What’s a golf playoff?

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Golf playoffs are used when players tie at the end of a tournament. Major tournaments have different rules, with the US Open playing 18 more rounds the next day. The PGA Championship uses an aggregate golf playoff, while sudden-death playoffs are also common. The British Open switched from aggregate to sudden-death, while the PGA Championship switched from sudden-death to aggregate.

A golf playoff is used when two or more players are tied at the end of a competition or tournament. Major tournaments have different rules for their golf playoffs. In less competitive circumstances, like a golf game with friends, winning may not matter much, so a playoff may not be necessary.
The playoffs of a US Open tournament have the tied players return the next day and play 18 more rounds of golf to determine the winner. While this is considered the fairest way to settle a tie, it can cause some problems due to the logistics involved in extending the tournament for another day. It can also inconvenience television executives who have to make quick decisions about how to change programming to show additional days.

Instead of playing one more game to break a tie, the PGA Championship and other tournaments will hold an aggregate golf playoff. An agreed number of holes are played and the person with the fewest strokes is declared the winner of the tournament.

Both of these types of golf playoffs – a second game and an aggregate golf playoff – can end in another tie. A second tie is usually broken by a sudden-death golf playoff. Players play each hole and the first time a player wins a hole, using fewer strokes than his opponent, the game is over.

Some tournaments hold a sudden-death golf playoff in the first place, instead of holding a second game or aggregate golf playoff. This has the advantage of quickly resolving a tie. Competitive friends who play social golf tend to use the sudden death method to break a tie as well.

The British Open initially used the aggregate method, but now uses a sudden-death golf playoff to determine the winner of the tournament. In contrast, the PGA Championship used to use the sudden death method, but now find the aggregate method a more appropriate answer to the tie.

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