April 4th, 2013 by Matt Keller
Where’s the fun in playing for fun? Make the round a little more interesting with a friendly bet among your normal golf group. If you are tired of your normal game, try one of the following popular golf betting games (you don’t have to gamble money to make it interesting). The games are designed for at least a foursome, while others can be played with multiple groups.
Best Ball matches are one of the easiest and most common matches played in golf. Best Ball formats require at least two players on a team. During a Best Ball stroke play format, each player on the team plays their own ball. The lowest score at the conclusion of the hole counts as the team score. Best Ball formats are used for multiple groups of players. In addition, the number of Best Balls can be altered, such as two best balls out of four players. Handicap percentages are awarded based on USGA recommendations for team size. Therefore, during a Best Ball of partners, the USGA recommends men receive 90%, while women receive 95%, of their course handicap. In a Best Ball of four stroke play event, men receive 80% and women receive 90% of their course handicap. Best Ball formats are easy to play and common at every golf course in the world.
Four Ball is played in a foursome of two teams consisting of two players against each other in a better ball scoring method. Players can use handicaps or play scratch. All four players play their own ball throughout the match. At the conclusion of each hole, the player with the low score wins for the team. For example, team 1 consists of player A and player B, who score 4 and 5 on the first hole. Player C and player D on team 2 score a 5 and 6 on the hole. Therefore, player A and team 1 win the hole with a 4. Four Ball matches can be played in a stroke or match play format. Four Ball matches are often confused with a Best Ball format. Four Ball matches only include the foursome, while a Best Ball format could feature more than one group. Best Ball matches are a fun game for a larger group of players.
Nassau is probably the most popular game and can be played in an individual or team format. Nassau breaks a round into two nine-hole matches plus an additional match for the overall score. Before the match starts, participants decide on the amount of money for the match. If players agree to a $5 Nassau, the front nine is worth $5, the back nine is worth $5, and the overall total is worth $5, for a grand total of $15. The majority of Nassau matches are played in a foursome with a team of two players.
A press is a second bet that begins during a round in addition to a current bet. Typically, a press is used during a Nassau bet. A press begins before the start of a hole. In addition, a press is usually worth the same amount as the original bet. To give an example of how the press works, let’s say you are playing a $5 Nassau and on the seventh hole, you are four holes down. Therefore, you decide to press the other team. You remain four holes down and cannot win the first match of the Nassau; however, the press allows you to start a new bet for holes 7-9. If you win holes 7-9, you then win the press and break even, losing the original $5 bet, yet winning the $5 press. A press can cover any point of the match if you are behind, such as the front nine, back nine, or overall total. Since the losing team can issue a press, some groups play where the winning team has the option of declining a press. Another stipulation is an automatic press. Some prefer to play an automatic press, whether you want to or not, anytime a team gets down by two holes.
Skins Game – Option 1
Many players have heard or participated in a Skins Game. Option 1 of the skins game is played with a foursome. During a Skins Game, each hole is worth one skin. Each skin is given a specific dollar value, for example $5. Therefore, the total of all 18 skins is $90. The idea is to win as many skins as possible by scoring the lowest total on a hole. If two players tie, there is no skin on that hole. Rather, the skin is carried over to the next hole and every member of the group is still eligible to win, except the hole is worth two skins, or $10. It is not uncommon for a skin to carry over five or more holes, making the value of the skin increase accordingly.
Other skins can also be added, such as a greenie (landing your tee shot on the green), sandies (earning a sand save), woodies (saving par after hitting a tree) and arnies (making par without hitting the fairway).
Skins Game – Option 2
There is another option of a skins game if you have a large group of players. In this version, everyone contributes a specific amount of money, for example $10. If the group has 16 players, the pot is $160. At the conclusion of the round, players match scorecards to determine if a player has the lowest score on a particular hole. Skins are divided from the total collection and do not include any carryovers. If only two skins are earned, the total is divided by two and each player earns $80 for each skin. In a large group, it is not uncommon to have very few skins, making each one extremely valuable.
Wolf is game played within a foursome. Players set a rotation before the start of the round where they will be the “Wolf.” The player designated as the “Wolf” has the option of playing the hole 1-vs.-3 (himself against the rest of the group) or 2-vs.-2 (where he selects a partner). In the 2-vs.-2 scenario, the “Wolf” must choose his partner immediately following the players tee shot. For example, player A is the wolf, player B hits a terrible tee shot while player C rips a drive down the middle. The Wolf might choose player C as a partner for a 2-vs.-2 match on the hole. However, he must select player C before player D hits a tee shot. The side with the lowest better ball score wins the hole. In the 2-vs.-2 match, the Wolf and his partner will split the earnings. The Wolf can decide to play by himself, but must announce his intentions before he hits his tee shot. In a 1-vs.-3 scenario, the lone Wolf can win or lose from the other three players.
Point Quota is a fun game when you have a larger number of players competing in an individual or team format. The game begins by collecting a specific dollar amount from each player, such as $10, before you begin the round. Before play begins, each player must subtract their handicap from 36. The result is the player’s “Point Quota” for the match. For example, a 10-handicap player would need to earn 26 points throughout the round. Each player is awarded 1-point for bogey, 2-points for par, 4-points for birdie and 8-points for eagle. An additional option is to penalize players with negative points for bogeys and worse. The goal is to accumulate more points than your quota. The individual or team with the most points over the quota wins.
The Stableford format is similar to a Point Quota with the use of a point system. Stableford systems are played in a stroke play format where the high score wins rather than the low total. Stableford awards points on each hole, however, there is no quota. For example, a par might be worth 1-point, birdie is worth 2-points and eagle is worth 4- points. Negative scores could be issued for bogeys or worse. The player who earns the most points is declared the winner at the conclusion of the round. Stableford formats are generally used for a large group of players. Both the PGA and European Tour previously conducted Stableford tournaments; however, both have been cancelled in recent years. The ability to earn points quickly makes the Stableford an exciting format.
Alternate Shot is a format where a team of two players alternate hitting a shot until the ball is holed. For example, player A and player B represent a team play a par 4. Player A hits a tee shot while player B hits the approach shot on the green. Player A misses the first putt and player B sinks the par putt. Pure Alternate Shot format dictates player A hits the next tee shot. However, some formats alternate the player who hits the tee shot on every hole. Therefore, player A tees off on hole 1, player B hits the tee shot on hole 2 and so on for the remainder of the round. Alternate Shot can be played in a stroke or match play format. In addition, Alternate Shot is a popular event in team competitions such as the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and Soleheim Cup.