Need to spice up your rounds? Try these
games the next time you are on the course.
Bingo Bango Bongo
Does sound like a name for a golf game but
it is one of our favorites. A player receives a point for each of the
First On The Green - Bingo
Closest To The Pin (Once everyone is on) - Bango
First One To Finish Hole - Bongo
The player to accumulate the most points win. This fun thing about this
game is that the final score is irrelevant, and the game is not necessary
won by who can golf the lowest score. Perfect game to play when you have a
group that has a mix of skill levels.
Pick Up Sticks
Pick Up Sticks requires some strategy other than just playing good golf.
It's also quite entertaining.
For each hole a player loses (play is match play), the player may take
one club from their opponent's bag out of play. The opponent may reclaim
the clubs one at a time, in any order, as the golfer wins holes back.
Half-handicaps should be used.
Players should decide before the match whether they can take away
putters. Most choose to give the putter immunity, because it's too much of
a handicap not to have one. Accomplished players can work around the
absence of other clubs by choking up, hitting fades, and so forth, but
it's almost comical not to have a putter.
You can putt pretty well with a sand wedge or a one- or two-iron. Fuzzy
Zoeller once broke his putter in a tantrum, and he was forced to finish
his round using a wedge for a putter, since PGA rules prohibit club
replacement. And Ben Crenshaw once finished a round by putting with his
In any event, assuming the putter gets immunity, what are the best
clubs to take from your opponent? Though many golfers immediately pick the
driver, it's probably the worst club to select. You'd be doing most
players a favor by making them tee off with a three-wood or a two-iron.
Obviously, a lot depends on your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, as
well as the specific challenges of the holes immediately ahead. In
general, the sand wedge is the best club to take away. Many good players
use it for nearly every shot inside 100 yards. Also, it's tough to recover
from greenside bunkers using any club but a sand wedge. On the other hand,
if the player carries a lob wedge, taking his sand wedge won't matter
Pick Up Sticks may seem a silly game, but I highly recommend it for
beginners. Many of the golf greats learned to play with incomplete bags.
The game forces you to create shots, such as "punch fading" a
four-iron to hit it as far as a six, or hitting a "running hook"
with a six to send it as far as a four. We all tend to get lazy, carrying
specialty clubs for every possible lie (yes, I mean you with the
"Divine Nine"), so Pick Up Sticks is a healthy and fun
Instead of using handicaps in the normal fashion, No Alibis players may
replay a certain number of shots during the round. Usually, the number of
replays is three-fourths of a player's handicap. When replaying, the
golfer must use the second shot, regardless of where it goes. He can't
decide to play his first ball, and he can't replay the same shot twice.
No Alibis is also known as "Criers & Whiners" because
it's the ideal game to play with those prone to such behavior - the sort
who always follows rounds with comments like, "if I could just have
that one shot back when the wind came up..." This game will shut them
Also called "Wolfman", Wolf is a three-player game. The golfer
with the middle-distance drive, regardless of where it lands, is the
"wolf". His opponents are the "hunters". The wolf must
match twice his net score on the hole against the combined net scores of
the hunters. If the amount wagered on each hole is a dollar, the wolf puts
up two dollars against one each for the hunters. If the wolf wins, he
collects two dollars, whereas the hunters get only one each.
On par-three holes, the wolf is the second-closest to the pin after the
If there's a tie, players decide whether the stakes carry to the next
hole. Any amount carried over goes to the next winning "team",
whether it's the wolf or the hunters. Carryovers make Wolf a more
interesting game. Large pots make it advantageous to be the wolf, because
the wolf doesn't split the pot. Thus, strategy off the tee becomes
important, and players will jockey to become the wolf.
Honor off the tee is established by the net score on the previous hole.
Play with full handicaps.
Scotch Foursome -a.k.a.
Scotch Foursomes are the most popular gambling format in Great Britain,
where it's simply called a "Foursome."
To play, pairs alternate shots from tee to green until the ball is in
the hole, although one player should drive all the even holes and the
other the odd. Use one-half of combined handicaps.
You must put some thought into who drives which holes. Do the holes
that require a good carry tend to be odd or even? Put your long hitter on
those tees. Do the par-threes fall on the odds or evens? Put your target
hitter on them.
The Scotch Foursome is an excellent game. It really brings a team
together, for better or worse. It's also a fast game, as players tend to
walk ahead of their partners in a leapfrog fashion. The popularity of this
format is one of the main reasons golf is played faster overseas, where a
quick pace is de rigueur. Most players in the U.S. could use a
dose of this mentality.
Not being much of a card player, I can only take it on faith that this
game has something to do with bridge. On the other hand, I don't really
care, because this is an excellent golf game for foursomes.
