Looking to add a little spice to your next round of golf (without having to dress in loud clothes)? Straight scoring is always good but there is nothing like standing over a five foot put on the eighteenth to win the beer and the bragging rights in the clubhouse! Here are just some of the great games you and your “foresome” can play to really get the juices flowing and the good natured ribbing flying the next time you are out on the links!

How To Use Your Handicap When Playing Golf

There are two ways that golfers can use their handicaps in the various games that are listed in this section: Traditional Scoring, Playing Off The Low Handicap. It doesn’t really matter which system you use, just that you use it effectively and apply to whatever games you play. It will make the games more competitive, and more importantly, a heck of a lot more fun!

Traditional Scoring:

In traditional scoring each persons handicap remains unaffected. They simply take their handicap and compare it to the scorecard of the course that they will be playing. On the scorecard each hole will be ranked in toughness from 1 to 18. The hole ranked #1 is deemed to be the toughest and the hole ranked #18 is deemed to be the easiest. In the traditional scoring system a player will look at the scorecard to determine which holes they will be given strokes on. To determine their net score, a player with a 15 handicap will be able to take one stroke off of their score on every hole except the 16th, 17th, and 18th ranked holes. A player with a 2 handicap will not get be able to take any strokes off of their score expect on the 1st and 2nd ranked holes. Hence if a player with a 2 handicap and a player with a 15 handicap both bogey the 4th ranked hole, the player with the 2 handicap will be stuck with the bogey but the player with the 15 handicap will be able to take a stroke off of their score and their net score will now be a par. In this example the player with the higher handicap wins that hole.

The biggest confusion in handicaps comes when a player has a handicap higher than eighteen. Since there are only eighteen holes to be ranked some players think that they simply get credit for 18 strokes only and will have to suck-it-up for the rest. That is not the case and in actual fact it is quite easy to calculate strokes for players above an 18 handicap. Lets take a look a player with a 25 handicap. They will receive one stroke off their score per hole. But if no further strokes are taken off their score their will be a seven stroke difference between their net score and their handicap (25 – 18 strokes = 7). To adjust for this, the 25 handicap player, in addition to getting one stroke off on every hole, will also receive a further one stroke off for any holes ranked #7 or tougher. In other words on the holes ranked #1 – #7 the 25 handicap player will get 2 strokes off their score. On all the other holes they will receive only one stroke off their score.

Playing Off the Low Handicap:

In this system every player’s handicap is compared and the lowest person’s handicap is subtracted from everyone else to determine exactly how many strokes each player will get for the round and on which holes he/she will get those strokes.

Using this system for a sample foursome the following handicapping would be determined: Bill is a 5 handicap, John is a 20 handicap, Mike is a 10 handicap and Patrick is a 13 handicap. Since Bill is the lowest handicap his handicap will be deducted from everyone else’s handicap to give them a new number. John will become a 15, Mike will become a 5 and Patrick will become an 8. As a result John will receive one stroke on all of the holes ranked #1 – 15. Mike will receive one stroke on all holes ranked #1 – 5. Patrick will receive one stroke on all holes ranked #1 – 8. Since Bill is the lowest handicap of the foursome he will receive no strokes off his game and his handicap effectively becomes 0.

Vegas | Skins | Junk | Stableford | Wolf | Nassau


The personal favourite of our company President, Vegas is game that keeps all players integrally involved for the duration of the round and has the ever present element of the big payout or better yet, the big payoff!

Vegas is a game or pairings. One twosome against the other so split your foursome into two pairings before teeing off. When you split your teams you can decide how you want to work with your handicaps. Generally it is more interesting and equitable if play off the low man’s handicap. In Vegas, just like skins, whether you shoot a 66 or and 86, your individual score at the end of the round is really inconsequential. It is how your team does on each hole that counts. Each player’s score on the hole, no matter how bad, does count toward the team score though, so you have to make sure you stay in the game the whole way. Here’s how it works.

