Depending on where you live in the world, the golf season is starting to wind down for the year – sorry to damper the mood of this post from the opening, but I promise you’ll be thinking and getting excited about 2021 very shortly, and not only because we should all get to play more golf this upcoming year than we did during the Year of COVID. (See how quickly that was?)
That’s right, 2021 will hopefully be back to “normal” and we will all bask in the glory of the world of golf once again, where we sit next to each other in the cart, shake hands rather than touch elbows, and maybe – just maybe – even get to pull the pin once or twice. But what we’re all surely looking forward to the most when golfing with our friends, and sometimes with strangers, is another year of putting a little wager down to make our rounds just a bit more interesting. That’s why with the 2020 season winding down we’re going to talk about the best golf money games, specifically our favorite three that a surprising amount of golfers have never heard of or played before. But we’re also going to touch on the three types of players to look out for when you’re thinking of wagering your hard-earned money on a game with strangers. Let’s go!
Top Three Best Golf Money Games
At the top of our list, but third in our hearts, is for those who don’t mind wagering more than a couple of bucks a hole, so it’s no wonder why our favorite higher-stakes betting game is named after our favorite City of Sin: Vegas. How to play:
Before the round you will want to pick your partner and your poison (i.e. how much money you’re prepared to lose per point). Your team owes the other team based on how many points differ between your team’s combined score into double digits. For example, you drain a gorgeous twenty-foot putt to save a par 4, and your partner blows it by missing a three footer for bogey and scores a double, then your point total is 46 (you always take the lower score as the first number). If your opponents both par the hole for a 44, your team is down two points.
Easy enough to understand, no doubt, and two points doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you’re playing for, say, $5 or $10 a point, and your opponents both double the same hole for a total of 66, well, you just scored 20 points. Now do the math. Remember, this game, just like Vegas, can get out of hand in a hurry, and you may very well be going home to your significant other with the same Vegas golden rule, that what happened playing Vegas on the course stays on the course.
Do you go pin hunting in a pack of two with a friend, or do you play the hole as a lone wolf? That’s the question you must ask yourself in the always entertaining game that is aptly called Wolf. How to play:
Let’s say you’re first up to be the wolf on hole number one. You hit your drive and split the fairway. You then watch players two (in the bush), three (tops it), and four (also in the bush) hit their drives. You smell blood and don’t want to pair up with any of them, so you decide to be a lone wolf and try to beat all of them – who are now a in a team of three – in lowest score for the hole, which is the ultimate goal of the game. You score a par 4 and they bogey and double bogey the hole. You win some hard-earned cash.
Now, let’s take the same scenario for hole number five where you’re the wolf again, but this time you hit it into the deep rough and player two splits the fairway. You now have to decide whether you’d be better served to pair up with player two in a pack or go the lone wolf again. You have to decide right away before player three hits their drive. You play it safe and choose player two. You score a bogey and so do players three and four in their team, but player two – your partner – saves par. You still win some hard-earned cash.
So why ever choose to go the lone wolf in the first place, if you always have the chance to hedge your bet? Well, winning as a lone wolf means you win more cash – often double compared to when in a team – and sometimes a small hint of blood and hunting alone can pay off in a big way.
Betting is as betting does: when you’re down in dough you can’t help but want to win it all back before the day is done. That’s the spirit of the wager, and that’s why our vote for best golf money game goes to Nassau, where you can’t help but push, push, push with only a few holes to go in a last gasp effort to break even. How to play:
You choose whether you’re playing as singles or as teams of two before the round, and you choose the amount of wager – it could be the classic $2/$2/$2 or $5/$5/$5 bets, but there’s no one stopping you and your group from making it rain. The wagers are split up as follows: front nine, back nine, overall with match play, or lowest front, lowest back, lowest total with stroke play. But it’s important to also establish prior to hole number one whether handicaps will be used, and whether pressing or auto-pressing is in play (pro tip: always putting presses in play will always result in more fun and excitement).
Before going down the rabbit hole of pressing, it’s often a good idea to cap the number of presses so as not to let the round get too out of hand and confusing to score. For readability’s sake, let’s stick with one press for now, and with match play, as it’s often the go-to way to play.