At the tee, one pair makes a "bid" on how many strokes (play
net or gross) it will take their team to complete the hole. For instance,
if they bid 10, they are betting they can play the hole in 10 strokes or
fewer combined. The bet is typically a dollar a player.
The other team then has three options:
1. Bid lower than 10.
2. Take the bet
3. Take the bet and double it.
The first team may then double it back, if they wish.
Once the bidding finishes, play the hole. One option is to add a penalty
point/dollar for each stroke the winning bidder incurs over bogey.
In this game, each golfer plays 36 holes. Each then arrives at a final
score by combining the two rounds, selecting the best net score from each
of the 18 holes. The winner is the player with the lowest total. This
format is usually played with two-thirds or three-fourths handicap.
Selected score is a fun, leisurely format to use over a weekend,
although I've seen some fanatics pack it all into one day.
Also known as Stroke Play. Medal Play is the most basic format for golf
tournaments. Contestants simply play 18 holes and prizes go to players
with the best gross scores and net scores. Use handicaps from 80-100% -
preferably on the lower side to prevent sandbagging.
Medal Play is the most serious and least forgiving tournament format
(no gimmies!), so it's often used for club championships.
In a Scramble, each foursome is a team competing against all other
foursomes. Each player in the group drives off the tee, then all four
golfers play their second shorts from the best-driven ball. All then play
their third shots from the best second ball, and so on. Each player in a
foursome must have at least four of their drives used by the group. Don't
wait until the end!
Handicaps are not used during play, but they are used to create teams.
All players should split into four handicap groups (lowest to highest).
Use four hats, and pick a player from each hat to form a team.
"A" and "B" players should tee off from the back
A Scramble usually calls for a shotgun start, preceded by lunch or
followed by dinner. Seven-or-eight-under is usually the score to beat.
In a Flag Tournament, each player receives a certain number of strokes -
usually the course par plus two-thirds of the player's full handicap. So,
a 15-handicapper on a par-72 course gets 82 strokes. He then plays 82
shots and stops, planting a flag on the spot where his 82nd shot landed.
The flags should be provided on the first tee by the tournament
director. Each participant should have his name taped to his flag. This
way, as players make their way through the back nine, they can see where
others bit the dust.
If a player finishes all 18 holes before using his total strokes, he
should either keep playing until he's out of strokes or stop. Under the
first option, the winner is the player who plants his flag farthest on the
course. Under the second, the winner is whoever has the most strokes
remaining after 18 holes. The reason two-thirds handicap is used, though,
is so most people will finish somewhere inside of regulation.
One additional rule: You can't plant a flag past a hole that you
haven't completed. In other words, if you're five feet short of a green
with one stroke left, you can't blast the ball with your 2-iron onto the
next fairway. Also, if the farthest two players both finish on the same
green, the winner is the golfer closer to the hole.
A flag tournament is essentially Stroke Play with a handicap, but the
twist makes it a little more interesting.
The USGA notes, appropriately, that American flags should never be used
To play Pink Ball, use teams of four. Each foursome has a hideous, bright
pink ball that rotates among players. (Of course, the ball can be any
color, but the more obnoxious, the better.) Player 1 uses it on the first
hole, player 2 on the second, and so on. Take the best two net scores on
each hole and add them. Whoever has the pink ball on a given hole must
contribute one of the two scores.
One variation: The golfer with the pink ball is automatically
disqualified if he loses it. This is perhaps too harsh, so I don't
recommend it. Players should have a reason to stay interested, after all.
Another, less harsh, variation: Keep the overall net score for the pink
ball separately, and give a prize to the team with the best pink ball
score. If a team loses the pink ball, it's out. This makes for
considerable camaraderie (and tension) if you're playing on a course with
a lot of water.
Also known as "Disaster". Trouble is a point game in which your
actual score isn't relevant, at least not directly. The goal is to collect
the least number of "trouble points" possible during a round.
Players shoot for a set amount per point, often a dollar. Thus, a
player accumulating three trouble points owes each of his opponents three
Points are assigned as follows:
out of bounds - 1
water hazard - 1
bunker - 1
three-putt - 1
leaving ball in bunker - 2*
hitting from one bunker to another - 2
four-putt - 3
whiffed ball - 4
*Take an additional two points if you leave the ball in
again and so on.
A player can erase all the points accumulated on a given hole by making
par. At the end of the round, simply net all the points against each other
and settle up.
Trouble is an excellent game for the intermediate player. Often, such
players are feeling pretty smug as their handicaps drop, and they need to
be taken down a notch or two. Trouble encourages smart golf (again, not to
be confused with fun golf) and might just produce some surprisingly low
round for all those would-be daredevils out there.