Chapman Golf Format: Rules, Strategy, Modification And More

Welcome to our Chapman golf format guide!

While being amongst the lesser-used golf formats, the Chapman and modified Chapman are challenging, great fun, and can be played by golfers of various abilities.

The Chapman golf format was born in the USA, which remains one of the only countries to play this format regularly.

However, now is the time for the rest of the world to take the opportunity to try out this game. This golf guide offers a comprehensive fool’s guide on how to play a Chapman.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the rules, strategy, and modifications of this great format. But first, let’s start by looking at how the Chapman golf format evolved.

Chapman golf format cover photo - Four golfers smile and chat while walking their equipment to the course.

Chapman Golf Format Guide: The History

Named after Dick Chapman, the American amateur golfer who created this format in 1947, the Chapman golf format first evolved as a friendly game between two husband and wife pairings – one, of course, being the Chapmans.

They were playing that day at the famous Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina (photographed below). For this reason, the Chapman golf format is sometimes also named a Pinehurst Foursomes.

Dick Chapman was so passionate about his creation that he donated two trophies (Men’s and Ladies’) to Pinehurst for Chapman Golf Format Tournaments that have now been played annually since 1947.

In addition to creating the Chapman golf format, Dick Chapman was quite the golfer:

  • Shares the record for most US Masters appearances as an amateur golfer (19) with a best finish of 11th place in 1954.
  • Played on 3 winning USA Walker Cup teams, 1947, 1951 and 1953

There’s the history, what about the actual game?

Chapman Golf Guide: The Game

The Chapman System is a 2-person team competition for golfers that can be played as either a matchplay or strokeplay event.

If you are just a group of 4 golfers or you are playing a team match between two sides, then the matchplay path is the best route to take.

The Chapman golf format works well for groups of four golfers of differing playing abilities. Here you would separate the two better players and match them with two lesser players.

For larger group sizes, then the strokeplay option will be the way forward.

In the Chapman golf format, both players tee off, then the twist. Player A now has to play Player B’s drive and vice-versa – B hits A’s ball – that is if both drives are in play!

If not, then the pair have to continue the hole with just the one ball in play. Having no choice makes scoring considerably harder.

Three male golfers wheel or carry their golf bags over the course, while chatting.

This is why the game works well when mixing a high and low handicap as a pair – the better player has to deal with what is likely to be the weaker drive, while the higher handicap player will hopefully have the luxury of playing from further down the fairway.

Now after two shots and with both balls still in play, the pair decide which ball to play; the second ball is discarded.

The next shot (third) is played by the person who didn’t hit the last shot of the ball they have picked. Player B has hit Player A’s drive into a good spot and this is their ball of choice – so now Player A must play the 3rd shot.

Players now alternate until they hole out.

For a little clarification on par 3 holes: the same rules apply. Both players hit the green – that’s a good start. Player A will putt player B’s ball and vice-versa, then the pair decide which ball to play for their par attempt – unless one drains their putt for a deuce!

Tactics in The Chapman Golf Format

At times, the decision-making process may seem obvious, but occasionally a tactical decision will be taken.

Four golfers chat by a golf cart.

For instance, on a par 5. Both balls are in play after 2 shots; one 100 yards from the green on the fairway, the second 50 yards out.

The better golfer will be playing the 100-yard shot, his partner the shorter pitch. The higher handicap golfer is not great at playing those tricky 50-yard pitches so they opt for the long shot very confident that this will give a better result.

As another example, imagine both balls are on the green after two shots. The better golfer has a longer putt but the pair decide to take this option as this player’s putting skills are far greater than the higher handicapped partner.

Similarly on a par 3 after both players have had a putt and both have left knee-knocking par putts. The pair may decide on the slightly longer putt because the better putter will be in action.

There is no doubt that the more times a pair has a choice to make after two shots, the better their day will be going – but by playing the Chapman golf format, you should always have one ball in play to complete every hole.

Three male golfers look into the distance while their fellow female golfer prepares to take her shot.

Chapman Strokeplay Event

The gross scores on each hole are recorded on the scorecard with the handicap allowance subtracted at the end of the round.

chapman golf guide: calculating handicap allowance

A slightly convoluted equation but one that is manageable. Start by calculating each player’s course handicap.

The partner with the lower course handicap gets 60-percent of that number, the partner with the higher course handicap receives 40-percent. Combine the two results for the team’s course handicap.

An example, Player A, 8 handicap x 60% = 4.8, Player B, handicap 22 x 40% = 8.8. The combined team handicap is 4.8 + 8.8 = 13.6 rounds up to a 14 shot allowance to be subtracted from the gross score.

Some organizers make the executive decision to not round off the equation so, in the example above, the pair have an actual 13.6 shot allowance. This works well in minimizing ties at the end of an event. The choice is your call to make.

Three male golfers observe the golf course, standing in a line.

Chapman Matchplay

A straight heads up pair vs. pair battle is played under normal match play conditions once handicap allowances have been calculated and shot holes established.

chapman golf Format: calculating handicap allowance

Now you’ll need to do the math to see if one pair will receive any shots. Pair 1 is as above with a total allowance of 13.6. Pair 2’s calculation works out at 15.8, the difference being 2.2.

Now the pair with the lower allowance plays off scratch and their opponents will receive 2 shots on handicap holes 1 & 2 on the scorecard.

Add An extra twist to a Chapman matchplay: Presses

This concept can be applied to any matchplay game.

A losing pair can press a match whenever they wish and announce they are doing so before teeing off on the next hole.

What does this mean? Let’s look at an example situation to clarify:

Team A is 2 down in the game after six holes. They decide to press at this point so a second game now starts from the seventh hole starting all square. Now two games are running, the main game and the press game.

Female golfer smiles while holding her club and looking at something in the distance on the golf course.

Team A continues to struggle and is now 4 down at the turn in the main game and 2 down in the press. They are feeling ballsy and call a second press (a third game that starts from the 10th tee).

The press is a great way of keeping matchplay games alive until the last hole. The main game may be long gone with an early handshake but the press(es) are still alive.

A great way to recuperate your losses but without any recovery and multiple games in play, then the losers could end up paying out some serious $. It’s only money!

However, with a positive wind change, they turn the game around and win all the presses. Even though they have lost the main match, the pair still can end up winning money; that is the beauty of adding on presses in matchplay golf.

This completes our portfolio of golf guides detailing the plethora of choices on offer for groups to enjoy when strolling out onto the hallowed links to play the great game of golf.

The Chapman golf format is a must-try game for any golfer. You will not be disappointed!

Time for you and your golf buddies to get more creative and try out a few new formats of play?

Photo of author
I have been in love with the game of golf for over 30 years and this passion propelled me to find work in the golf sector way back in 1997. In recent years I have worked as a full-time golf caddy in Scotland and Florida until Covid struck - hopefully my wonderful lifestyle will soon return. When not working, I like to keep fit, play golf and enjoy a nice glass of single malt!

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