You and your mate are feeling good, you’re playing loose, and you’re up by two after two. Down by two after two and your other friends, being on tilt, decide to press and get back to square by doubling down. You’re now back to square for the remaining number of holes on that nine, but this time, if you win the remaining holes then you win double the bet – if they win, of course, they just saved their bacon.
The convention of comradery within the great game of golf stipulates that you’ll say yes to a press so that your friend(s) has a chance to not lose his shirt, but sometimes convention is nowhere to be found if you ever find yourself betting with strangers, so let’s take a look at the three types of golfers you should always look out for when you’re thinking of laying it on the line with someone you’ve just met.
Three Types of Golfers to Look Out for When Betting
#3 The Sandbagger
What is a sandbagger in golf? To put it plainly, a sandbagger is a lying, cheating, good-for-nothing piece of – whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s simmer down a little. It’s easy to get carried away when talking about a golf sandbagger because we’ve all likely encountered one at some point in our golfing lives, but if you haven’t, you just might want to look for some tell-tale signs. First and foremost, if you ever meet someone who wants to put down a wager and they are the first person to bring up their not-so-good handicap, well, your skeptic alarm bells should start going off, as that’s your first red flag.
A sandbagger is someone who will clearly, and vocally, downplay their golfing ability. They’ll mention how they “haven’t played in forever”, or how “they used to be good”, or how “they’re unsure if they want to bet anything, but what the hell, why not?” Sound familiar? If it does then you’ve probably watched countless sandbaggers walk away from your local tournaments with a new golf bag, a box of new Pro V1s, and much more, as every tournament will include at least one person who cares more about taking home a prize at the expense of leaving their integrity behind. But they’re not only found at tournaments, they’re everywhere. You’ve been warned.
#2 The Hustler
Cut from the same cloth as the sandbagger, the golf hustler is out for himself. He wants to win money off of unsuspecting players – he needs it; in fact, he can even sometimes make a living off of hustling others out of their hard-earned cash. So what is a golf hustler? Well, keep an eye out on the range while you warm up and look for the guy who’s spraying everything left and then right, chunking his wedges, thinning his irons, but who is all the while doing so with blades. He’s putting on a show for the unsuspecting sucker, as the hustler is someone who purposefully plays like a weekend golfer until the bet gets made and the round begins.
But there’s more to watch for with the hustler, as he may not show up right away on the course; no, he may want to make his round really worth while. For example, if you find yourself in a match and you’re up early on, but your competitor asks to press, even though he’s playing superbly bad to the point where only an idiot would try to press at a time like that, but then he wins the next hole and quickly starts to hit flush shot after shot and getting better, and better, and better throughout the round, well, it’s too late – you’ve just been hustled and you don’t even know what hit you. Watch out for the hustler because he’s always looking out for you.
#1 The Shark
The only thing the shark and the hustler have in common is that they’re both really good at golf. Where they differ, however, is that one has integrity and the other is a hustler. What is a golf shark? Well, you’ll know who the shark is at your club because members will talk about him early on when you first arrive onto the scene. Everyone knows who the shark is, because he’s one of the best, if not the best, golfers around. The shark is methodical in his approach to the game; the shark doesn’t go hunting for people, though, because the shark hunts pins; the shark is the best because the shark wants to be the king of the ocean. This sounds intimidating, but the shark is not someone to be afraid of, for the following reasons:
The shark will let you know they’re really good at golf, because they don’t want to deceive anyone out of their money. They will always be as fair as possible when dealing with handicaps and handing out strokes – often even offering an extra one or two out of generosity and in the spirit of the game. The shark is honest. But make no mistake about it, they’re really good at golf. So good, in fact, that be forewarned when you receive an extra stroke or two, as that’s merely the shark’s way of creating a slightly competitive landscape for themselves during the match, because it’s their competitive nature that drives them to victory; and it’s why they always end up jumping and diving through their riches like Donald Duck on DuckTales. Also make no mistake about it: if you enjoy strong competition to test your skills then the shark is someone you may want to go hunting for – they’re the king of the ocean for a reason, and there’s no one better who can crank your pressure meter when you have funds flowing. If you want to test your best, then you need to play against the best. But keep in mind that you just might want to stay away from playing one of the above games with high stakes when you do try to swim with the big boy.