A tournament is an organized event where golfers are organized into groups, or flights. Flights are usually by age, for example Under 6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, etc. However, as in the Junior Golf Association of Broward County, in some competitions the children are grouped by performance. A tour is a series of tournaments by the same organization, many times at different golf courses. A tour is usually capped by a championship tournament which may or may not span more than one round (day).
In a performance-based tour, the kids all start in the same flight and the low scoring players are advanced to the next flight. For example, your golfer may start in the F flight. If she places in the top two or three (depending on tour rules), a long with getting her trophy, she advances to the next flight, E. If she finishes the season in E, she will start in E the next season. In this fashion, kids of like skill compete against each other. Our golfer played against kids who were fourteen because he was as good a golfer as they were as they started playing much later than he did.
In age-based tours, children compete against others of the same age, usually also for trophies. In these tours, kids of the same age play against each other regardless of skill level. US Kids Golf for example, holds “Local Tours” in many parts of the country. These are age-based tournaments. Here in South Florida there are two or three tours in the summer and one or two at other times throughout the year. We have the US Kids West Palm Summer Tour, the Miami Fall Tour, etc. Our US Kids Golf tour director provides “never give up” medals for the kids outside of the top five. Fifth and fourth place get a different colored medal, and the top three on the leader board win trophies.
The leader board is the listing of players in order of low score, i.e. the leader with the lowest score is listed first and the rest of the players listed down in order. As each pairing in each flight finishes the scorers fill in the scores on the leader board. Once the flight has completed, trophies will be awarded. In most junior tournaments, a first place tie will be decided by a play off. A play off is where the tied players will go back to the course and repeat holes until there is a winner. Ties for second place and higher are usually settled by comparing the score cards of the tied players in a score card playoff, in most cases starting with the last hole and going backwards. If the tour has a points system, ties for second place and higher will usually share the points together, but the tie breaker determines who gets which trophy. However, the winner of a first place play off, gets all the first place points a well as the trophy. For example if a second place tie, and the points for second and third are 20 and 10 respectively, they both get 15 points, though the winner of the score card playoff takes home the second place trophy. A tie for second, as example, will show as T2 in the results on the leader board. If there is a points systems, the points will be tallied throughout the tour and sometimes tour awards, for example a cup, are given for the players with the most accumulated points; this is sometimes called player of the year.
Most tours use a web site for providing tournament information, dates, registration, tee times and results. Once you find a tour for your child, you’ll need to register ahead of time as a user and as a player, to be able to register for tournaments. A registration fee is typical, in addition to a fee for each tournament. After you register for the tour, and sign up and pay for a tournament, you wait for an email or web site posting of acceptance of your registration and your tee time and pairing. The tee times are usually posted two days to a week prior to the tournament. Beware that registration for a tournament will often close as early as a week prior to the event. You won’t be able to register after that. Some tours allow late registration for an extra late fee.
Your pairing tells you the other players who will tee off with your golfer at your assigned tee time. The tours are usually run by a local pro or, the tour director. The tour director will assign pairings of two, three, or four players depending on the roster for the flight. You’ll never see a pairing more than four. Keep in mind that tournaments are guided by rules that are usually posted on the tour’s web site. The rules are sometimes called local rules, so as not to be confused with the USGA Rules of Golf. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the tour rules. In some cases, the player must pass a rules test or attend a rules session, in order to be able to register.
Most tournaments are stroke play tournaments where the player’s strokes are added up for a score (more on scoring later). A variation of tournament stroke play is match play. Match play is where a player competes in a match up with another player and the score is a comparative score, not an absolute stroke count. If a player holes out in fewer strokes than their competitor, she wins the hole. So even if it takes one player ten strokes and the other eleven, the player with ten strokes wins that hole. There is no score kept other than an accounting of how many holes each player wins. As example here, if a player wins five holes in a nine hole tournament, they are said to have one 5 and 4, since there are only four holes remaining and their competitor could not possible win, even if they won all four. More on match play scores later in the scoring chapter.
Sometimes, to reduce the time a tournament occupies a course, there will be a shotgun start. This start is where pairings are sent to start at every hole at the same time, instead of everyone starting on hole number one in sequence. If your starting tee is number four, your golfer will tee off at hole four finish on hole three, so the whole field rotates around the course at the same time, and finishes about the same time.
Another tournament variation is the scramble or best ball. This format is usually reserved for team play in charity tournaments and fund raisers, however, best ball is also good for beginning players. In the best ball scramble, each player in the team tees off, then the best shot is selected by the team and each player plays from there. This process continues until the hole is completed and the score is kept for each team. This format is also good for young player to build social skills and team work. The reason a scramble is good for beginners is that it filters out bad shots and usually everyone gets to play a decent shot. Often there are rules applied where the team must play at least one drive from each player, or the like.
For the child golfer, tournaments are a great way to learn the game, build confidence, and make new friends.