Judy: “She won on count back.” Me, nodding gravely: “I see.”

The fact is, I’ve been playing golf for five years and the famous “count back” was still a mystery to me. It’s a side of the game that I leave to more experienced players (like Judy), because I’m not great with numbers. Or anything that doesn’t involve hitting a ball, really. So I though I’d investigate, and it turns out it’s quite simple.

When a golf match is tied, use count back to work out the winner

Count back is simple, honest

Count back for Stableford competitions

When the format is Stableford and you’ve played 18 holes, you total up the points of everyone sharing the tie over the last 9 holes of the event. If one player is ahead with the best score, they win. If several players are still tied, count the scores over the final six holes. Still no winner? Repeat the process over the last three holes. That’s still not enough? Resort to the last hole.

Still no winner? Things get creative. The winner is the best score on the most difficult hole (stroke index 1). If that still doesn’t work, add up the best scores across the three most difficult holes, then six, then nine.

Still no winner? It’s ok: at this stage, everyone is so fed up with counting that they will probably go home and vow never to play golf again.

Count back for stroke competitions

For a handicap stroke (medal) competition, things are a bit more complicated, as handicap has to be deducted in proportion. For count back on the last nine holes, half the handicap is applied, for the final six holes, a third of the handicap, and a sixth of the handicap for the last three holes.

Long live sudden death!

It’s all very clever, but I think a sudden death contest should determine the winner. Less counting, more golf!