We refer to it as if it’s a novelty, a scoring sideshow, a fresh-air format trotted out a few times each season to inject some March Madness into golf’s staid accounting. But match play is no golf oddity or innovation; rather, it’s the longtime standard, the archetype, the OG. For most of its history, an opponent was as essential to a round of golf as it was to a set of tennis or a game of chess; few early golfers tallied their totals, and the concept of par didn’t exist until the 20th century.
Let the following stories remind us that match play isn’t just a biannual September celebration; it’s deep in golf’s DNA, and it’s still there in every Nassau and closeout. It isn’t bound by 18 holes, nor does it care what you shot or how you hit ‘em. And it’s a chance to recall that scorecards with little numbers can’t match the glory and truth of shaking someone’s hand on a 15th green.