12 Golf Games to Play on the Golf Course

Playing different golf games on the course is a great way to add fun and competitive elements to a round with friends. Here’s a list of various golf games that cater to players of all skill levels:

1. Match Play

Objective: To win more holes than your opponent over the course of the round.

How to Play:

  • Before starting, players agree on the total number of holes to be played (typically 9 or 18).
  • Players compete against each other on a hole-by-hole basis. The golfer with the lowest score on a hole wins that hole.
  • If the scores are tied on a hole, the hole is “halved,” and no point is awarded.
  • The match continues until one player leads by more holes than there are remaining. For example, if a player is 3 up with 2 holes to play, they win the match.
  • Handicaps can be used to level the playing field, with strokes given on the holes where they are most needed according to the course’s handicap index.

Strategy Tips:

  • Since each hole is a separate contest, players can take risks on individual holes without ruining their entire round.
  • Pay attention to your opponent’s play and adjust your strategy accordingly. Sometimes a conservative approach is better if your opponent is struggling.

2. Stroke Play

Objective: To complete the course with the fewest total strokes.

How to Play:

  • Players record their score for each hole, and these are summed to produce a total score for the round.
  • The player with the lowest total score at the end of the round wins.
  • Stroke play can be conducted as an individual or team competition.
  • Handicaps are often used to allow players of varying abilities to compete on an equal footing. The player’s net score is calculated by subtracting their handicap from their gross (actual) score.

Strategy Tips:

  • Consistency is key in stroke play. Avoid taking unnecessary risks that can lead to high scores on individual holes.
  • Focus on course management and playing to your strengths, especially on holes where you can make up ground or need to be cautious.

3. Skins

Objective: To win holes outright and collect “skins.” Each skin has a value, and the player with the most at the end wins.

How to Play:

  • Before the round, players agree on the value of each skin. This can be a monetary amount or points.
  • Each hole is played as a separate contest. The player with the lowest score on a hole wins the skin for that hole.
  • If the hole is tied (if two or more players have the same lowest score), the skin carries over to the next hole, increasing its value.
  • This process continues until a player wins a hole outright, at which point the value of the skins resets for the next hole.
  • At the end of the round, players tally the skins they’ve won to determine the winner. If playing for money, payouts are made based on the number of skins won.

Strategy Tips:

  • Aggressive play can pay off in skins, especially on carryover holes where the value of winning increases.
  • Be mindful of the holes where you have a strong chance to win outright and consider your strategy on holes where you’re less confident.

4. Best Ball

Objective: To win holes as a team by recording the lowest score of the team members on each hole.

How to Play:

  • Players split into teams of two. Each player plays their own ball throughout the round.
  • On each hole, the lowest score from each team is counted as the team’s score for that hole.
  • The team with the lowest score wins the hole. If the scores are tied, the hole is halved.
  • At the end of the round, the team with the most holes won is the winner.
  • Handicaps can be applied to level the playing field, allowing players of different abilities to contribute to their team’s success.

Strategy Tips:

  • Team selection can be strategic, pairing players with complementary skills or styles.
  • Communication with your partner is key to managing risk and deciding when to play aggressively.

5. Scramble

Objective: To achieve the lowest team score by selecting the best shot after each stroke.

How to Play:

  • All team members tee off. The team then selects the best of the tee shots, and all team members play their second shots from that spot.
  • This process is repeated until the ball is holed. Each team member can place their ball within one club length of the selected spot (no closer to the hole), but in the same condition (i.e., rough, bunker, fairway).
  • Typically played in teams of two or four, scrambles are popular in charity events and casual rounds due to their fast pace and team-friendly nature.
  • The team with the lowest total score at the end of the round wins.

Strategy Tips:

  • Use the strengths of each player to your advantage. For example, a long hitter can tee off first to potentially give the team a good position, while more accurate players can help with approach shots and putting.

6. Stableford

Objective: To accumulate the highest point total by achieving scores relative to par on each hole.

