What Is Captain’s Choice In Golf?

A fun format of golf that often goes overlooked by amateur golfers is Captain’s Choice. Playing in Captain’s Choice tournaments allows high-handicap golfers to enjoy tournament golf without the pressure of having to play great. Golf courses offer Captain’s Choice tournaments year-round; if that’s not your cup of tea, you can simply play a Captain’s Choice match in your weekend foursome. Now that we know how much fun a Captain’s Choice tournament can be, let’s define it to provide a better understanding.

Captain’s Choice is a competition in golf that usually requires teams of two to four players. To start, everyone on the team will tee off. Once a consensus is reached as to who hit the best shot, all players will then play shots from that location. This process will repeat until the hole is completed.

Keep reading to find out more details about Captain’s Choice including the rules, strategy, and differences in relation to the “Best Ball” format.

Captain’s Choice Golf Rules

The rules for playing the Captain’s Choice format are pretty simple.

  1. Teams consist of between 2-4 golfers. Theoretically, more than 4 golfers could play, but most golf courses only allow two carts per group.
  2. All players hit a tee shot.
  3. The group decides on the best tee shot, and all players hit their second shot from this location. Upon arriving at the next shot, the group again decides on the best shot, and everyone hits from this location. This process repeats until the ball is holed.
  4. The selected shot location should be marked prior to anyone hitting the next shot. The players whose shots weren’t used are to drop within one club length of the selected shot. The club length cannot be closer to the hole. The club length rule does not apply on the greens or fringe.
  5. If a chosen shot is in the rough, bunker, or hazard, the other players in the group must hit their shots from within those locations, even if relief is within one club length. So basically, if the chosen shot is in the rough, the rest of the group must play from the rough, even if the fairway is within one club length.
  6. Once on the green, each member of the team should attempt the original putt before “tapping” in to complete the hole. For example, if team member A attempts a 30-foot putt and comes up 1 foot short, team member A should put a mark on the spot. Team members B, C, and D should then attempt the putt and once everyone is finished, the 1-foot putt can then be played.

Captain’s Choice Golf Strategy

Below, I’ll provide some general guidelines to follow when it comes to Captain’s Choice strategy. There is no one size fits all strategy as a lot depends on the team makeup, but the tips I’ve provided will give you a solid foundation.

Tee Shots

The most accurate drivers of the golf ball should go first to get something in play. If someone likes to tee off with 3-wood or hybrid, this would be the perfect candidate to go first as those clubs are easier to get into the fairway. Once a ball is in play, this will allow the rest of the group to swing freely with the driver. As a rule of thumb, I usually let the longest member of the team tee off last.

Approach Shots

The strategy here is similar to that of the tee shots with one caveat. I like to allow the person whose tee shot was chosen to hit first. If for no other reason, to hope the mojo keeps flowing on the second shot. Be thoughtful of pin locations as the main objective should be getting a ball on the putting surface. Once a ball is on the green, the other members can take dead aim at the flag. Again, the player who hits the best approach shots from this distance should go last.

The same approach can be used for layups into Par 5’s or even longer Par 4’s.


Worst to best approach can be used here as well. Treat this like a putt in terms of reading the green. Know which side of the hole to miss on and try to leave an uphill putt if possible. This is obviously heavily dependent on the skill level of each player. Be sure to mark each chip shot so the risk of the next players ball rolling into it doesn’t exist.


There is a case for worst to best strategy here, but I like to deploy something a little different when I’m playing in the Captain’s Choice format. I want the second best putter to go first and the best putter to go second. Good putters are good for a reason. They read greens well and have great distance control. Having the second best putter go first allows the best putter to see the true line of the putt in case of a miss. If the worst putter goes first and hits a horrendous putt, this doesn’t help the better putters in the group. If anything, this could distort their actual read of the putt.

Captain’s Choice Handicap Calculator

Captain’s Choice tournaments don’t always use handicaps, but many do so it’s good to know the correct way to calculate it. Below is the calculation used by the USGA.

Courtesy of USGA

So to do some quick math, let’s say you are part of a 4 player Captain’s Choice team. The handicap’s of the team are as follows: 18, 14, 12, 9.

25% of 18 = 4.5
20% of 14 = 2.8
15% of 12= 1.8
10% of 9= 0.9

Add the four numbers above together and you’ll get a team handicap of 10. The calculation won’t always be a whole number so depending on the tournaments organizers, it could be rounded to the nearest half or whole number.

Captain’s Choice vs Best Ball

In Best Ball, each golfer plays their own ball where it lies for the entirety of the hole. The golfer with the best score at the holes conclusion will have it used as the team score. In Captain’s Choice, also known as a Scramble, all golfers hit tee shots at the start of the hole. The best tee shot is then chosen, and the entire group plays their second shots from this location. This process is repeated until the ball is holed. Best Ball, which is also known as Four-Ball, is most known for being a format played in Ryder Cups as well as Presidents Cups.

Overall, I would say Captain’s Choice is the more enjoyable format to play. This is especially true for the higher handicap player who is more likely to be a team contributor in this format. While this type of player may not be able to string three or four good shots together on a hole, they’ll likely be able to give you one, which is huge while playing Captain’s Choice. The Captain’s Choice format also provides the ability to go super low which is an awesome feeling as most of us amateurs never sniff under par scores.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has provided you enough information to go out and play in your first Captain’s Choice tournament. Playing in the Captain’s Choice format is probably the most fun you can have on a golf course. It provides a much needed break from the grind of trying to shoot a new personal best each time out. Golf is a mentally taxing game, and anytime I can go out and have a stress free day of golf with friends, I’m all for it. Good luck!


Just a bogey golfer who plays off scratch in his mind. Golf is my passion, and the goal is to transfer that passion to each person who visits Rather Be Golfing.

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