Why would anyone want to play a golf gambling game?
Golf is hard enough. Why add more pressure by betting on the golf course?
Well, everyone is different. I don’t need to gamble on golf to make it interesting. But I’m not opposed to a closest to the pin, skins, or Nassau bet, either.
But maybe you need some skin in the game. Maybe you’re unable to flip on your competitive switch on demand. Or maybe you’re bored with your golf routine and want to mix it things up.
Or maybe you want to bet money on a round of golf to see if your game will crack under pressure. You want to emulate what you might feel in a tournament.
Whatever the reason, if you want to bet on your next round, then here are a few popular golf betting games to try.
Dots, also known as Junk or Garbage, is more of a golf side bet than a game. The “dots” are a way to keep track of the action.
Here are some of the side bets you can make and what golfers call them.
- Green in regulation (GIR) – Greeny
- Par saved from sand – Sandy
- Par save after hitting a tree – Barky
- Par save from water – Fishy
- Holing out from off the green – Chippy
- Closest to the flag
Points are given or deducted for each of these outcomes and others. You tally up the dots at the end of your round to determine the winner of each side bet.
The gambling game, Snake, emphasizes putting rather than your total score. Gimmies and dragging short putts aren’t allowed. You need to putt for real.
Here’s how to play Snake.
You first need to decide how much each golfer will add to the pot if someone three putts. Only putts made from the green will count towards the number of putts made.
Whenever someone three putts, everyone adds the pre-determined amount to the pot. This pot continues to grow throughout the round.
Now here’s where things can get a little crazy…
The last person to three putt must pay each player the amount in the pot. For example, if there is $100 in the pot and four people playing, the last person to three putt will pay the other three $100 each.
Another option is to have the person with the most three putts pay everyone the amount in the pot instead.
Either way, this is an expensive way to bet on the golf course. But you can up the ante even more playing a variation of Snake.
Here is a Snake variation you can try. You can increase the cost of each three putt as the round progresses. For example, maybe the first three putt of the round costs $1, but then it increases by $1 or $2 for every hole after that.
Here’s what that might look like if someone three putts on every hole.
- 1- $1
- 2 – $2
- 3 – $4
- 4 – $8
- 5 – $16
- 6 – $32
- 7 – $64
- 8 – $128
- 9 – $256
- 10 – $512
- 11 – $1,024
- 12 – $2,048
- 13 – $4,096
- 14 – $8,192
- 15 – $16,384
- 16 – $32, 768
- 17 – $65, 536
- 18 – $131,072
Keep in mind that this isn’t just the total pot. This is the amount that each person would need to pay on that hole and the total pot is what the worst or last offender would have to pay the other players.
Jeez – you’re going to need a line of credit to play this betting game.
But this assumes that someone will three putt on every hole. Odds are no one in your group is that bad and, if they are, what are doing gambling on the golf course in the first place?
One other thing – your round will probably be much slower since this is a gambling game in which everyone needs to putt out. You might want to save it for a slow time at the course.
Rabbit is a simple golf gambling game that you play with two or four players. Here’s how Rabbit works.
The first player to win a hole becomes the “rabbit.” That person remains the rabbit until another golfer wins a hole outright. Then the rabbit is either replaced or released until someone wins the next hole.
Your goal is to be the rabbit on the 9th and/or 18th holes. That’s how you win the bet.
Skins is a popular betting game for golfers. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s called something else.
The names change depending on where in the US you’re playing.
The word “skin” is slang for $1. But you can play for any amount you want. This makes it a great game for both high and low handicappers.
How to Play Skins
A game of skins starts with everyone adding their money to the pot. You want to decide what the bet is and whether you’re going to use net or gross scoring before anyone tees off.
Then everyone tees off and plays until everyone has holed out.
The person with the best score will win the pot. If no one won the hole outright, then the pot will carry over to the next hole. This is in addition to the skins bet for that hole, too.
For example, if everyone bet $5 on the first hole and no one won it, then you’ll seed the pot for hole two with $20. Then everyone will bet $5 again, making the total pot $40.
