What Does it Mean to Play Golf Chicago Style?

The Chicago style golf format rewards competitors for great play on individual holes and not just for their total scores in a round. It also has a unique way of taking the handicap difference among players into account in the scoring formula, giving players of varying abilities the opportunity to compete against one another.


Players must have an established handicap to compete in the Chicago style golf format. Each player receives a preliminary number of points based on that handicap. For example, a 1-handicapper starts with 38 points, a 2-handicapper 37 points, a 3-handicapper 36 points, and so forth.

Playing points are awarded based on the score a competitor receives on each hole. A bogey wins one point, a par two points, a birdie four points, an eagle eight points and a double eagle 16 points. The winner is the player who earns the most playing points in excess of his preliminary point allotment.

Scoring Example

A 6-handicapper who bogies two holes, birdies six holes and pars the rest would earn 46 points, 13 more than the 33 she began with.

A 12-handicap player with the same performance would earn 19 more than the 27 she began with, giving her a 6-point victory over the 6-handicapper.

A lower number of starting points gives the advantage to less skilled players. It allows women to compete with men as well.

Number of Players

The number of players can vary from two players going head-to-head, to teams of four competing with other teams of four, to each player competing against all others in a tournament. In typical recreational golf match among friends, Chicago style golf is commonly played in foursomes with a winner declared for the foursome.

Rules of Play

Stroke play rules apply. There are no mulligans, gimmies, exceptions or moving the ball. The ball is played where it lies unless it enters a hazard or becomes unplayable. Each golfer plays his own ball throughout the round.


The United States Golf Association does not approve of any method of playing golf that involves gambling. However, there is no prohibition against playing for small amounts of money.

The players could each contribute a modest amount to a pot prior to the match, such as $5 each. The total amount contributed would be awarded to the winner. Instead of a money prize, greens fees for the next round the foursome plays together or a gift certificate from the pro shop could be awarded.


The fun of playing Chicago style comes from the large point reward for making a birdie or eagle.

It encourages higher handicap players to take risks -- such as trying to hit a ball on the green in two strokes on a par 5 -- to achieve a great score on one hole and earn a larger prize. A player who makes a double bogie or worse is not penalized by having points taken away.