Our Crazy Golf Trip Side Games: How to gamble with irregular golfers

Sometimes, a simple $2 Nassau just won't cut it on the golf course.

Sometimes, a simple $2 Nassau just won’t cut it on the golf course.

On our recent Guys’ Getaway golf trip through the Indianapolis area, the four of us had a blast on our 36-holes a day, two-day trip.  This was our 3rd edition of the Golf Trip, but our first with four players.

While I was confident that the golf courses I’d selected would live up to their billing, I was a little worried about how our various golf games and side games would work out among our trip members.  You see, Dear Readers, to put it gently, the gang consists of four golfers of disparate talent.

Adding up the scores afterward, our foursome proved to contain a B+, B, C, and D players.  Sound a little harsh?  The average raw scores for the four of us over four rounds were as follows: 90.25 (B+), 90.75 (B, which was the OneBeardedGolfer), 103.75 (C), and 111.5 (d).

Complicating matters in trying to come up with appropriate games is that I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that keeps an official USGA Handicap.  So, ahead of time, it’s not like we could just guess on the appropriate handicaps and ask guys to put their money on the line.

The solution?

Not that kind of Daytona. At $0.10 per point, it's a friendly wager. At $5.00 per point, you'd better bring your checkbook.

Not that kind of Daytona. At $0.10 per point, it’s a friendly wager. At $5.00 per point, you’d better bring your checkbook.

We started the Trip playing a Daytona (or Las Vegas) during the first round.  If you’re not familiar with it, a Daytona is a stroke play game where teammates’ scores are paired rather than combined.  On each hole, two golfers pair their scores (as opposed to add the scores) together.

Like this: Player A scores 4, Player B scores 5 – that’s not a 9 (adding the scores), it’s a 45 (pairing the scores).

Teams rotated every hole, so it over 18 holes there were basically three six-hole matches.  Part of the beauty of the Daytona is that it allowed everyone to record a raw, gross score without penalizing less talented players’ wallets excessively at $0.10 per point.

Perhaps most importantly, the 18-hole gross scores were foundational scores upon which we could start calculating handicaps for the rest of the trip.

For the afternoon round of the first day, we played a Gross & Net Skins game.  We calculated a simple handicap for each player from the morning round based how the best score of the group (in this case our “B” player).

Get me a Lynx visor and call me Boom-Boom, because for the 2nd consecutive year I've owned the Skins Game.

Get me a Lynx visor and call me Boom-Boom, because for the 2nd consecutive year I’ve owned the Skins Game.

It may seem absurd that someone would get 36 strokes, but over the years, I’ve found this is the best way to handicap the field for a group containing regular and occasional golfers of varying skill.

And for the record, our “D” player (who got the 36 strokes) managed to win 7 1/2 skins, all Net, for a 21% take of all the skins.

The beauty of simultaneously having a gross and net game is that there basically two competitions going on: a gross skins game, basically for the Players, and a net skins game for the larger handicaps, so everyone has something to play for beyond camaraderie.

Plus, it gave the group another 18 holes of individual scores upon which to further refine the handicaps.

On a personal note, I may only play Skins Games going forward, because I won 19 of the 36 total skins.  Though, there was a lot of pure luck and fortuitous timing on my behalf.

Going into Day Two, we had a pretty good handle on how guys were playing and what were appropriate handicaps for our 3-inning Baseball game at the Brickyard.

This game shared similar scoring to a traditional Wolf game, except that partners were predetermined and rotated every 3 holes.  We played for gross scores on individual high and low scores per hole, with the net team total score adjusted for the individual players’ handicaps.

Adding a net component meant more complicated math when it came time to tally up the winners and losers, but it also made for a  more interesting result where really good play was rewarded.

For the final leg of the golf trip, we decided to set aside our egos and take pity on our weary bodies by playing a two-versus-two rotating Shamble, meaning partners shared their best drive and played their own ball in from there. Given that our drivers were getting more inaccurate as time went on instead of less wayward, this was definitely a strategic victory.

