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There are hundreds of golf betting games. We picked ten of our favorites.
(Good when you have golfers of varying ability.) The Scramble is one of the primary forms of tournament play for golf associations, charity events and the like. A scramble is usually played with 4-person teams, but 2-person scrambles are popular, too. At a 2-person scramble, handicaps are usually applied; at a 4-person scramble, handicaps are usually not applied.
In a scramble, each player tees off on each hole. The best of the tee shots is selected and all players play their second shots from that spot. The best of the second shots is determined, then all play their third shots from that spot, and so on until the ball is holed.
When played as a foursome, teams are usually constructed with an A player, B player, C player and D player, with those players designated based on handicaps.
A scramble might require A and B players to tee off from the back tees and C and D players from the middle tees; or A's from the back, B's and C's from the middle and D's from the front; or the tournament organizers might specify that all players play from the same set of tees.
2. Best Ball
Along with the scramble
, "best ball" is one of the most popular golf tournament formats.
Best ball can be played using 2-, 3- or 4-person teams. Each player on the team plays his or her own golf ball throughout the round, and on each hole the low score - or "best ball" - of the group serves as the team score. Player A gets a 5, B gets a 4, C gets a 6, D gets a 6, then the team score for that hole is 4, because the low score of the group was B's 4.
Best ball is usually played as stroke play with the total score added up at the end of the round. It can be played as match play, but best-ball match play with more than 2-person teams results in a lot of halved holes.
When using 3- or 4-person teams, it's almost imperative to apply handicaps so that the weaker players will be able to contribute.
3. Bingo, Bango, Bongo
Bingo Bango Bongo is a points-based game that can be played by any number of players, from two up.
In Bingo Bango Bongo, three types of achievements are rewarded with a point. The first player in a group to get his ball on the green gets a point (bingo). The player in the group whose ball is closest to the pin once all balls are on the green gets a point (bango). And the player in the group who is first to hole out gets a point (bongo).
Add up the points at the end of the game, high points wins.
Bingo Bango Bongo gives weaker players a chance to earn points because what matters is being first at something. For example, all members of the group tee off on a par-4. The player who hit the worst drive (farthest from the hole) plays first, and so has the first shot at winning the bingo point.
The same logic works with closest to the pin. The best players in the group are likely to be on the green in two (or three on a par-5), while the weakest players might be chipping. The closest-to-the-pin point is only earned once all balls are on the green, so the player who has hacked it up the fairway may be sitting just off the green and chipping - giving that player a great chance to pick up the bango point.
For this game to work you always have to play by the rules (furthest from the hole putts first, etc.)
4. Callaway Scoring System
The Callaway System (or Callaway Scoring System) is a sort of 1-day handicapping system that can be used in events where most of the golfers do not have real handicap indexes.
For example, at a company outing, most of the golfers may not carry official handicap indexes. How can they all - with widely different playing abilities - compete fairly at stroke play?
The Callaway System allows a "handicap" to be determined and applied to each golfer's score.
When the Callaway System is in use, all competitors tee off and play stroke play, scoring in the normal fashion with one exception - double par is the maximum score on any given hole (i.e., on a par 4, 8 is the maximum score).
Following the round, gross scores are tallied.
Utilizing the Callaway System requires consulting a chart
to determine a handicap deduction and handicap adjustment.
Wolf is a betting game or points game for a group of four players.
Players rotate being the "Wolf." The player designated as the "Wolf" gets to choose whether to play the hole 1 against 3 (himself against the other three players in the group) or 2 on 2.
And if the Wolf chooses to play 2 on 2, he must choose his partner immediately following that player's drive. Example: Player A is the Wolf. Player B hits a bad drive. Player C hits a pretty good drive. If the Wolf wants C as a partner, he must claim his partner before Player D hits his tee ball.
The side with the lowest better ball score wins the hole. If it's 2 on 2, then the winning side wins the bet. If it's 1 on 3, the Wolf wins double or loses double.
There's also Lone Wolf, in which the Wolf announces before anyone tees off - including himself - that he's going it alone, 1 on 3.
For more details on Wolf, read this explanation of Wolf
in Chi Chi Rodriguez's book, "Golf Games You Gotta Play."
6. low Putts
Low Putts is a popular tournament format or side bet. It's very simple: Keep track of your number of putts throughout the round. At the end of the round, total up the putts. The low individual or low group in number of putts is the winner.
7. Money Ball
Money Ball is a game for 4-person teams that puts the pressure on one player per hole to come through for the team.
Each group of four players in a scramble has a ball that is marked in some way to designate it as the "money ball." That ball rotates among players. For example, Player A uses it on the first hole, B on the second, C on the third, D on the fourth, then back to A on the fifth and so on.
In this game, two scores per hole are added together for the team score. Here's the catch: One of those two scores must be from the player with the money ball. So on each hole, the team score will be the score of the player with the money ball, plus the lowest score of the other three players on the team.
There are a couple variations that add to the tension of the game.
In one, if the player playing the money ball loses it, that player is eliminated from the game. The group would continue as a threesome with a new money ball.
In another, if the money ball is lost, the entire team is eliminated from the competition. Pretty harsh.
And in another, the money ball serves as a "bonus" competition. The 4-person teams compete using the two low scores on each hole; the money ball score is kept separately. The team with the lowest money ball score wins a bonus prize.
The Nassau is one of the most popular golf tournament formats and golf bets. It's essentially three tournaments (or bets) in one: the front nine, back nine and 18-hole scores all count as separate tournaments or bets.
In a Nassau tournament, the player (or team) winning the front nine wins a prize, the player (or team) winning the back nine gets a prize, and the player or team with the low 18-hole total wins a prize.
As a bet, the most common form is the $2 Nassau. The front nine is worth $2, the back nine is worth $2 and the 18-hole total is worth $2. A player or team sweeping all three wins $6.
The type of scoring is really up the individuals. Stroke play or match play? Scramble, alternate shot, best ball? Full handicaps, partial handicaps, no handicaps? You decide. It's not like there are "official" rules for this sort of thing.
While the $2 Nassau sounds innocent enough, winnings can pile up if a higher initial bet is made, or if a lot of "pressing" takes place.
A player or team that is trailing in a Nassau can "press the bet" - opening a new bet to run concurrently with the bet that has been pressed.
A Nassau that has been pressed and re-pressed and double-pressed and pressed even more can wind up costing someone a lot of money.
9. Power Ball
Powerball is sometimes used as a synonym for scramble. However, it usually means the tournament is a scramble with a twist.
The twist is that you pick the best drive of the group and then everyone plays their own ball from there. When you have a mix of good and bad players this works very well. A bad driver still has a chance to help on every hole. A good way to play is to pick the top two scores from each team and add them together. You’ll find that every player helps his team eventually.
10. Skins Game
Skins are what the skins game is played for. A skins game pits players in a type of match play in which each hole has a set value (usually in money or points). The player who wins the hole is said to win the "skin," and whatever that skin is worth.
Skins games are often more dramatic than standard match play because holes are not halved. When players tie on a given hole, the value of that hole is carried over and added to the value of the following hole. The more ties, the greater the value of the skin and the bigger the eventual payoff. For example, a friendly skins game might be played for $1 per hole.
If three holes in a row are played without a winner, then the fourth hole is worth $4 ($1 for its own value, plus a dollar for each hole that carries over).