At the end of each hole, each player’s score becomes a digit in their team’s score. In our first pairing (lets call them Team ‘A’) one player shoots a 4 and the other shoots a 6. Their team score for that hole therefore becomes a 46 (the lowest score always goes first). Their opponents (lets call them Team ‘B’) shoot a 5 and a 7. Their score for that hole therefore becomes a 57. The difference between the two team-scores is 11. Therefore the low team, Team ‘A’ wins 11 points. Straight forward enough right? You continue this scoring method throughout the round, determining which team wins the points on each hole and how many points they have won until the round is completed. When the round is done you total up each team’s points and pay the winning team according to their margin of victory. In our example lets say Team ‘A’ finished with a total of 42 points and Team ‘B’, thanks to few big holes, finished with 74 points. Team ‘A’ therefore owes Team ‘B’ the value of 32 points. If you decided, before the game, to play for a buck a point then Team ‘A’ owes Team ‘B’ $32 bucks (basically they buy lunch on the deck after the round).

What makes Vegas such a great game though is a few scoring rules that make it possible for things to swing quickly. When a player birdies a hole whatever points his/her team may win on that hole are automatically doubled. If a team eagles a hole, their points are tripled. For example if Team ‘A’ scores a 5 and a 6 on a par five and Team ‘B’ score a 3 and a 5. The difference is 21 points. Team ‘B’ got an eagle on that hole though so the difference is tripled and Team ‘B’ actually wins 63 points! This means that no matter whether one team has been beaten five holes in a row, they are never out of the game and every shot, even the two-footers, are crucial. The end result is round of golf with lots of friendly ribbing and clutch shots. And after all, isn’t that what playing with your buddies is all about?

If you want to try a high roller’s version of this Vegas, try a version called Monte Carlo. In this version a team score is calculated by multiplying the numbers together. Therefore in our example from the top Team ‘A’s score of 4 and 6 becomes 24 and Team ‘B’s score becomes 35. The net difference is still 11 but with the multiplicative nature of Monte the point differences can quickly add-up.


An oldie but a goody, Skins is one of the most widely recognized and exciting golf games in the world. What makes skins so appealing is that it is easy to score, fun to play and can be contested by any number of players from a twosome to a group of sixteen. The standard number however is still four. If you play off the low man’s handicap it also means that no matter what your skill level, you can compete with the best of them and still relieve them of some funds!

In Skins your total round score is completely inconsequential. It is how you do on each individual hole that counts. The object of the game is for you to be the player with the lowest score on a hole. If you score a 4 on a hole and everybody else scores 5 or higher on that same hole then you win the skin. What makes the game interesting though is that if any two players tie on a hole, the skin is carried over and the next hole that is played is worth two skins. Confused? Here is how it works.

Let’s take a sample foursome: Bill, John, Alice and Lisa. On the very first hole Bill scores and 6, John and Alice both shoot a 5 but Lisa shoots a 4. Lisa wins the ‘skin’. On the second hole Bill shoots a 3, John, Alice and Lisa all shoot a 4. Bill wins the ‘skin’. Lisa and Bill each now have one ‘skin’. On the third hole John and Alice each shoot a 5 while Bill and Lisa shoot a 6 and a 7 respectively. Since John and Alice tied for the low score on the hole no one wins the ‘skin’. Instead that ‘skin’ is ‘carried over’ to the fourth hole and the fourth hole will now be worth two ‘skins’. On the next hole Bill and John both shoot a 3 while Lisa shoots a 4 and Alice shoots a 5. Since there is a tie again the two ‘skins’ that were up for grabs carry over to the next hole (hole number five) and now the fifth hole will be worth three skins. On the fifth hole John scores a 4 while Bill shoots a 7 and Lisa and Alice each shoot 5. Since John has the low score on that hole and no one tied him he wins the ‘skin’ for that hole and the two others that were carried over from the previous two holes. John therefore wins three ‘skins’. The total score so far for the game is therefore Bill and Lisa with one skin each and John with three. The next hole will be worth the normal one ‘skin’.

This scoring method continues until all eighteen holes have been played. When the round is done you tally each person’s total ‘skins’ and divide up the predetermined purse accordingly.


The perfect game for those of us who really don’t know what to expect each time we step onto the tee, Junk is really a compilation of multiple side bets. The fun thing about Junk is that is gives hackers a chance to earn something from our bad fortune, or our outright flukes. The bad thing about Junk is that it takes a fair amount of paper and dedication to keep track of. If you are willing to do it though it can be a heck of a lot of fun. There are about a million and eight different possible Junk bets. Here are a few of the more common ones. Whatever you do though, decide which ones you are going to play before the round starts and how many points each of them is going to be worth.

