You’re on the first tee with a new group that includes players much better than you are, and a betting game is proposed. What do you do now? Remember these golf wagering tips.
I PLAYED in a tournament recently with a lot of players whom I did not know, and the other ladies in my foursome were putting in $20 apiece for a tournament-wide “skins game.” I wanted to fit in, so I handed over my twenty and signed my name.
GottaGoGolfers, how stupid this was! A “skin” goes to the low score on a hole, and there aren’t any carry-overs, handicap adjustments or fractions. In this 36-hole event with 180 players, there might have been only five or six holes where a competitor beat every other player in the field — birdies on the hardest holes, perhaps — and I promise you those competitors were not 20-handicappers. And there went my money.
I was merely making a donation to the low handicappers — something that finally occurred to me later, when I realized that the same woman who was conducting the skins game was the woman who finished with the low gross score of the field. So, Tip No. 1 for the higher-handicap woman:
- Do not bow to peer pressure in a field that includes many lower handicappers. You can certainly politely say, “I would rather donate to The First Tee.”
On the other hand, when playing business golf with a bunch of guys from the office, there might be two foursomes and some sort of skins game on the line. These are usually for a quarter or a dollar, have carryovers (so that when a hole is tied, it carries over to the next) and are handicapped, and the woman with the higher handicap should be a good sport here and go along with whatever is proposed, providing she finds a way to diplomatically enforce Tip No. 2:
- Make an offhanded reference to USGA handicapping procedures so that you get every stroke you deserve, including any differential in the rating of your tees vs. whatever tees the men play from. (See more details about this in “How to handicap when it’s men vs. women” and “6 steps to a fair golf match against anyone.”)
Some games are more fun for the higher-handicap woman to play in the company of men and lower handicappers, others can intimidate or frustrate the higher-handicapper. For instance, a common variation on skins is the round-robin COD, which is a series of three six-hole matches where partners change for every segment. C-O-D stands for Carts (meaning those sharing a cart are partners for six holes), Opposites (meaning driver of one cart partners with nondriver in the other cart for six holes), and Drivers (so the drivers team up and the nondrivers team up for the final six holes). If you’re the worst player, you might get the feeling you’re bringing down your team — three times in a row!
This can also be true in another popular game, Wolf, where the Wolf can choose his or her partner on a hole, inevitably leaving the higher handicapper on the sidelines. Which brings us to Tip No. 3:
- See if you can get strokes in the skins game variation in your group, or ask if the group might like to play some other game. For example, there is the “Nassau,” with a front-nine bet, a back-nine bet and an overall bet, based on your easily calculated net score.
What games might be more suited to players regardless of handicap? Well, there is Bingo, Bango, Bongo, where each hole has three points with it — one for the first player on the green, one for the player closest to the hole, and one for the first player in the hole. (Important note: Be sure no one plays out of turn.)
Or try a variation on a putting game known as Snake — maybe just charging $1 for every putt past two on a hole and adding it to the drink kitty. In any case, if your money is on the line, be sure to follow the most important Tip No. 4:
- Join in all of the joking and trash talk along the way. Wagering is supposed to add fun to the game, not make it serious, so keep your sense of humor — even if you’re only making a donation.