How to Play a Flags Tournament in Golf

This Format Is Also Called Last Man Standing or Tombstone

Golf course
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A "flags tournament" — also commonly called a "flag competition" or known by the names Last Man Standing or Tombstone — is a competition format in which golfers begin the round of golf with an allotment of strokes, then play the golf course until those strokes run out.

The game gets its name from the fact that little flags are usually given to competitors before the round. The golfers stick those flags in the ground at the point from which their final shot is played.

How the Flags Tournament Winner is Selected

The golfer who stakes his flag the farthest around the course is the winner.

Here's an example: Let's say your allotment is 75 strokes. You play the golf course until you hit your 75th shot, which, let's say, comes on the 16th fairway. That's where you plant your flag, from the place you played your final stroke. If no other player's flag is planted beyond yours (say, on the 16th green or 17th tee box) you are the winner.

Determining the Stroke Allotment in Flags

Flags can be played using full handicaps or partial handicaps to determine the stroke allotment. In a tournament using full handicaps, a golfer playing a par-72 golf course and who has a course handicap of 14, for example, receives 86 strokes (72 for the course's par rating plus 14 for the golfer's handicap) as his tournament allotment.

Using full handicaps often means that several golfers will reach the end of 18 holes with strokes left to use. In that event, those golfers would go back to the No. 1 hole and keep playing. Alternately, all players with strokes remaining can stop after the 18th hole and the golfer with the most strokes remaining is declared the winner.

To avoid the circumstance of multiple golfers reaching the end of the golf course with strokes remaining, tournament organizers can consider using partial handicaps — three-fourths or two-thirds are the most common.

What happens if, for example, three golfers all make it to the 17th fairway for the final stroke? In such a Flags Tournament "tie," closest to the hole wins. If those three final strokes from the 17th fairway were played from 145, 153 and 161 yards into the green, respectively, the golfer who played from 145 was closest.