Explaining the Am-Am Golf Format

When a Tournament is Called an 'Am-Am,' It Can Mean a Couple Different Things

A foursome of golfers teeing off
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"Am-am" is a phrase that refers to a golf tournament, either to a specific competition format or to a more generic type of event. The term is shorthand for "amateur-amateur," meaning amateur golfers paired together to form a team.

Version I: The Golf Tournament Format Called Am-Am 

Outside of the United States (where this version of am-am is not common under that name), and especially in the United Kingdom, an Am-Am Tournament in one in which a very good amateur golfer is put together with other amateurs of varying abilities to form a team, and the tournament is played using Stableford scoring.

Am-Am teams in this version typically consist of four golfers. The highly skilled amateur (the "low am," you might say) is the captain of the team. On each hole, two of the team members' scores are combined for one team score.

So the key points in this version of Am-Am are Stableford scoring and counting the best two scores among the team on each hole (which makes this version of an Am-Am similar to an Irish Four Ball.)

A scoring example: On Hole 1, the four members of the team record scores of 4, 7, 6 and 5. The two low scores are the four and the five. Those two scores added together create the team's score on Hole 1. (Since an am-am of this type is typically played using Stableford points, the golfers would convert their stroke totals into Stableford points and add those points together.)

Think of this am-am tournament by comparing it with a pro-am, which is a much more commonly understood term. In a pro-am, golfers sign up for the tournament not knowing which team they will be on or who will be their partner(s). But they do know that one pro golfer will be included on each team.

In the am-am, that best golfer on the team is the low-handicap amateur rather than a pro.

Version II: The Generic Am-Am

The generic meaning of am-am tournament is that two (or three or four, depending on the tournament organizers' wishes) amateur golfers are paired together to form a team, with any scoring format possible. Or, as we once saw an am-am described on the Web site of a tournament organizer: "You've heard of a pro-am, right? Well, we ain't got no pros."

When a tournament is labeled as an am-am, it might imply one of the following:

  • That golfers who sign up to play in the tournament will be paired with a so-called celebrity (as opposed to a professional golfer);
  • Or that the tournament is a big-time amateur event in which low-handicappers are competing.

It doesn't have to imply either one of those things, of course. A designation of "am-am" often just means that if you sign up to play, you'll be paired with another amateur such as yourself on a 2-person (or 3- or 4-person) team.

In this version of an am-am, tournament organizers should make clear to prospective participants what scoring format will be used.