Here’s the final segment in a four-part series of fun golf tournament formats and fun golf games. This one’s for everyday and any-day fun with your friends.
SOME DAYS you just go out and play golf with your pals for fun. These formats for fun golf games are designed to be played within your foursome, even when you’re playing with strangers. If there’s handicapping to be done, it wheels off the best player — for example, you’re a 20 and so Fergie the 21 gets 1 stroke, Beyonce the 24 will get 4 strokes and Pink the 30 gets 10.
Skins: This is golf’s version of a classic pickup game. The best player gives strokes, as described above and assigned on the hardest holes (starting with the No. 1 handicap hole). Win the hole and you get that “skin,” a dollar or $100 or whatever players feel comfortable losing times 18. If there’s a tie for the win, the skin carries over and the next hole is worth two. Wagering note: Skins also are played in tournaments sometimes, but beware the unhandicapped skins competition or you’ll be donating your entry fee to the more skilled players. If you’re not a 10 or better, make sure the tournament skins are net.
Nassau: Probably the second most popular casual wager, players agree to a set bet for the front, back and overall wins, either by total strokes or by holes. If the bet is $2 and Beyonce wins the front, the back and the overall, she takes $6 from each of us, and hopefully buys the beer afterward.
Win, Place and Show: On each hole, the lowest score gets three points, the second-lowest score two points, the third-lowest score one point and the highest score no points. So you have to win, place or show to score. Add up all the points in the bar after your round to figure out who won. In another version called Nines, designed for three players, there are nine points for each hole and the scoring goes 5-3-1, or 5-2-2, or 4-4-1, depending on where the ties fall. Wagering note: Each point could represent a quarter, or something more.
Foursomes (aka Alternate Shot): Make two teams of two players, and each team decides which player tees off on even holes and which on odds. They then take turns all the way into the hole. If determining who gets how many strokes, add up the team handicaps and use 40 percent of the total. This one is especially fun for two couples, and best on a quiet golf course, because it moves along quickly. I recommend not proposing it at a course where players have paid $50 or more to play, because they won’t end up with a score to post. Great format for weekday twilight golf in summer.
Fairways and Greens: One point for a tee shot on the green of a par 3 and one point for a tee shot in the fairway and/or a green in regulation on other holes. Wagers can be based on how many points each player accumulates.
Bingo, Bango, Bongo: This is a fun game for newbies because it is a points game that de-emphasizes pars, birdies and scoring in general. It also tends to equalize players of different levels, provided they are careful not to play out of turn. Bingo, one point for the first player on the green. Bango, one point for the player closest to the hole. Bongo, one point for the first player to hole out. Warning: This can slow down a foursome because it discourages ready golf, so it might be better played by two.
6-6-6 (aka Round Robin): On the first hole, the players with the longest and shortest drives team up against the other two for six holes in whatever format the group is playing, usually Two-Player Best Ball, sometimes with the variation that the second ball breaks a tie and sometimes with ties carrying over to make the next hole worth more. On the seventh hole, the drives determine new pairings, and on the 13th hole the players who have not yet been teammates pair up. At the 19th hole, individual points are totaled and quarters (or more) are paid up. Another way to determine teams, if riding: COD, or cartmates, others, drivers.
Rabbit: The first player in your foursome to win a hole outright has captured the rabbit, and keeps the rabbit until someone else wins a hole outright and the rabbit is again “running,” to be captured again the next time someone wins a hole outright. Usually there’s a bet for the first nine and another bet for the next nine.
Wolf: I don’t know why I dislike this format, but better players seem to enjoy it. An order is established by which players will take turns being the wolf. The wolf, Player 1, tees off first and watches the others tee off to decide whether to team with one of them in a best ball or go it alone against the best of their three shots. The wolf must choose a partner immediately after that player has teed off, or that player is no longer eligible. So if, for example, the wolf passes up Player 2 and Player 3 only to see Player 4 hit one into the woods, the wolf might as well go it alone.
Pickup Sticks: In a one-on-one match with a good friend, you take a club from her every time she wins a hole. (In the spirit of sportsmanship, it is suggested to bestow immunity on putters.) She can take it back when she loses, or she can take one of yours. It’s a fun twist that helps players learn to adapt to challenges.
Shazam: Your group has reached a huge green and you’re sure Mary is going to three-putt, so when it’s her turn you say, “Shazam.” If you are correct, Mary owes you a dime, a quarter, a dollar, or whatever has been established as the Shazam stakes. If she needs four or more putts, she owes you twice that. If Mary two-putts, she owes nothing, and if she one-putts, you owe her double the bet. This can get pretty hilarious if all three players “Shazam” Mary when it’s her turn. Another twist: Shazam yourself if you’re on the green and more than a flagstick-length from the cup. You win if you make the putt, break even if you two-putt, but if you three-putt here, you lose double. Really fun game for learning to putt with pressure.
Vegas: Here’s an intriguing golf gambling game for a foursome, divided into two teams of two players. On each hole, the team’s score is the low score followed by the high score. So if Pink has a 3 and I have a 6, we are a 36. Beyonce had a 4 and Lady Gaga a 5, so that’s 45. At the end of the day, you’ll need to use the calculator on your phone to add up the scores, which may differ by a large margin, especially if you do not use net scores. So carefully consider the bet (nickels? dimes? dollars, seriously?), pop the cards, and consider 9 the maximum score on any hole.
Supplemental Bets (aka Junk): Skins and Nassaus typically have additional awards for Greenies (hitting the green on a par-3 and making par or birdie), Birdies, Sandies (getting out of the sand in one and one-putting), Chip-ins and Murphys (calling “Murphy” when your ball is off the green and then getting up and down in two from there). Three-putting a Greenie and missing a Murphy ought to require minus points.