  • Costeau/Shark: Put a ball into the water but still make par.
  • Woodie: Hit a tree during the hole but still make par.
  • Ferret: Chipping into the hole from off the green.
  • Desert Ferret/Azinger: Chip into the hole from the trap.
  • Sandie: Make a par from the greenside trap.
  • Super Sandie: Make a par from the fairway trap.
  • Exotic Sandie: Make a par when your ball was in both a fairway and greenside bunker. One of our contributors says that if any of his foursome does this, the player gets called the ‘Desert Fox’ (after the WWII General Rommel who was apparently also good in the sand) until someone else matches the feat, regardless of how many rounds that takes. Now do you see what we mean about Junk?!
  • Flaggy: Sink a put longer than the flagstick.
  • KP: Closest shot to the pin on a par three.
  • Greenie: Closest shot to the pin on a par three and make par or better.
  • Arnie: Shoot a par on a par four or five without being on the fairway or the green in regulation.
  • Hogan: Par a par four or five while being on the fairway and the green in regulation.
  • Jones: Birdie a par four or five while being on the fairway and the green in regulation.
  • Legends: Playing a game of Arnie’s, Hogan’s and Jones’.
  • Murphy: Call an up and down from off the green. If you miss a Murphy you obviously lose points.
  • Bambino/Ruth: A tribute to the bambino and his apparent called shot in the World Series. Calling any kind of shot from anywhere on the course (except a putt) and executing it. A Ruth must be heard, accepted and judged by the other members of your group. The more exotic the shot the higher the point value should be. Miss a Bambino/Ruth and you obviously lose the points.
  • Lewis/Clark: Hit the ball into the wrong fairway and still make par.

In the following Junk games you lose points.

  • Snake: Any three-putt.
  • Mole: Fail to get out of a bunker on your first try.
  • Duval: Fail to get out of a bunker on your second try. This one is a rather unfriendly tribute to David Duval’s difficulties with the pot bunker on the 17th hole at St. Andrews during The Open Championship.
  • Van de Veld: A triple bogey on a par five. We all know what this is a rather unfriendly tribute to.


In Stableford, unlike traditional golf, you want your scorecard to be filled with “+” signs. That is because you earn points for good scores. At the end of the round you then compare your point total to those of your competitors and the person with the highest point total wins. It is similar to match play in that for the most part the player with the best round will win. However, due to the way the point system is structured to reward aggressive play, it is possible for a player, with a few well-placed birdies or eagles, to win the competition even though he may not have the lowest stroke total.

Here is how the system works. In Stableford a Double Eagle is worth +8 points, an Eagle is worth +5 points, a Birdie is worth +2 points, a Par is worth 0 points, a Bogey is worth -1 point and a Double Bogey or higher is worth -2 points. As you can see by this sliding scale of reward if a player gets lucky on a hole and scores an eagle they can quickly make up for a one or two bad holes and pass a player who has been rock-steady with nothing but pars. This is the appeal of Stableford. It only takes one or two good holes to overtake your opponent or to be overtaken yourself.

The two ways that Stableford can be competed is through either a purse situation or in a match situation.

In a purse situation everyone contributes a preset amount to the pot and at the end of the round it is divided up amongst the foursome as was predetermined (i.e. winner take all or 1st place gets 75% and 2nd gets 25%). How the purse is divided is entirely up to you.

In a match situation every point you earn is worth a set amount (make sure you decide this before you play). At the end of the round you compare your points to those of your competition. The difference between your score and the scores of your competitors is what you either earn or pay to each of your opponents. Take four sample players with the following scores at the end of their rounds. Bill +10, Mike 0, Ted -5, Jim -2. Bill obviously is the winner and gets the predetermined value of 10 points from Mike, 15 from Ted and 13 from Jim. In turn Mike will get 5 from Ted and 2 from Jim. Jim will get 3 points from Ted. Ted will get nothing but “Thank Yous” from his playing partners!

If you want to make things more interesting one wrinkle you can add to the game is to have each player declare a “Joker-Hole” (sometimes referred to as a Wild Card Hole) before the round begins. On that hole the player’s points (whether positive or negative) are doubled. It adds an element of danger and strategy to the game, particularly if the big hitters chose two par-fives for their joker holes.

Regardless of which version of Stableford you play don’t forget to factor in handicaps. While it is possible to play off the low handicap it is generally more entertaining to play traditional handicaps. It greatly increases the potential for eagles and makes the matches that much more interesting!


