Chapman Golf Format

Chapman Golf Format 101: How to Play

A Chapman tournament is one of the most fun formats in golf. It’s a perfect mix of competition, teamwork but still a great challenge.  

A Chapman event is a lot easier than some formats (like foursomes) but more challenging than a shamble or scramble. Not to mention, it’s only a 2-person event, which means you need to have your A game as you don’t have as many people to pick up the slack.

Keep reading to learn more about this unique format, common variations of the Chapman golf system, and more. 

Chapman Golf Tournaments 101 

So, what is a Chapman in golf anyway? Personally, I think it’s one of the best golf games around (check out other popular golf games here).

First, let me say it’s unlike other common formats which include shambles, scrambles, and best-ball (four ball) events. 

Instead, a Chapman is a hybrid of two events – it combines the best of alternate shot (also known as foursomes) and four-ball. This type of tournament only requires two golfers, not four like scrambles. 

This event was named after golfer Dick Chapman, who won the 1940 US Amateur and 1951 British Amateur. Dick developed it in the late 1940s at Pinehurst Resort and at the time played with one man and one woman teams.

Dick Chapman also hosts another impressive record of competing at the Masters an astonishing 19 times! Could you imagine getting to play the famed Augusta National nearly 20 times as an amateur golfer? Most professional golfers don’t even get to step on those hallowed grounds that often. 

Anyway, let’s get into how this type of format works. 

Chapman System Golf Format

A Chapman golf format works like this (also known as the Pinehurst system or American Foursomes)… 

Both players tee off on every hole – this is the biggest change from an alternate shot format. In alternate shot, only one player tees off on each hole; players alternate teeing off on odd or even holes. But with Chapman events, both players tee off on all 18 holes.

This is where things get interesting.

After the tee shots, golfers switch balls – golfer A hits’ golfer B tee shot and vice versa. After both players hit their second shots, the team will select the one ball in better position.

Next, one golfer will play the third stroke and then alternate until the hole is finished. It’s great for players with differing playing abilities as you don’t need to rely on one golfer too often.

Here are a few examples of how the Chapman system works with types of holes. 

Chapman Golf Example 

With par 3s, both players will hit their tee shots and then chip or putt their partners shots. This might mean having two birdie putts if both golfers hit the green in regulation.

If neither player has made a birdie (2), players would alternate after choosing the best second shot until the hole is complete. These should be the easiest holes to score on! 

With par 4s and par 5s, both players hit their tee shots and then golfer A is playing B’s ball and vice versa. Once both players have hit their second shots, they alternate until the hole is complete for a team score.

The third stroke is where things get tricky. Once both players have hit two shots, they need to select a ball to finish the hole with. 

This could mean a putt for birdie or eagle or having to hit a full third shot into the green. Par 5s are normally the easiest holes but in this format can cause challenges if a player hits a bad third shot. 

How to play the Chapman Golf Format

Variations of Chapman System 

There are two variations to the Chapman system. But don’t forget, it’s already a spin-off of foursomes and traditional four-ball events. 

One variation is known as greensomes or “Scotch foursomes.”  Both players tee off like Chapman but once the team chooses the best ball, it’s an alternate shot for the rest of the hole. Both players don’t get to hit approach shots like in a Chapman system.

Another two-person event that is similar to a Chapman is known bloodsomes or gruesomes. It’s the same format as greensomes where each player tees off. But the catch is that the opposing team selects the ball the team will alternate in to finish the hole! 

Handicaps in Chapman

Section 9-4 in the USGA handbook outlines how handicaps work in Chapman events. Here’s how the handicap allowances work.

For match play events, the partner with the lower course handicap gets 60% of that number. While the player with the higher course handicap gets 40% of that number. These two numbers are totaled for the average team handicap.

The same is done for the other team and the team with the lower handicap plays from zero. If team A has a 12 handicap and team B has a 20 handicap then team B gets eight strokes during the round. This will be determined by the eight hardest holes based on handicap from the scorecard.

With stroke play (the more common method to play Chapman), the same scoring applies. 60% of the lower handicap plus 40% of the higher handicap for a team handicap. This is subtracted from the gross score at the end of the round.

For stroke play tournaments, there is typically a gross (no handicaps included) and net score (handicaps subtracted). 

FAQs About Chapman Golf Tournaments 

Do you have more questions about competing in Chapman golf tournaments? If so, keep reading to learn how to play well in these types of events.

What is a two-man Chapman in golf?

A two-man Chapman is a spinoff on traditional alternate shot golf. 

Both players tee off and then hit each other’s golf balls on the second shot. Once both players have hit two shots, they pick the best ball to finish the hole and finish in alternate shot format. 

What is Pinehurst Chapman format in golf?

Pinehurst Chapman is the same as a normal Chapman system. It was named after Dick Chapman who donated two trophies to Pinehurst resort in the late 1940s for their event. 

What are the rules to Chapman system events?

The rules depend on if the match is scored as a stroke play or match play event. If it’s a stroke play event, nothing changes and the team must finish the hole or will get DQ’d.

If it’s a match play event, teams can either win, lose, or half the hole. Teams don’t need to finish the hole if it is conceded from the opposing team. 

Who hits provisional in a Chapman format? 

If player A hits a tee shot that requires a provisional they do not hit the second shot. Instead, player B would hit the provisional as the possible penalty shot does not count in the order of play. 

How do penalty shots work in Chapman events?

Penalty shots are a little tricker in Chapman events. 

For example, if player A hits his tee shot out of bounds but player B is in play, no provisional would be hit. Player A would hit the next shot and alternate to finish the hole as normal. 

But if something happens on the third shot, things change. Let’s say player A hits it in the water on their third shot, player B would still play the next shot (even though it’s the fifth shot of the hole). Penalty shots don’t count towards a player’s stroke. 

Can you switch golf balls in Chapman tournaments? 

Each player will hit their own golf balls on the tee shot. After the tee shot, teammates will switch balls which means player A will hit player B’s golf ball.

But you cannot swap your ball out at this time – this is why it’s a good idea to play the same golf ball if possible. Otherwise, you might have different distance and spin rates which vary from ball to ball. 

How is Chapman scored? 

Chapman scoring is typically a stroke play event but can be scored as a match play as well. Both versions are great two-man events in one of the best formats in golf (even with a weaker partner). Some tournaments will have betting games during play and a Calcutta auction as well to bet on teams. 

Do pros play in Chapman events?

No, this format isn’t used at professional levels who tend to use four ball or foursome format. 

Final Thoughts on Chapman Golf Tournaments

A Chapman event is a great format to foursomes which is too challenging for most golfers.  Plus, you don’t need four golfers and can pair a better golfer with a higher handicap player and still have fun.

Some of my favorite events are when you can find a tournament that is Chapman for nine holes and play alternate shot for nine holes. Or, some member guest tournaments have six holes Chapman, six holes shamble or scramble, and six holes foursomes. 

Not as much research is needed with these events compared to alternate shot as both players can tee off. But you do want to consider who should hit the third shot on par 4s or 5s since only the player has the opportunity. Also, don’t forget to consider playing the same golf balls too. 

Finally, make sure to confirm scoring and other rules when you check in for the day(s) of the tournament.