Playing golf by itself can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it can be made more fun.
Let’s face it, most of us will never know what it’s like to play on the PGA Tour. Playing for big money, having to make pressure putts and getting to throw some trash talk around is usually reserved for the likes of Phil Mickelson and John Daly.
That being said, there are plenty of little games that you and your golf buddies can play that’ll make you feel like you’re playing on the biggest stage
Here are 8 great golf betting games you can play, regardless of your group size or ability levels:
“Let it Ride”
If you’re a serious gambler and a serious player, then “Let it Ride” is the game for you. If you’re not close to a single digit handicap or someone who is afraid of losing their money, then you should avoid this game. It can be a bit tough to follow and painful losses can ensue. Here’s how to play:
- Players earn points for bogies, pars, birdies, eagles.
- Values are given to each score in 5-point increments (bogey worth 5 points)
- After earning points, players can bank points or “let it ride”
- If you let the points ride, you must make the same or better score as the previous hole
- Points on the next hole are worth double the previous hole (bogey worth 10, eagle worth 40, etc)
- If you score worse than the previous hole, you lose all accrued points that haven’t been banked
- Banked points are added at the end of the round
- Most points wins pot.
As you can see, you’ve got to be pretty-damn confident in your abilities if you’re going to play “let it ride.” There’s very little room for error when you’re trying to be consistent and point values are increasing that rapidly.
That being said, I’ve played a few times and it’s a blast — especially if you don’t throw too much into the pot.
One of my favorite games to play with a foursome of varying talent-level players is “Quota” — a game that levels the playing field and awards points for making low scores. Here’s how to play:
- Each player throws in agreed upon amount into pot
- Each player subtracts handicap from 36 — this is their “Quota”
- Pars, Bogies, Birdies, Eagles, etc are all assigned point values
- Whoever has most points above their quota wins the pot
Quota is a great game for a number of reasons, most of all because it pretty much levels the playing field for everyone. I mean, you probably don’t want a scratch golfer playing against a 2-handicap in this situation, but a 5-handicap v. 10-handicap is a perfect scenario.
If, for instance, you value bogies at a points, par at 2 points, 4 points for a birdie and 8 for an eagle and you’ll usually be able to keep things pretty close unless someone has a very bad — or good — day on the links.
Playing with a group of guys who love “gimmes” or who you’ve never seen make a 3-foot putt in your life? Then “Snake” is an awesome way to A. take their money or B. learn how to become a better clutch putter. Here’s how to play:
- Every time a player three-putts, an agreed upon amount goes into a pot
- For every three-putt, that amount is added to the pot
- There are versions where the amount added to the pot doubles with each 3-putt
- The last player to 3-putt for the round pays the amount of the pot to the other players
Seriously — you want to get better at putting and fast? Play snake with your buddies and you’ll start making those three, six and eight footers that normally would make you tremble like the San Andres with regularity.
“Bounce back” is a great game for amateurs to play because it rewards the ability to recover. It awards points to players who make god scores after bad holes. Here’s how to play:
- Players receive a point for every time they make par or better after making double or worse
- Points are worth a previously agreed upon dollar value
- If you make back-to-back double or worse, you lose a point
- If you make back-to-back pars or better, you add a point
Like “Trouble,” “Bounce Back” doesn’t necessarily work as a main wager game, but it is a fantastic side game and one that anyone can play. There are a few ways to score the points — which makes it easy to mold to your particular group.
Of all the games mentioned here, dots may be my favorite. It allows players of all abilities to have a shot at making some cash, no matter how bad the rest of their round was. Here’s how to play:
- Each hole is worth a dot
- If a hole is halved (even just by two of the players in the group), the dot carries to the next hole
- Who ever wins the hole, wins the dot
- Dots can be accrued over each nine or for the course of the entire round
True story about dot game: In Myrtle Beach three years ago, I shot 81, 84, 77, 82 over four days. My buddies Bill and Dom shot 78, 78, 80, 76 and 81, 82, 81, 77 respectively. Our buddy Hoover shot 91, 97, 104, 89 — and demolished all of us in dots.
At one point, Hoover made his only birdie of the round on a hole worth 7 dots. That’s incredible, isn’t it? That’s what makes dots so much fun — you don’t have to have the best round to be “dot man.”
It’s been said that the most important shot in golf is the next one — and that’s exactly what “Trouble” rewards. For amateurs, the recovery shot is more important than anything else. “Trouble” gives point values to bad shots and rewards the player who gets out of trouble the best. Here’s how to play:
- Point values are assigned to types of bad shots
- 1 point for hitting into a bunker, 2 for hitting into water, 3 for OB, etc)
- At the end of the day, the players with the lowest point total, wins.
- Points can be subtracted for holing out, saving par, par saves from bunkers, etc.
“Trouble” isn’t always the best for a main wager, but it’s a phenomenal side-bet game and one that really puts pressure on players to get better at making decisions and getting out of trouble. It’s a lot of fun, and if you play often enough, you’ll be shocked how quickly your game gets better.
Probably the most straight-forward game to play is just a regular-old match-play round. Everyone knows how to do play, everyone knows the rules:
- Each player tries to win as many holes as possible
- Player who wins most holes, wins match
- Handicaps and strokes to be decided and agreed on before matches
Match-play is a classic format that has been around forever. It’s the easiest way to have fun with your golf buddies because it doesn’t really reward any one type of player more than the other — especially if you play using handicaps.
Considering most mid-level amateurs usually can attribute a bad round to a couple of bad holes but are also capable of making pars frequently and a couple birdies, match-play is a great game to play because that rogue “9” on a hole won’t necessarily cost you the match.
Before the match, make sure that the money is agreed upon. Whether you’re betting only on the overall match, money per hole or any side bets, make sure that everything is agreed upon at the beginning so as to avoid any disagreements or anything of the sort.