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Games Golfers Play

There is so much to love about our sport. We talk about it a lot in the pages of this magazine, and rightfully so. From the challenge of hitting a pure shot or making a slippery putt to enjoying time with friends in natural surroundings and the endless pursuit of improvement, the allure of golf is nearly limitless.
 
And then there are the games within the game. Golfers love their betting games, especially here in Texas. Golf and gambling go together like good barbeque and cold beer.
 
We conducted a TGA Member survey and asked how often a wager of some kind is part of your regular golf game. An overwhelming majority of responders (94 percent in total) said they regularly like to play for something. Of that group, a quarter of them said they’ve got some action going whenever they put a tee in the ground.
 
So, we get it. Whether it’s for a soda or an adult beverage after the round or maybe even a couple bucks, Texas golfers enjoy a little action riding on the results of their golf games. It ramps up the pressure a little, and isn’t that part of the fun?
 
There are so many different and entertaining games to play on the course. And when you peel away the specific wager amount, golf betting games are really nothing more than imaginative scoring formats. Everyone knows the usual games, such as a Best Ball, Nassau or Skins. We won’t waste your time explaining those to you here.
 
Beyond the standard games, there are a host of inventive, entertaining and stress-inducing formats. Below, you’ll find some fun options to consider for your group the next time you get together to tee it up.
 
Wolf
 
This is a team game best played with four golfers. The teams switch up on every hole. To play, the group determines the order of which each player tees off and sticks to that order throughout the round. If you teed off first on the first hole, you go to the back of the line on the second hole, and the player who teed off behind you on No. 1 tees off first on No. 2 and so on.
 
On each hole, the person who tees off first has their opportunity to “pick or pass” on each player’s’ drive after that. After the third player hits however, the player who played first can no longer pick the second player. This is the same after the fourth player hits in regards to the third player. If the first player doesn’t like any of the other drives, they can decide to be “Wolf,” which pits that player against the other three as opposed to two, two-person teams. 
 
Each hole is worth two points per player, with one important exception. When a Lone Wolf is in play and the Lone Wolf wins the hole, they get 3 points. If the Lone Wolf loses, the other three players all get one point.
 
The object of the game is to accumulate the most points, which usually have a dollar amount affixed to them.
 
There are several variations to Wolf. A “Super Wolf” game allows the player with the least amount of points after 15 holes to automatically become the Wolf for the final three holes. “Blind Lone Wolf” occurs when the Wolf announces they will go Lone Wolf before anyone tees off. In Blind Lone Wolf, the point value for the hole doubles. 
 
Yet another variation of this game brings in the “Hammer.” When a team throws down the Hammer (usually by loudly proclaiming, “Hammer!”), they are challenging their opponents to double the point value for that hole. If the team being Hammered accepts, then the point value doubles. If they opt not to accept the Hammer, then the team who threw the Hammer automatically wins the Hammer bet. The original hole bet still remains.
 
Vegas
 
As the name suggests, this game is a favorite of gamblers. It can get pretty out of control depending on the wager amounts. It’s a two-person team game, and unlike Wolf, the teams remain the same throughout the round.
 
After each hole, the two teammates’ scores are combined to create a double-digit value. If one player makes a 4 on a hole, and their teammate makes a 5, then the team score is 45 (the lower number is placed first, with one exception). If both teammates make 4s, the team score is not eight; it’s 44.
 
Let’s say Team A finishes with a team score of 45 and Team B’s score is 56. To determine scoring for each hole, the smaller number is subtracted from the larger one. In this example, Team A wins 11 points (the difference between 56 and 45).
 
The scoring system allows for some wild swings in fortune, so to keep things amicable it’s a good idea to set conservative point values. The game really gets interesting (and stressful), when someone makes a birdie. This causes their opponent’s team score to “flip.” If Team A finishes with a team score of 35 – and the 3 is a birdie – then Team B’s team score of 56 becomes 65 instead. In this example, Team A would win 30 points on that hole.
 
It’s usually smart to agree on a cap for total losses for Vegas, otherwise things can really get out of hand in a hurry.
 
 
Banker
 
This game is a lot of fun, but it also can get a little complicated. Like Wolf, the order of play in Banker is set on the first tee and remains consistent throughout the round. Also like Wolf, the player who tees off first on the No. 1 hole goes to the back of the line for the second hole. That way there is a new Banker on every hole, and the player who tees off last is the Banker on that hole.
 
The Banker essentially is playing one-on-one against the other three players for that hole.
 
Before the first player tees off, they tell the Banker the wager amount/point value for their match on that hole. Each of the first three players on each hole gets to choose the wager amount against the Banker for that hole. Conservative players can keep the wager amount low; high-rollers can up the stakes against the Banker. It’s a good idea to set minimum and maximum wager/point values for a hole before the round begins.
 
Let’s say Player A tells the Banker they’re playing for 2 points on the first hole. After Player A tees off, they can decide to “press,” or double the wager/point value against the Banker for that hole. The same routine follows for Players B and C.
 
Once the Banker tees off, now they can decide to press the bet. The catch is if the Banker presses, they are doubling the bet against all three players regardless of whether those other players pressed during their turn.
 
When it comes to par-3 holes in this game, if a player wants to press the bet, he must do so while his ball is still in the air. The same is true for the Banker. If he wants to press all the bets, he must call out “press” before his ball lands.
 
Sixes (a.k.a. Round Robins)
 
This game is relatively simple compared the others above. It’s a two-person team game in which the teams change up after each six holes. Players A and B are teammates against Players C and D for the first six holes. Players A and C are teammates against Players B and D for holes 7-12. Players A and D are teammates against Players B and C for holes 13-18.
 
From there, it’s a simple best ball format. The lower score between teammates becomes that team’s score for each hole.
 
Bingo, Bango, Bongo
 
This is another fairly straightforward game that can be played as part of another, more involved game or by itself. You don’t need a full foursome, either. This one works with any number of players in your group.
 
After a point value is set, there are three ways to score on each hole. The first player to hit the green wins the Bingo. The player whose ball is closest to the hole after everyone reaches the green wins the Bango. The first player to hole a putt (or chip in) wins the Bongo.
 
Nine Points (a.k.a. 5-3-1)
 
This is a perfect game for threesomes. In fact, it only works when you have three players.
 
Every hole is worth some combination of 9 points. If there is an outright winner on the hole, that player receives 5 points. If there is not a tie between the other two players, then the player with the second lowest score gets 3 points. The highest score (last place) receives 1 point.
 
If there is an outright winner and the other two players tie, then the winner still gets 5 points, but the other two players each receives 2 points. If all three players tie on a hole, everyone gets 3 points. The player with the most points at the end of 18 holes wins.
 
The Dot Game (a.k.a. Trash or Garbage)
 
Like Bingo-Bango-Bongo, the Dot Game is one that can be combined with other games. It’s basically a bunch of side bets, but it also can be played as its own game.
 
The idea is to assign a point value to various situations. There are countless options to this game, but there are some standard categories. A “greeny” occurs anytime someone reaches the green in regulation and makes par or better. There’s a “sandy” when someone saves par (or better) from a bunker (greenside or fairway). Players score a “barky” if their ball hits a tree and they end up making par or better.
 
Players also receive Dots (or points) for making birdies, eagles, hole-in-ones and/or closest to the hole on par 3s. Some groups establish a longest drive Dot on certain holes. Your imagination is the only limit to creating Dot Game categories.