The nice thing about the 409 Model is that it's a bronze brick from either side, right or left-handed.

The nice thing about the 409 Model is that it’s a bronze brick from either side, right or left-handed.

For an added twist during the final round, I unleashed the 3-Putt Challenge: if you 3-putted on a hole, you had to putt left-handed on the subsequent hole(s) until you no longer 3-putted.  Deservedly, my mad genius bit me right in the hind-end, as I was the only one who 3-putted with Billy Barroo, which meant I got to repeat the experience on the next hole, too!

To set this game up properly, I borrowed an old Northwestern J.C. Snead 409 double-sided putter, which we aptly named Billy Baroo for the trip, to allow truly painful left-handed putting.

The gimmick, which was designed to keep the guys interested and focused at the end of two long days, was definitely a hit with the guys. Not only did you not want the humiliation of a 3-putt on your scorecard, you really didn’t want to have to putt on the next hole left-handed.

Billy Baroo provided a bit of comic relief too, as on several occasions, someone would hit a good drive and a good approach, only to be reminded that the impending birdie putt would be made with antique equipment from the wrong side of the ball on the fastest greens we played all week.

For all the planning and worrying about the gambling games and making sure things were fair across the skill spectrum, things pretty much magically worked out. Of the formal games, the big winner walked with $41.00 while the largest loss was $17.50.

We also had a prop bets, like during the final round, the player with the most two-putts for the round won $1 from each other player.  Not most two or fewer putts, but the most actual two-putts.  Definitely lead to some interesting strategery.

I’d developed the OneBeardedGolfer.com Cup Challenge, a points-based side game, which was winner take all for the inaugural Cup (a SWEET Kentucky Wildcats Tervis Tumbler filled with $5.00 per man).

Some of the more interesting point categories were +3 for a Ringer (hitting the pin from off the green), -2 for the first player to take an “8” each round, and -3 for hitting a structure, an homage to last year’s trip when our B+ player tried to demolish the Prattville Hotel & Conference Center with a wayward 3-wood shot on the 17th hole.

Luckily, no one had to pull out the large bills to pay any gambling losses this year.

Luckily, no one had to pull out the large bills to pay any gambling losses this year.

Fittingly, the best player in our group won the Inaugural Cup Challenge, but it came down to the final hole, where instead of applying pressure, I choked by wasting the best drive of the day with a flared 6-iron into a greenside bunker.

Overall, I firmly believe the variety of bets and games worked.  Even if a player wasn’t scoring well, he could have little victories within the Cup Challenge and the team based formats.

The games kept the guys’ interest beyond just relying on the beauty and strategy of the courses we played, which, even for the most hardcore golfer, can be a challenge on the tail-end of a 72-hole golf binge.

I hope this little recap will help you, Dear Readers, should you ever need to come up with ideas on how to make or keep golf competitive between players of very different skill levels while being fair to the better golfers of the group.  It made for a fantastic trip for our gang, and raised the bar for fun on our annual golf excursions.

7 thoughts on “Our Crazy Golf Trip Side Games: How to gamble with irregular golfers

  1. Nice article. You could be a golf trip planner? Is that a consultant job somewhere??

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. David,

    Those are some great ideas for a group of players with a wide spread of handicaps. Wolf is typically my go-to game in this situation, but the more traditional way without predetermined teams, and the option to go “lone Wolf” if you pass on everyone, and if you beat everyone outright you get double points, and if someone ties or beats you the other 3 all get a point. I’ll have to keep your other games in mind for future games! Thanks


    • Thanks Josh. Wolf is our usual Go-To game when we get together, but I wanted to spice it up a little bit for the special occasion that was this Golf Trip. The predetermined, rotating teams was my way of really hedging against any player really getting socked in the wallet due to just plain differences in ability.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.