Activities Sports & Athletics Match Play Scoring in Golf The Basics of Keeping Score When Playing a Golf Match Share PINTEREST Email Print Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images Sports & Athletics Golf Basics History Gear Golf Courses Famous Golfers Golf Tournaments Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Swimming & Diving Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Brent Kelley Brent Kelley is an award-winning sports journalist and golf expert with over 30 years in print and online journalism. our editorial process Brent Kelley Updated August 31, 2018 At root, match play scoring in golf is very simple: Golfers compete hole by hole, and the golfer who wins the most holes wins the match. But match play competitions can create some scores that novices might not be familiar with, scores that may look odd or use terminology unfamiliar to beginners. Basics of Match Play Scorekeeping Simple: Win a hole, that's one for you; lose a hole, that's one for your opponent. Ties on individual holes (called halves) essentially don't count; they aren't kept track of in the scorekeeping. The score of a match play match is rendered relationally. Here's what we mean: Let's say you've won five holes and your opponent has won four. The score is not shown as 5 to 4; rather, it's rendered as 1-up for you, or 1-down for your opponent. If you have won six holes and your opponent three, then you are leading 3-up, and your opponent is trailing 3-down. Essentially, match play scoring tells golfers and spectators not how many holes each golfer has won, but how many more holes than his opponent the golfer in the lead has won. If the match is tied, it is said to be "all square." (On leaderboards and in television graphics, all square is often abbreviated as "AS.") Match play matches do not have to go the full 18 holes. They often do, but just as frequently one player will achieve an insurmountable lead and the match will end early. For example, say you reach a score of 6-up with five holes to play—you've clinched the victory, and the match is over. Examples of What the Final Scores Mean in Match Play Someone unfamiliar with match play scoring might be confused to see a score of "1-up" or "4 and 3" for a match. What does it mean? Here are the different types of scores you might see in match play: 1-up As a final score, 1-up means that the match went the full 18 holes with the winner finishing with one more hole won than the runner-up. If the match goes 18 holes and you've won six holes while I've won five holes (the other holes being halved, or tied), then you've beaten me 1-up. 2 and 1 When you see a match play score that is rendered in this way—2 and 1, 3 and 2, 4 and 3, and so on—it means that the winner clinched the victory before reaching the 18th hole and the match ended early. The first number in such a score tells you the number of holes by which the winner is victorious, and the second number tells you the hole on which the match ended. So "2 and 1" means that the winner was two holes ahead with one hole to play (the match ended after No. 17), "3 and 2" means three holes ahead to with two holes to play (the match ended after No. 16), and so on. 2-up So "1-up" means the match went the full 18 holes, and a score such as "2 and 1" means it ended early. Why do we sometimes see scores of "2-up" as a final score? If the leader was two holes up, why didn't the match end on No. 17? A score of "2-up" means that the player in the lead took the match "dormie" on the 17th hole. "Dormie" means that the leader leads by the same number of holes that remain; for example, 2-up with two holes to play. If you are two holes up with two holes to play, you cannot lose the match in regulation (some match play tournaments have playoffs to settle ties, others—such as the Ryder Cup—don't). A score of "2-up" means that the match went dormie with one hole to play (the leader was 1-up with one hole to play) and then the leader won the 18th hole. 5 and 3 Here's the same situation. If Player A was ahead by five holes, then why didn't the match end with four holes to play instead of three? Because the leader took the match dormie with four holes to play (4-up with four holes to go), then won the next hole for a final score of 5 and 3. Similar scores are 4 and 2, and 3 and 1. What about Your Own Match Play Scorecard? But how do you mark your own scorecard if you and a buddy are playing a match? Check out Marking the Scorecard for Match Play to see an example. Watch Now: Will the Rules of Golf Get a Modern Makeover?