These pots can get large if you go several holes without a winner. And remember that only one or two people will win that pot.
Scoring System for Skins
You can score a skins match however you want. There is a lot of flexibility.
For example, you can assign a point for every hole. Or you can increase the points you can receive every three or six holes. This can give golfers who are a behind to quickly turn the tide and create a lot of pressure late in the round.
The most common format used in skins is match play. The player or team with the lowest score will earn a point or the pot for that hole.
But you can take any approach you want. This allows you to adjust the game to work for everyone in your group.
The Nassau golf betting game originated from the Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, Long Island. As the story goes, the matches there were intense – so intense that they often made the papers.
This “publicity” was embarrassing for the losers, so the Nassau Captain JB Coles Tappan created the Nassau format.
The Nassau bet is based on three separate outcomes.
- Who won the front nine
- Who won the back nine
- Who won the round
The great thing about this format – at least for the guys whose matches made the papers – is that the worst score or loss you could have is 3-0.
What I like about this game is that, even if you lose overall, you can still win either the front or back nine. You can still have a chance to brag or save face.
Here are a few other reasons why you might like Nassau for gambling on golf.
- You can apply it to any golf format (though match play is the most common).
- This betting game works for both team and individual play, with or without handicapping.
- You can handle the scoring however you want. The easiest approach is to give the golfer who wins a hole outright a point. And then tally the points at the turn and the end of the round.
Nassau is a simple betting game to learn and use. It’s no wonder why some many golfers play it.
Pressing Your Nassau Bet
I said that one thing I like about the Nassau format is that you don’t have to lose outright. You can win either the front or back nine and salvage some of the round. But that’s not the only option.
You can also press the bet. Here’s how that works.
Say you’re down by 3 points with three holes remaining in the front nine. You ask the others in your group to “press the bet,” which means you’ll start the bet over and double it.
- If you win the bet, you wipe out your losses for the first six holes.
- If you lose the bet, you’re out all that money.
Pressing your bet is like making a double or nothing bet.
Some people say that it’s proper golf etiquette to accept the press bet if you’re the leading team. I disagree with that. A bet is a bet – it’s up to you if you want to amend that mid-round.
However, if someone presses the bet for you, I do think it’s good golf etiquette to return the favor – either later in the round or in a future match.
You can make it easy on yourself, and avoid any bad feelings, by deciding ahead of time whether you want to allow anyone to press their bets. Just get all the rules figured out before you tee off.
That’s a good approach for any golf gambling game, though.
Here’s how to play the (Las) Vegas.
Vegas is a game played with two teams of two players. Before you start playing, you pick your teams and decide how much you’ll wager per point. Then you’ll use this scoring system.
What you do is combine the scores from you and your team member. For example, if your teammate scores a 3 and you score a 5, your score is 35.
The lowest number always goes in the front except for when your teammate shoots double your score.
For example, say you score a 5 and your teammate scores a 10. You’d score this as 105 instead of 510. This is to keep the scores reasonable. But if you both score a 10, you’re in trouble.
The objective is to out-score your opponents. You’ll assign a dollar amount to each point, so the larger the distance between your score and the other team’s, the more money you’ll win.
For example, if the other team scores a 3 and 4 (for a score of 34) and you score a 3 and 5 (for a score of 35), you’ll beat the other team by one point. If you bet $10 per point, you’d win $10 for that hole.
But good luck keeping the margins as tight as one point. As you can probably already tell, the margins can get much crazier than that. Even at $1 per point, a hole can get expensive (or profitable!) fast.
If this golf is too rich for you, you might want to choose a different golf game to bet on. Or you can establish a cap to limit how much someone can win or lose per hole or for the round.
But if you’ve got the bankroll and stomach for it, a round of Vegas golf can deliver the adrenaline rush you might be looking for.
Wolf (or Wolf Scotch) is a betting game for four golfers. Here’s how it works.
You start the round by flipping a coin or tee to see who the wolf will be for the first hole. Then you’ll determine the payouts for the bet.
