The British Open Playoff Format

Used in the Event of Ties at the End of Regulation Play

settings 144th Open Championship - Final Round
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Seventy-hole holes of stroke play have come and gone at the British Open, yet there are two or more golfers still tied for the lead. What happens next? What is the playoff format at the Open Championship?


  • A playoff at the British Open immediately follows the conclusion of regulation play (no waiting until the following day, in other words);
  • It is three holes in length;
  • It is aggregate score — at the end of the four holes, the players tally their scores and the low total wins.

To put it more succinctly, the current British Open playoff format is three holes, aggregate scoring.

And if the participating golfers are still tied after the 3-hole playoff? They continue in a sudden-death format (first to win a hole wins the playoff).

This 3-hole, aggregate score playoff format was introduced for use, if necessary, at the 2019 British Open.

Prior to 2019, the Open Championship was using a four-hole, aggregate score playoff format that dated to the 1980s. The four-hole version was first used in the 1989 British Open, where Mark Calcavecchia defeated Wayne Grady and Greg Norman.

Previous British Open Playoff Formats

Going back farther, an 18-hole playoff format, taking place the day after the fourth round, was used twice in the 1970s. In the 1970 Open, Jack Nicklaus defeated Doug Sanders in such a playoff, and in 1975 Tom Watson defeated Jack Newton.

British Open playoffs earlier than that were one-day, 36-hole formats. The first 36-hole playoff happened in 1883 (Willie Fernie defeated Bob Ferguson), and the last in 1963 (Bob Charles defeated Phil Rodgers).

The very first British Open playoff should have happend in 1876, when Bob Martin and Davie Strath finished regulation play tied. But due to a dispute, Strath refused to show up for the playoff and Martin won in a walkover.