Is stroke play or match play the better golf format? That’s Debatable
In GOLF’s all-new series That’s Debatable, sponsored by Cisco WebEx, we’re settling some of golf’s most heated disputes. Our writers and editors have been seeded 1-16, battling head-to-head to determine whose takes are most on point.
We’re down to the final four in That’s Debatable, and the stakes and takes are rising in lockstep. In the first matchup, our argument is centered around a point of personal preference: match play vs stroke play. In other words, is it better to compete against an opponent or against yourself?
On match play’s side is GOLF’s largest remaining underdog, 11-seed Alan Bastable. Bastable is up against the 2-seed, stroke play defender Michael Bamberger. You can watch their debate in the video above or read their arguments below.
Match Play (Bastable)
- Match play is the greatest event format: Players’ careers are defined by their performances in Ryder Cups. It’s the best form of competitive golf — and it isn’t particularly close.
- Match play exposes your soul: Stroke play might test your soul, but match play reveals it. If you have what it takes, you’ll know, and so will everyone else.
- Concession is a fascinating window into the brain: Conceded putts (or lack thereof) cause controversy at every Ryder Cup. They provide a perspective into players’ competitive nature we rarely see elsewhere.
- Significantly more drama: Speaking of intrigue, there’s never more of it than in the final stages of a great match. Players trade birdies, heart-stopping approaches and fist pumps at a higher clip in match play than any other format.
- Tiger Wood’s greatest quote: Match play gave us one of the great quotes in Tiger Woods’ career. “9 and 8” will forever live in Tiger lore and should be enough to tilt the scales toward match play alone.
Stroke Play (Bamberger)
- Stroke play is better: It’s the PGA Tour’s choice for all but a few weeks every year. Shouldn’t that speak for itself?
- Golf is about the journey: It’s not about what you do on the first 12 holes. It’s about the winding road from 1 to 18, how you handle it and how you respond to its challenges.
- Stroke play demands consistency: You can be a good match player without a consistent game. The same isn’t true of stroke play.
- Match play allows for flukey winners: Imagine a baseball game ending after six innings? Preposterous, right? In match play, golfers are prone to ending their round after 15 or 16 holes. That doesn’t determine a fair winner. Stroke play does.
- Stroke play golf identifies greatness unlike anything else: Tiger Woods built his career on stroke play because it is the format that requires unrelenting dominance. Only truly great players can play at a high enough level to achieve that.
Winner (by judge’s decision)
Stroke play! Bastable’s Cinderella run ends in the final four, while Bamberger heads on to the final round of the GOLF staff bracket. Keep it locked on GOLF.com and @GOLF_com on social media to follow along as “That’s Debatable” continues every day at noon!
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