What is it about golf that brings out your inner gambling degeneracy? According to a 2013 Golf Digest study — the only one covering the top, around 80% of recreational golfers 18 and up like to put a few bucks down when they play. Maybe it’s the extra excitement and monetary prize that kicks your golfing game up a notch. Or perhaps it’s just bragging rights that push you to succeed. Or maybe the game of golf is just a bit better with a few ponies in the race. Whatever the reason, golf betting games are a way to enjoy the course, albeit with a little extra riding on the line.
So if you need a few ideas for your next foursome, bachelor party, or just a friendly game that’s become a little less friendly, here are a few golf betting games to inject some emotion and challenge into your next outing.
Before you decide to plop down a Benjamin during your next round, the golfing world has a certain gambling etiquette you must follow that goes hand-in-hand with general golf etiquette. Sure, you can s*!$-talk your way on the ride to the next hole, but be warned: stepping outside of generally accepted etiquette can spell doom for your future days of golf gambling. For the sake of not alienating your fellow golfers or angering other golfers while also maintaining a spirited affair, follow these tips:
Ease is the biggest reason why some golf betting games are more popular than others. Complicating the matter only detracts from the fun itself. So if you’re new to golf betting or you need to show a beginner the ropes, start with a few of these options.
One of the most common golf betting games is Nassau. This simple stroke-play game involves everyone putting a wager on the front nine, back nine, and the total score. For example, you could put $10 on the front nine, $10 on the back nine, and $10 aggregate per person for a chance to win up to $30. The best score or lowest score on each section wins.
Quick Side Note: Stroke-play refers to your total round score and match-play refers to your score on an individual hole.
Wolf in golf is one of the most popular fourball match-play games on the links because it rewards risk and/or teamwork. It all depends on what you choose to do as a lone wolf. The number of players can vary from three to four, but four is preferred.
Essentially, Wolf is a stroke-play, 18-hole match that uses a point total to determine the winner. Here’s how it works.
To win Wolf, you simply have to win the hole. A lone wolf who wins by himself or herself is awarded 2 points. If they choose a teammate and win, the wolf and teammate get 1 point. If you lose — whether the wolf or part of a team, you get zero points. Keep a scorecard to maintain
A player wins if they have the most total points at the end of the round.
Used in the professional ranks and occasionally on the PGA Tour, a skins match is just a fancy name for a round-by-round golf gambling game. In skins, you choose a dollar amount for each hole. After the end of each hole, the person with the lowest score wins all of the money. If players tie, you “push the hole” and carry over the money to the next hole — making it worth double.
So let’s say you have a threesome where one player gets a birdie and two others get bogeys. Obviously, the person with the birdie wins. However, if two people get a birdie and one gets a double bogey, the money would push to the next hole — saving the guy who finished with the double bogey from paying out.
It’s a simple game and one that’s easy for beginners to learn right from the first tee.
If it’s just you and a buddy, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo betting. Two-man golf games are still possible, albeit that second place means you finish dead last. But if you’re willing to risk humiliation, here are a few options.
No, it’s not the Adam Sandler movie (or the Burt Reynolds movie for the old-timers). But the Longest Yard is still a great point game that’s a mix of low score, strategy, and a touch of luck.
The idea is that if you win a hole, you get the yardage of the hole as your score. For example, if you win a hole, you might get 450 points on a 450-yard par-4. However, a par-3 might be worth only 150 points because it’s 150 yards.
While you still want to put your golf ball on the fairway and green whenever possible, you can put your attention on the longer holes or nickel-and-dime your way to victory.
If mulligan is always in your golf lingo, Three Little Pigs is probably a great option for you. This stroke-play golf betting game is just the same as playing a round of golf. The only difference is that you can subtract your worst three holes. So if you hit a 10 on one hole, don’t stress. You can get rid of it and still potentially beat your opponent.
The threesome isn’t as common in golf betting games, but if Player A cancels at the last minute, you shouldn’t have to leave your gambling degeneracy at home. Fortunately, you have a few great games that combine gambling with excitement right from the first hole.
Eighty-one or 81 is the ideal golf betting game because it rewards the winner of each hole at an exponential rate. In this game, the lowest score gets 5 points, the second-place golfer wins 3 points, and the loser gets 1 point.
Add up all your points at the end to see who emerges victorious (and a bit richer).
This game involves getting the goose or the gander to win the prize. The person who wins the first hole outright gets the goose, but only on the front nine. On the remaining eight holes, anyone who beats the goose holder knocks the goose out of his/her hands. Then it’s up for grabs.
The person holding the goose at the end of nine holes wins the bet. The back nine is the same idea — it’s just called the gander.
If you’re hitting the course with three other people, you have the most versatility when it comes to golf betting games. So bring your A-game — you’re going to need it.
Bingo Bango Bongo is a classic golf betting game that rewards you for getting on the green. The bingo point goes to the first person on the green. In this sense, the first person to tee off has an advantage. The bango point goes to the person that’s closest to the hole once all four balls are on. The bongo point is awarded to the person who holes the ball the first.
This all adds up to 54 points, and the person with the highest score wins. Just make sure to rotate who goes first on each hole for the sake of fairness.
Umbrella is a mix of individual talent and team score, upping the ante and making you rely on your teammate to pick you up if you have a bad hole.
Each hole has 6 potential points. You get 2 points for the lowest individual score, two points for the lowest aggregate team score, 1 point for birdie, and 1 point for closest to the pin in regulation. If your side gets all 6 points, your score doubles — much akin to an umbrella opening.
If your inner gambler is just downright insatiable, side bets just make sense. It allows you to create new bets or separate bets which can add to your pot or offset your losses. Here are a few simple ideas:
Unless you just had a bad day on the course, getting whopped by the competition — especially when money is involved — is a humbling experience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your game.
If you truly want to bring home your fair share of the pot, you have a simple solution: play more. Whether you make a vested effort to join a golf scramble, add a few putting drills to your practice routine, or use technology, you have all the tools to become a regular Doyle Brunson or Vegas legend on the golf course.
Adding ice to your veins on a big shot? Well, maybe that’s just a gambler’s secret.