When you imagine a day on the course, you likely picture playing the standard 9 or 18 holes to see who in your group fares the best against par. Although this traditional approach to the sport is the most well known, it's not the only choice for playing golf games on the course. Trying different golf games can add a new challenge and some variety to your favorite pastime. Read on to discover three golf games suitable for both beginners and seasoned golfers.
1. Match Play Golf
Match play golf lets you go head to head with an opponent on your own or with a partner. Each hole becomes a new round. To win the hole, you or you and your partner must have a lower score than your opponent or the other team. You win a match when you are winning by more holes than remain to be played. For example, in 18-hole match play, a game would end if your team won the first 10 holes in a row.
One big difference between match play golf and traditional golf is the concession. At any point, you and your partner can concede a stroke, a hole or the entire match to your opponent. This allows you to wrap up a hole once it becomes clear that the other side can't beat their opponent's score.
Rules also tend to be more flexible in match play golf. As long as you and your opponent agree, you can ignore or change a standard rule of golf. If you can't agree on a rule change, you can defer to the USA Golf rules for match play golf. At formal match play tournaments, there is usually a third-party arbiter on hand to settle any disputes regarding rule changes.
2. Best Ball Golf
Best ball is a twist on traditional golf that allows you to play individually and on a team of two, three or four. Each hole progresses normally, but at the end of the round, the member of your team with the lowest score becomes the "best ball." That score is then recorded on a separate line of your score card and counts for your entire team. At the end of the round, you add up the best ball scores for each hole for each team. The overall lowest score claims the win.
When planning for a best ball golf game, take handicaps into consideration to ensure a balance between strong and weak players. The format of this golf game brings the fun and challenge of strategizing how you play. For example, stronger golfers may go first to help less experienced players. Teams may also decide how aggressively each player should swing to increase the chances of winning.
To maintain the speed of the game, golfers who aren't in the running for the best ball on the course can be allowed to pick up and move their balls. If there is a tie at the end of the game, the teams can face off with a sudden-death match-up at one hole.
Normally, games don't go beyond one round of sudden-death golf. If the tie persists after the first hole, both teams become the winner. In official tournaments, the teams then split the first-place purse, and you can divide winnings in the same way if you've placed friendly bets during a casual best ball game with friends.
If you want to add friendly wagering into the mix, Nassau is a great choice of golf games. With this type of golf, you place three bets called Nassaus:
- One on the front nine score
- One on the back nine score
- One on the total score
The name Nassau comes from where the game originated. J.B. Coles Tappan invented the Nassau scoring system at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, New York, in 1900.
In addition to the standard bet, you can place additional bets called presses during Nassau golf. These side bets usually apply only to the remaining holes in the front nine, back nine or the entire game. You can establish rules for presses, such as:
- Only permitting presses when one of the three original bets is clearly lost
- Only permitting presses when one person or team is losing
- Only permitting presses during the final four holes of each nine
- Setting a limit on the number of presses a team can make
Keep in mind: the more presses made, the more complicated tracking winnings becomes. Also, more presses mean the potential for higher losses. If you don't want to play Nassau for money, you can substitute chips for cash. To make things fun, the person with the fewest chips left at the end can pay for a round of drinks or a meal in the clubhouse.