How to Play Captain and Crew Golf

Low section of young man hitting the ball on the golf course, woman in the background

Captain and crew golf is a variation of the best ball format in which one player is given responsibility to make choices for her team on which ball to hit. Every player gets a turn on each shot on a particular hole. The captain then chooses which attempt puts the team in the best position and the rest of the team takes their shot from there. The goal is to complete the round in as few shots as possible.

Team Competition

A captain and crew golf team consists of four players. Some tournaments allow participants to form their own foursome. Other have organizers select the groups based on ability, seeking to avoid stacking a few teams with all the top players. A golf club, for example, might divide entrants into four groups based on the individuals' handicap and place one player from each category into each foursome, therefore ensuring each group has a combination of low handicappers and high handicappers.

Off The Tee

Every player starts off the hole hitting a drive. This is the one point on each hole where not everyone may be hitting from the same spot, since each golfer hits from whichever tee they normally hit from. Ladies and senior golfers may take the drives from a forward tee, while scratch golfers play from the back. Once each player has taken their tee shot, the captain selects which ball the team will play, and everyone else takes their shot from there. There’s usually a rule that mandates each player’s drive must be used at least once or twice during the round.

Making The Approach

Once the best drive is selected, everyone takes their approach shot from that location. Everyone doesn’t have to shoot from the exact spot where the second ball landed, but should be within a clublength of the ball. Nobody else can move closer to the hole or give themselves a markedly improved shot. If the selected drive lands just an inch or two onto the rough, for example, none of the players can hit their approach shot from the fairway even if that falls within the clublength limit.

Finishing The Hole

When the ball lands on the green, the first player takes her turn to putt. If she sinks it, the hole is over, the score is recorded and the foursome moves on to the next hole. If not, the next player takes his turn. If nobody sinks the putt, the attempt closest to the hole is selected and the players again take turns. There generally are no “gimmees,” as the finish is decided based on aggregate scores rather than match play. There’s usually a maximum score on each hole, often a double bogey. Once that number of strokes are recorded, everyone picks up and the hole ends. Either way, the captain records the team’s score for the hole, and notes which player’s drive was used.

Everyone Contributes

One of the benefits of captain and crew golf is that it provides a way for players of mixed abilities to play in a tournament together. Because it’s a best ball format, bad shots can be quickly forgotten as long as a teammate hits a shot that everyone can use. A golfer with poor form on his swing can still be a valuable captain’s and crew teammate if he’s an excellent putter, while someone with an awful short game can help her team with her drives. As long as everyone hits at least enough solid drives to meet the minimum requirement per round, there’s every opportunity for this to be a fun day on the course for all.