How to Play a Red, White and Blue Golf Tournament

Golfer tees off from the white tees in a Red, White and Blue golf tournament.
A white tee marker traditionally represents the middle tees, and the middle tees are where every golf starts in a Red, White and Blue Tournament. Halfdark/Getty Images

In a Red, White and Blue golf tournament, golfers begin by teeing off from the middle tees. When they bogey a hole, they play the next one from the forward tees, and when they birdie a hole they play the next hole from the back tees. A par results in sticking with the middle tees.

That's the most-common way a tournament called a "Red, White and Blue" is played, but there is also an alternate method we'll discuss below.

What the Colors Mean

The red, white and blue in the name of this tournament format refers to the colors of the tee markers. Traditionally, golf courses had three teeing grounds, and the tee markers were noted by color:

So red, white and blue equals forward, middle and back.

Does a Red, White and Blue Tournament Go By Any Other Names?

It can. Many golf courses today have more than three teeing grounds, and there aren't nearly as many courses today still using the traditional red, white and blue colors to represent forward, middle and back tees.

So if a golf course hosting a tournament that is using this format has tee markers colored black, green and gold, they might use those colors in the tournament name.

Or a club can dispense with the colors altogether and just call it a Forward, Middle and Back Tournament.

Example of Playing a Red, White and Blue Tournament

Jose tees off on the par-4 Hole No. 1 from the middle tees, because all golfers begin with the middle tees (or white tees, traditionally). He scores a 6, a double bogey. So on the No. 2 teeing ground, Jose moves up and plays from the forward tees. And he makes a birdie this time. So on Hole No. 3, he moves back to the back tees. This one he pars, so on the 4th tee Jose is back to the middle tees.

It's that simple. Just remember:

  • Start from the middle tees.
  • If you par, you play the next hole from the middle tees.
  • When you bogey, you move up to the forward tees.
  • When you birdie, you move back to the rear tees.

Other Possibilities for the Red, White and Blue Format

Tournament organizers can choose to have golfers use handicaps or play it as gross score. If handicaps are not used, though, in a tournament setting most golfers are going to spend the day teeing off from the forward tees. So in Red, White and Blue tournaments the scores mentioned (birdie, par, bogey) are typically net scores.

A group of golfers can play the Red, White and Blue format among themselves, too, and if they are all low-handicappers they can choose to play without handicaps.

Another option for a group of golfers playing Red, White and Blue is to change the scoring standard. For example, if the four members of a group are all roughly bogey golfers, then they can equate bogeys with the middle tees, par or better with the back tees, and double bogey or worse with the forward tees.

Alternate Red, White and Blue Format

There is another way to play a Red, White and Blue tournament, one that we've seen some tournament organizers use. In the alternate version, golfers play the first six holes from the red (forward) tees, the middle six holes from the white (middle) tees, and the final six holes from the blue (back) tees. In this version, a player's score does not determine from which set of tees she plays on the following hole.