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 between friends, winning may not matter as much so a playoff may not be necessary.
The playoffs at a US Open Tournament have the tied players return the next day and play another 18 rounds of golf to determine the winner. While this is thought of as the most fair way to settle a tie, it can cause some problems because of the logistics involved in extending the tournament for another day. It can also disturb television executives who must make quick decisions about how to change programming to show additional days.
Instead of playing another game to settle a tie, the PGA Championship and other tournaments will hold an aggregate golf playoff. An agreed upon number of holes are played, and the person with the least 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, by using less strokes than his competitor, the game is over.
Some tournaments hold a sudden death golf playoff in the first place, instead of holding a second game or an aggregate golf playoff. This has the advantage of resolving a tie quickly. Competitive friends playing a social game of golf tend to use the sudden death method as well to settle a tie.
The British Open initially used the aggregate method, but it now employs a sudden death golf playoff to determine the winner of its tournament. Conversely, the PGA Championship used to use the sudden death method but now finds the aggregate method to be a more appropriate answer to the tie.