The Definition of Halved (or Halve) in Golf

Thomas Pieters and Adam Scott shake hands after a halved match
The halved-match handshake: no winner, no loser. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

"Halved" is a golf term used in match play (but not stroke play) to indicate a tie score on either an individual hole or for a completed match. For example:

  • Two golfers are playing match play. On Hole 1 of their match, both players record scores of 4. A 4-4 tie. That means they halved the hole.
  • And if Golfer A and Golfer B finish their match play showdown tied, the match is halved. No winner, no loser — a halve.

Key Takeaways

  • "Halved" is a term used in match-play golf to mean that the two golfers (or two sides) playing the match tied on a given hole, or tied in the overall match.
  • Beginning with the 2019 edition of the Rules of Golf, the R&A and USGA stopped using "halved" and started using "tied" — a term readily understood by non-golfers and casual golf fans not as familiar with match play.

Golfers use the terms to describe a final outcome ("The match was a halve") or a needed scored ("I need to halve this hole to win the match"). Or a golfer might say, "I halved the 18th hole to win the match." Or an announcer will say, "This putt is to halve the hole."

Obviously, these golf terms derive from "half." In match play, you win the match by winning more holes than your opponent. But when you tie on a given hole, neither wins nor loses the hole — instead, you can think of it as each winning (or losing) half of the hole.

See Match Play Scoring, part of our Match Play Primer, for more about the vagaries of match play.

Why don't golfers just say "tied" instead of "halved?" Halved has always been the term used by the two governing bodies of golf, the R&A and USGA, in the official rules. However, beginning with the 2019 edition of the Rules of Golf, halved was dropped and now tied in the preferred term. Golfers, fans, broadcasters, journalists can all still use halved if they wish, but "tied" is now the term used in the rule book.

Halved Matches Aren't Always Possible in Match Play

All match play tournaments and formats included halved holes, but not all allow halved matches. Halves are possible in the most-famous golf match play events — the international team tournaments such as the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. In those events, golfers win points for their team by winning a match. If the match finishes tied, or halved, then each side is awarded a half-point.

But think of a match-play bracket, in which golfers have to win the match to advance to the next round. In the first round, Golfer A and Golfer B finished 18 holes all square (tied). Is it a halve? No, in this case, there has to be a winner - someone has to win to advance to the second round. So A and B keep playing holes until one of them wins a hole and, thereby, the match.

Settling Ties When a Golf Bet Is Halved

Now let's imagine another scenario: Golfer A and Golfer B are buddies playing a match against each other for fun — and for a wager. But they finish 18 holes tied, meaning the match is halved. But there's a wager at stake! What happens?

Ideally, A and B would play a 19th hole, a 20th, and so on, until someone wins the match. But that's often not possible at busy golf courses. Such a match truly is halved.

There are still ways to settle the bet, though. The most common ways to break a tie when playing more holes isn't feasible are:

  • The chip-off. Each golfer drops a golf ball just off a green (the 18th green if possible to do so without holding up play, or the practice green otherwise) and chips. The match is still halved, but closest to the hole on the chip-off wins the wager.
  • Or what is called the "countback" or "scorecard playoff" method. A and B compare their scores on the 18th hole. If one is lower than the other, that golfer wins the tiebreaker. If not, they go back to the 17th hole. Did anyone win the 17th? If yes, you have your tiebreaker. If no, go back to the 16th hole. And so on, until the tie can be settled.