Hot Takes

9 of Your Favorite Games to Play on the Golf Course

By T.J. Auclair
Published on

Remember that old line on gambling from Caddyshack, the greatest golf movie of all time
Al Czervik, famously played by Rodney Dangerfield, bets Judge Smails (Ted Knight), $100 that he'll slice the ball into the woods on the first tee.
An annoyed Smails replies, "Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir, and I never slice."
We all know that gambling isn't allowed on the golf course, right?
We certainly don't condone or condemn what you choose to do with your golf group. But we are interested in knowing what your game is. Is it a skins game? A Nassau? Maybe a best ball?
So, what's your favorite game within the game? We asked this question to our friends on our Facebook page and put together a list of the nine best responses (in no particular order).
9. Bingo, Bango, Bongo! 
This is a game of points. The first player in the group to get the ball on the green gets a point (bingo). The player whose ball is closest to the pin once all balls are on the green gets a point (bango). And, finally, the player in the group who is first to hole out gets a point (bongo).
This is a fantastic game even for weaker players because you only have to be the first at something -- especially when it comes to the "bango." For instance, stronger players are likely to hit more greens in regulation (a par 4 in two shots, or a par 5 in three shots). As a result, the stronger player might be left with a 20-footer or more for birdie. Meanwhile, the weaker player might take five shots to get greenside on the same hole and then chip up to four feet. If the three stronger players are on the green in regulation with lengthy birdie tries and the weaker player is within four feet for a seven once all balls are on the green, the weaker player wins the point.
Facebook fan quote:
"BINGO. BANGO. BONGO." -- Shred 18 Golf
8. Wolf
You need four players for this particular game. All players play independently. The goal is to be the player with the most points at the end of the round.
Here's how it works: First, the order of play is decided on the first tee. The 'Wolf' is always the last player to tee off. The teeing order -- regardless of who has the honor -- rotates on every hole so that each player becomes the Wolf once every four holes.
Once each player in the group hits his or her tee shot, the Wolf decides whether or not to take any of the players on his or her team for the hole. If not, the Wolf plays the hole as the 'Lone Wolf' -- in which case the objective is to beat the three other players with the lowest net score on the hole. Every hole is played as a net best ball with only the best score of each team being used.
  • If the Wolf chose a partner and they win the hole, they each receive two points
  • If the non-Wolf partners win the hole, they get three points apiece
  • If the Lone Wolf beats all the other players, he or she receives four points
  • If the Lone Wolf gets beat by any player in the group, everyone in the group except the Lone Wolf receives one point.
There are variations to this game. For instance, you can be "Blind Wolf," (like a poker player going all in without even looking at his or her cards before the flop) declaring before the hole that you're going to play the hole alone without a partner before the tee shots are even hit.
All in all a great game, but one that takes a lot of concentration.
Facebook fan quote:
"I see a lot of WOLF... Oh how I hate to play that." -- Jim St Pierre
"Wolf, get a group of 8 or more is a blast" -- Jeffrey Torres
7. Six-Six-Six, or Sixes (also known as Hollywood or Round Robin)
Admittedly, this is one of my favorite games to play on the course. It keeps things interesting. You might get slaughtered for six holes, but then you have 12 holes to make that all up.
Here's how it's played: In a foursome, you rotate a playing partner every six holes. At the end of 18 holes, the other three players in your group will have been your partner for six holes. You can use any scoring format in sixes and each six-hole stretch is a separate bet.
Basically, you could lose one of your six-hole matches, but if you win the other two, you come out ahead at the end of 18 holes.
Facebook fan quotes:
"6-6-6, where your partner changes every six holes. $1 a point plus $2 birdies. Also known as Carts/Drivers/opposites, bases on makeup of teams. Gets everybody in foursome to play as partners and opponents." -- Joe Fontanella
"6-6-6 Hi-Low. Each hole is worth 2 points. One for the low net ball, and one for the other team having the high net score. Switch partners every 6 holes." -- Tom Doerr
6. Alternate shot/Foursomes. 
This is particularly fun right around Ryder Cup time and will give you an incredible appreciation for just how difficult a format this is, even for the world's best players. Alternate shot is just as it sounds. Prior to the round, you and a partner decide who will tee off on the odd-numbered holes and who will tee off on the even-numbered holes. After that person tees off, you alternate shots until the ball is in the hole.
Alternate shot can be played as stroke play or as match play. The upside to alternate shot is you can play quickly, as there are only ever two balls in play amongst your foursome. It might be a better game for those of you who have a golf club membership.
5. Rabbit