Wolf is played with four players and each player plays independently of each other. Winner of the game is the player with the most points at the end of the round. Before the first hole, the order of play is decided (either by drawing numbers or spinning a tee or any other random format) and that rotation is strictly adhered to. The ‘Wolf’ is always the last player to tee off. Each hole, the players rotate the tee-off order by one person so that each player becomes the wolf every four holes. For the last two holes the first and second players are Wolf, respectively.

After the tee shot of each player, the Wolf decides whether or not to take that player as his/her teammate. They must however make that decision before the next player tees off. There is no sitting back and deciding which of the tee shots you liked best before picking your teammate, nor is there any changing your mind. Once you have stated yes or no to that player there is no going back. If after all three other players have teed off, the Wolf can decide to play as a ‘Lone Wolf’ if he/she feels that they can beat all three other players. The Lone Wolf must make this decision though before he/she tees off. This of course adds pressure to the situation and prevents the Wolf from choosing to take the third person as their partner simply because their tee shot sucked slightly-less than their own. As the Lone Wolf, the player plays alone and tries to shoot the lowest net score on the hole. If the wolf doesn’t go it alone then the hole is played in best ball format with only the best net score of each team counting as the team score. Scoring in Wolf can be easily structured however your foursome wishes but it is generally played with the following point system:

  • Wolf and partner win the hole: They each win 2 points.
  • Non-Wolf partners win the hole: They each win 3 points.
  • Lone Wolf beats all other players: Lone Wolf wins 4 points.
  • Any player beats the Lone Wolf on a hole: All non-wolves win 1 point.

The two ways that Wolf can either be competed for a purse or for points. With each point being worth a predetermined amount.

In a purse situation everyone contributes a preset amount to the pot and at the end of the round it is divided up amongst the foursome as was predetermined (i.e. winner take all or 1st place gets 75% and 2nd gets 25%). How the purse is divided is entirely up to you.

In a match situation every point you earn is worth a set amount (make sure you decide this before you play). At the end of the round you compare your points to those of your competition. The difference between your score and the scores of your competitors is what you either earn or pay to each of your opponents. Take four sample players with the following number of points at the end of their rounds. Bill 8, Mike 14, Ted 9, Jim 6. Mike gets 6 points from Bill, 5 from Ted and 8 from Jim. Bill gets nothing from Mike, 1 from Ted and 2 from Jim. Ted and Jim will calculate their earnings or payouts in the same way.


If you have ever heard the word “press” emanating from the group in front, it’s a pretty good chance they are playing a Nassau.

Nassau is actually three matches in one: one match on the front nine, one on the back nine, and one on all eighteen holes. Nassau is often referred to as 2,2 and 2 since you play in pairs and the 2 usually refers to some non-monetary wager (two beers or two balls, etc) per match. The total wager per person is therefore is six of something.

Each Nassau game can be match play, medal play, or, if you really want to get things complicated, you can play both. In match play, players keep track of who wins each hole on the front nine, restart the match on the back nine, and then sum up the two to find out who wins the total. Play can be between individuals or teams. In team play, everyone uses their net score and plays off of the lowest player’s handicap.

What makes Nassau so popular though is something called the Press. Similar to calling double or nothing in a standard bet, a player or team will press when they are down in their match and want a chance to earn some of their money back. Pressing means that while the original game goes on you are now starting another game from that point on. i.e. If your team is losing a match on the front nine and you decide to press on the 6th hole your team is now involved in two independent matches – the original nine hole match and a new match for holes 6,7,8 &9. The new match is always worth the same amount as the original match. If the team that pressed wins the new match but loses the original one they will come out even. If they manage to turn things around and win their original match as well as the press match then they have succeeded in doubling their earnings.

Competitors are under now formal obligation to accept a press but it is generally considered bad form to decline a press. The danger with presses however is that there is no formal limit to the number of presses that can be wagered. As a result it is quite common in Nassau to have several matches above and beyond the original three going on. As a result if you are not careful you will need a calculator and the services of Stephen Hawking to figure out exactly who owes what to whom. To avoid these situations arising it is often wise to establish a few rules regarding pressing before you start the game. Be careful not to make them too ridged though since pressing is really what makes Nassau the game that it is.

Here are some sample rules regarding pressing. The final decision and the kind of rules that you adopt are of course entirely up to you.

  • Presses are only allowed if one team has already won the original wager (e.g. four holes up with three to go).
  • Presses are allowed only on the last four holes of each nine.
  • Presses are allowed only if one team is losing (no pressing on ties).
  • A team cannot press more than twice per nine holes.