- In match play, two players (or two teams) play every hole as a separate contest against each other. The party with the lower score wins that hole, or if the scores of both players or teams are equal the hole is "halved" (drawn). The game is won by the party that wins more holes than the other.
- In stroke play, every player (or team) counts the number of shots taken for the whole round or tournament to produce the total score, and the player with the lowest score wins. A variant of stroke play is Stableford scoring, where a number of points (two for the target score) are given for each hole, and the fewer shots taken, the more points obtained, so the aim is to have as many points as possible. Another variant of stroke play, the Modified Stableford method, awards points on each hole in relation to par and then adds the points over a round; for more details on this method, see the article on The INTERNATIONAL, a tournament that uses Modified Stableford scoring.
There are many variations of these basic principles, some of which are explicitly described in the "Rules of Golf" and are therefore regarded "official". "Official" forms of play are, among others, foursome and four-ball games.
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