The order used on the first tee box is used for the entire round. The wolf is always the last person to tee off.
Once everyone has teed off, the wolf for that hole must decide whether they want to team up with another player or if they want to be a “lone wolf” for that hole.
The incentive for being a lone wolf is the four points that player will earn for winning the hole compared to the two points they’ll get for winning the hole with a teammate.
If the wolf and teammate lose the hole, the other players will get three points each. If someone beats the lone wolf, each player will receive a point and the lone wolf will receive zero points.
The objective of the game is to finish the round with the most points.
As for the betting portion of the game, Wolf is flexible. For example, you can make a bet on the overall round (total points) or assign a dollar value to each point. You can handle this however you want.
However you handle it, odds are you’ll enjoy this betting game. Many golfers say that Wolf is a great game for developing confidence and skill since you need to decide whether to play as a team or alone. There’s the added pressure with money on the line, too.
Bingo, Bango, Bongo
This is a great golf betting game for beginners and high handicappers because it’s possible to earn points and win money playing against anyone, even good golfers.
Here are how points are awarded in Bingo, Bango, Bongo.
- Bingo – the first player to hit the green (regulation or not) wins a point
- Bango – the player closest to the pin after all the balls are on the green wins a point
- Bongo – the first player to hole their ball gets a point
That’s all there is to it. It’s a simple game, and a great one for beginners since they don’t need to get on the green in regulation to score points. They can get a point simply by being the first to hole their ball.
Round Robin is also known as 6-6-6 or Hollywood. It’s a gambling game for four golfers. Here’s how it works.
You flip a tee on the first hole to see who your partner is for the first six holes. Then you swap partners and play the next six. And then swap partners once more for the final six.
Round Robin is best played using a match play, better ball format. And you use gross or net scores depending on everyone’s handicaps.
This golf gambling game is unique in that it was designed to be played with three players. Here’s how the 9-Point Game works.
Nine points are awarded on each hole. Five points are given to the outright winner. If there is a clear second place player, that player gets three points. The last place player receives one point.
Here’s how the points are awarded when there is a tie.
- 1st place – The top two players are given four points each and the last place player is given one point
- 2nd place – The split goes five points to first and two points each to the last two players
- Three way tie – Each player gets three points
You tally up the points at the end of the round to determine the winner.
You have total flexibility as to how you bet on this golf game. You can bet a flat amount which the overall winner of the round will get. You can do a front or back nine, or you can combine this with Nassau and bet on the front nine, back nine, and winner of the round.
This is interesting game. All you need to play it is a handicap (everyone needs one).
What you do is take your handicap and subtract it from 36. This number becomes the point quota you must make during the round.
You’ll earn points for each score. How you decide to score it will depend a little on the average skill level for everyone.
For example, you might try something like this for a game with mid-handicappers.
- Bogeys – 1 point
- Par – 2 points
- Birdie – 4 points
- Eagle – 8 points
You tally up the points at the end of the round. Whoever wins the most points above their quota wins the pot.
Another option is to do a sliding scale, like a poker tournament, where the top players share a piece of the pool. It could look something like this.
You get the idea.
If no one finishes about their quote, you can do a tiebreaker hole or nine holes, or you can roll your game over to the next round.
You have lots of options, which is one of the reasons why this is a great game for betting on the golf course.
There are many betting games for the golf course. The ones listed above are just a few of the more popular games you might see golfers play.
What I like about these and most other betting games in golf is that you can tailor them to your group. If you have a bunch of low handicapped players, then you can play a tougher game and with more money. Or you can choose an easier game and bet less money for a group of higher handicapped players.
I think this is important to highlight because some people are risk-averse. They don’t want or like to gamble, or maybe they don’t want to gamble because they don’t feel like they’re good enough. But they don’t want to let everyone in the group down, either.
So, why not try a $5 Nassau or $1 skins match. Considering you’re already spending $40-$100 on a round of golf, that’s not an unreasonable amount to wager on a golf game.
And who knows, maybe with a little skin in the game you’ll play your best round of golf yet.