How to Play:

  • Points are awarded on each hole in relation to par, typically using a system like: Double Bogey or worse: 0 points, Bogey: 1 point, Par: 2 points, Birdie: 3 points, Eagle: 4 points, etc.
  • Players complete the round, and their points are totaled to determine the winner.
  • Stableford encourages aggressive play since the punishment for a very poor hole is no worse than a slightly poor hole.
  • Handicaps can be easily incorporated to give all players a chance to compete.

Strategy Tips:

  • Aim for birdies or better since the reward for lower scores is significantly higher, making it beneficial to take calculated risks.

7. Bingo Bango Bongo

Objective: To accumulate points through specific achievements on each hole.

How to Play:

  • Three points are available on each hole: Bingo (first ball on the green), Bango (closest to the pin once all balls are on the green), and Bongo (first to hole out).
  • Players earn points by achieving these milestones, regardless of their total score for the hole.
  • The player with the most points at the end of the round wins.
  • This game rewards precision and putting and can be played alongside traditional scoring methods.

Strategy Tips:

  • Focus on course management and strategic play, especially in positioning your approach shots and putting efficiently.

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8. Wolf

Objective: To earn the most points through strategic partnerships and hole wins in a rotating “Wolf” format.

How to Play:

  • In a group of four, players rotate being the Wolf based on a predetermined order. The Wolf tees off last.
  • After each player tees off, the Wolf decides whether to select a partner for the hole (2 vs. 2) or play alone against the other three players (1 vs. 3).
  • Points are awarded based on the outcome of the hole. If the Wolf and their partner win, they each earn points. If the Wolf goes it alone and wins, they earn more points. If the Wolf or the non-Wolf team loses, the points go to the other side.
  • The player with the most points at the end of the round wins.

Strategy Tips:

  • The Wolf’s decision to pick a partner or go solo is crucial and should be based on the tee shots’ quality and the player’s confidence in their own game.

9. Nassau

Objective: To win three separate bets: the front nine, the back nine, and the overall 18 holes.

How to Play:

  • The Nassau is typically played as match play, stroke play, or a combination of both, with a separate bet for the front nine, back nine, and total 18 holes.
  • Players or teams agree on the value of each bet before starting.
  • The winner of each segment earns the bet amount, and ties can either result in a carryover or be halved.

Strategy Tips:

  • Players need to stay competitive throughout the round, as a comeback on the back nine can still secure a portion of the bet.

10. Vegas

Objective: To win points or money based on the difference in team scores, with a unique scoring system that pairs individual scores.

How to Play:

  • Players form two teams of two. On each hole, the scores of team members are paired to form a two-digit number (lower score first). For example, if one team scores 4 and 5, their score is 45; if the other team scores 5 and 6, their score is 56.
  • The difference between the two team scores determines the points or money won. In the above example, the first team would win 11 points.
  • This game can result in large swings in points or money due to the scoring method.

Strategy Tips:

  • Team composition and consistent play are crucial, as one high score can drastically change the team’s outcome for a hole.

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11. Alternate Shot (Foursomes)

Objective: To complete the round with the fewest strokes in a format where team members take turns hitting the same ball.

How to Play:

  • Teams of two decide who will tee off on even and odd-numbered holes.
  • Players alternate shots until the ball is holed, including on the putting green.
  • The team with the lowest score wins the match or round.

Strategy Tips:

  • Choosing the right order for players is key, considering each player’s strengths, especially off the tee and around the green.

12. Chapman (Pinehurst System)

Objective: To complete the hole with the lowest score using a combination of alternate shots and best ball.

How to Play:

  • Both team members tee off, then they swap balls for the second shot. After both players hit their second shots, the team chooses the best of the two balls and plays alternate shot from there until the ball is holed.
  • This format encourages strategic thinking and teamwork, as the initial shots can set the tone for the hole.

Strategy Tips:

  • Coordination and strategy are essential from the tee to decide which ball will give the best chance for a low score on each hole.

Each of these games adds a unique twist to a round of golf, enhancing the competitive and social aspects of the game.

Whether you’re looking for a strategic challenge, a fun team format, or a way to level the playing field among players of different skill levels, there’s a game on this list for every group.

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Thanks for reading today’s article!

Nick Foy – Golf Instructor

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