The first player to have the low score on a hole captures the Rabbit (no ties). If on the next hole someone other than the holder of the Rabbit is the low scorer, the Rabbit is set free. Then the Rabbit can be won by the next player to earn the lowest score (again, no ties) on a hole. Before another player can be "holder of the Rabbit" it must first be set free.
There are also side bets, which pays the holder of the Rabbit after the ninth and 18th hole. For bigger payouts, you can skip the "set the Rabbit free" step and simply make the person with the lowest score (no ties) on a given hole the immediate holder of the Rabbit.
4. Vegas
This one can get ugly in a hurry if you aren't careful. Actually, it can get ugly even if you are careful. Two teams, two players each. You play for a team score on each hole. But here's the twist, rather than adding the two team scores -- for example, Player A makes a 4 and Player B makes a 5 -- the scores are paired (lowest score in front). So, instead of the team in the example used making a 4-5 for a combined nine, they instead make a "45."
The team score is representative of the number of points each team earns per hole. The points are tracked throughout the round and at the end, the differential is paid off.
You can set any value you want on points... For high rollers, that might be $1 per point. For the average Joe, that might be a nickel per point.
For instance... The paired score for Team A on one hole is 45 and the paired score for Team B is a 55. If they were playing for $1 per point, Team B owes Team A $10 for that hole.
Just so things don't get ridiculously out of hand, there is a safeguard in Vegas. If a player on a given team scores a 10 or higher, then the 10+ score comes before the lower score when they're paired together for points. So, if a team has a 7 and a 10 rather than "710 points" for the hole, it's "107." This is the only instance in Vegas when the larger number is paired in front of the lower number.
3. Best ball or Fourball
This is one of the most popular games to play on the golf course. Typically, two-person teams are in place. Each player plays out his or her own golf ball. At the end of the hole, the lowest score recorded by the team is used toward the team tally, while the higher score is thrown out.
Facebook fan quote:
"I love best ball because I play my own ball, my score matters, but when I screw up, I have a partner that I can turn to. It's the best of individual golf and team golf." -- Rich Danielson
2. Skins. 
Assign a point-value or dollar amount to each hole. Each player in the group contributes a predetermined amount for the "kitty" on each of the holes. The lowest score on each hole wins the skin. Should more than one player tie a hole, the skin carries over. Whoever wins the next hole outright wins the skin for that hole as well as any skins that carried over.
The beauty of skins is this -- you might be struggling for the first five holes, but all those holes may have been tied by players in your group. Then, out of nowhere, you birdie the sixth hole, the lowest score on the hole. Instantly, you pick up all six skins and everyone in your group hates you (kidding..sort of).
Sometimes, a player who wins skin carryovers needs to validate them on the next hole -- meaning they must at least match the lowest score on the next hole to collect the skins. If another player records a lower score on the next hole, he or she can steal the skins, but then must also validate (unless this happens on the final hole. Then the match is over).
Facebook fan quotes:
"$5 skin game with usually 20 guys in every week plus a $1 Super Skin which is on a single hole. If no one hits, it carries over weekly until someone does. I hit it one time for $200."  --Joe Metzinger
"$10 bucks per a skin best played with 4-5 people. Carryovers on ties and if you win a hole or holes you must validate the next hole with a par. If you don't holes go back on next hole." -- Gren Hanlon
"My buddy is a big WOLF guy-hate that game. If we're doing anything let's just play skins..." --
1. Nassau
This is arguably the most popular of all golf games. A Nassau is basically broken up into three bets -- low front nine score, low back nine score and low total score. If you're in a foursome, you might decide on a $2 Nassau. If you lose all your bets, the most you can lose is $6. If you win all three, you win $18 ($6 from each of the other three players in your group). 
Unlike a lot of the others, a Nassau doesn't need to get out of hand...unless you introduce a "press." Then it can add up quickly. 
A "press" is a second bet that runs concurrently with the original bet. The second bet is usually for the same amount at the first bet. We're not going to get into the types of presses here -- stuff like the automatic 2-down press, represses, etc.
Of course, there's also all kinds of "junk" you can include in any of the games listed above. Here are a few: Greenies (pay off for hitting the green in regulation); Chippies (pay off for chipping in from off the green); Barkies (pay out for hitting a tree and still making par); Double barkies (pay out for hitting two trees and still making par); Fishies (pay out for making par on a hole in which you found the water); Sandies (pay out for getting out of the sand and making par).
Never forget: The whole point of golf is to get out there and have fun. While "playing for something" makes it a little more interesting and competitive, do not ever "play for something" you don't have.