How to Play a 'Yellow Ball' Golf Tournament

Yellow golf ball teed up for golfer
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"Yellow Ball" is the name of a popular golf tournament format used by associations, charity and corporate tournaments, or just among several groups of friends. This format is popular enough that it goes by many different names, most commonly Devil Ball or Money Ball. Other names include Pink Ball, Pink Lady and Lone Ranger. They are all the same game.

In Yellow Ball, golfers play in groups of four, and play a best ball. Of the four golf balls the team members are playing, one of them is yellow. That yellow ball rotates among the team members, changing after each hole. For example, on the first hole Player A hits the yellow ball; on the second hole, Player B plays the yellow ball, and so on, rotating throughout the round.

At the completion of each hole, the scores of two team members are added together to create one team score. One of those scores must be from the player who used the yellow ball. The other score is the low score among the other three team members.

Example: On the third hole, Player A scores 4, B scores 5, C scores 5 and D scores 6. Player C has the yellow ball, so his score of five automatically counts as one of two scores used. And Player A has the low score among the other three, so his score of four also counts. Five plus four equals nine, so nine is the team score for that hole.

Does the Yellow Ball Have to Actually Be Yellow?

No, but since that is the name of the format (or one of the names, anyway), it would be a little odd to show up for a tournament called Yellow Ball and not see any yellow balls. However, the golf balls that pass from player to player throughout the round must be marked in some way to designate them as the special ball. Tournament organizers can handle this, and should provide enough such balls to make sure every team gets through the full 18 holes without running out.

But also note that golfers can all (at tournaments organizers' instructions) just use their own, regular golf balls throughout and simply keep track throughout the round of who has the (in such a case) theoretical yellow ball on each hole. It's more fun if there's an actual yellow ball being passed around the team during the round, however.

Variations on the Yellow Ball Format

There are a couple variations that add to the tension of Yellow Ball. In one, if the player playing the yellow ball loses it, that player is eliminated from the game. The group would continue as a threesome with a new yellow ball. That's pretty harsh, and it can lead to teams dropping out, so we recommend against it (unless the golfers involved in the Yellow Ball tournament are all very good).

Another option is to use the yellow ball as a "bonus" competition. The 4-person teams compete using the two low scores on each hole; but the yellow ball score is kept separately. The team with the lowest yellow ball score wins a bonus prize, while the team's standard scramble score determines the tournament winner.

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