leagues and tours are available to any age and  most any skill. Tournament schedules and formats are provided.

Charity/Corporate Events

Many charities and corporations organize golf tournaments for fundraising and invite public participants to join.

Finding Beginner-Friendly Tournaments

As a beginning golfer, you will probably want to get started in tournaments dedicated to higher handicappers or recreational players. Things ease into tournaments that carry descriptions like:

  • Beginner/Rookie
  • Amateur
  • Ladies/Senior/Junior  (age-based)
  • Max Handicap events;  e.g., capped at 20+
  • Scramble/Shamble formats

Do not be daunted – tournaments are a good way to stretch yourself, and you can make some great new golf buddies. With a little research, there are numerous local tournaments that are open to beginners like you so you can get started.

Check out the latest tournaments and events here at Golden Oaks.

Beginners Guide to Golf Tournaments


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