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Going for broke

Gambling games and side bets can be a fun way to keep a round lively - unless, of course, the cash flow always heads in the wrong direction.

By Al PetersenPublished: October, 2012

When I’m on the first tee and members of my group start talking about gambling games, I pretend not to listen. I usually wait until they’re finished, ask to be informed what I owe when we’re done, and then proceed to shank my drive into the trees. Ka-ching!

Some of the games require an extra scorecard to keep track of the skins, greenies, chippies, sandies and wedgies involved, but a few side bets can make a round more interesting. If that’s the way you feel, here are some games to try. Perhaps you’ve played some or have a different name for them. Whatever the case, it’s all the same to me because each leads to the same conclusion – a lighter wallet.

This game is the opposite of two-man best ball because each team decides what tee shot the other team must use.
Why: It’s a good way to get under the skin of an opponent who is bad off the tee.
Me: The name of the game says it all.

Players can use their handicap strokes on any hole until they run out, with a two-stroke maximum per hole. The handicap stroke (or two) must be declared before the tee shot on that hole, and the player with the low net score wins the pot.
Why: This is good for players who struggle on a particular hole.
Me: Every hole is a struggle.

The most common form is the $2 Nassau, with the front nine, back nine and 18-hole total all worth $2. Thus, a player or team sweeping all three will win $6. Full or partial handicaps can be used if there’s a wide discrepancy in skill levels.
Why: It’s easy and keeps things interesting for all 18 holes.
Me: I was in the Bahamas once but never made it to Nassau.

Players rotate being the wolf, which allows a player on his hole to choose a partner or play his own ball. The wolf can’t wait until all three players have hit before choosing a partner. If he wants to partner with the first guy off the tee he must declare that after the tee shot. The side with the lowest better-ball score wins the hole. If the wolf thinks he can win the hole on his own after everyone else’s tee shot, he says so before hitting and wins or loses triple the points. The player with the most points at the end of the round wins.
Why: It’s a good way to find out who your real buddies are.
Me: Why does everyone intentionally spray their tee shots when I’m the wolf?

Each player takes his course handicap and subtracts that number from 36, which becomes the point quota to make. Typical scoring is one point for a bogey, two for a par, four for a birdie and eight for an eagle. The player with the most points above his quota wins a predetermined pot.
Why: In this game, birdies really mean a lot to the average golfer.
Me: What’s a birdie?

Each player gets to throw out his score on three holes, with the best 15-hole score winning the pot.
Why: This is fun for high-handicap groups because a few disastrous holes won’t ruin the round.
Me: I love baseball.

The first player to win a hole outright captures the rabbit. If someone else then wins a hole, the rabbit is set free and can be captured again on the next hole. The winner is the player who holds the rabbit on the ninth hole and the 18th hole because it’s set free again after the turn.
Why: It’s a simple concept that gives players something to shoot for each hole.
Me: I’ve never been able to catch one of those wascally things.

This game awards three types of achievements. The first player to get his 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 the player who is first to hole out gets a point (bongo). The person with the most points at the end of the round wins.
Why: It gives hackers a chance to earn points along with low-handicappers.
Me: The confusion drives me bonkers, bonkers, bonkers.

A typical point distribution is five for a bogey, 15 for a par, 30 for a birdie and 60 for an eagle. After earning points on a hole, players have the option of banking the amount or “letting it ride,” meaning the points are doubled for the next hole. But if a player taking that option makes a double bogey or worse, his non-banked points revert to zero. Banked points can’t be taken away and are credited at the end of the round. Players with the highest point totals are paid a predetermined amount for every point they’ve earned in relation to the other players.
Why: You’re a hardcore gambler and can’t help yourself.
Me: Is there an ATM nearby?


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Readers Feedback:

Floyd here talks mostly about the mecchnias of his style of short game (chip like you putt, etc.) and instructs you to practice each shot thoroughly before attempting it on the course. This is all good information but you can find it basically anywhere. He doesn't really shed any new light on the short game here.
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