The three best ways to bet on golf are listed below.
There certainly are other methods that are fun, but these three are simple enough to explain to someone on the first tee.
All of them allow for a player to have a few bad holes and still be in contention.
Before we being, let's distinguish between match play and stroke play, as to avoid confusion.
Stroke play counts each and every stroke in the round, totalling them up at the end to get a final score.
Match play counts each hole individually. Taking 15 shots on one hole is completely irrelevant to the next one.
A Nassau can involve either two players or two teams. It's also known as a 5-5-5 bet. It can be played in either stroke or match play.
What a Nassau actually does is create three separate bets—one on the front nine, one on the back nine, and one overall.
This enables a player who has played terribly on the front nine to still have a chance to come back or at least cut their losses.
As an example let's say Tom and Jim are playing a $5 stroke play Nassau.
On the front nine, Jim shoots 39, and Tom shoots 41. Jim would win that bet.
On the back nine, Jim shoots 41, and Tom shoots 36. Tom would win that bet.
On the overall bet, Tom beat Jim by two strokes, so he wins that as well, netting $5 total from Jim's wallet.
Skins is a tried and true method of gambling, best with either three or four players. The reason golfers love it is because even if you play 17 bad holes, you can still come up the big winner by winning one important hole.
Just like Nines, you must assign a dollar value to each skin.
Each hole is worth one skin. In order to win a hole, you must have win it outright.
Generally, this game is played with something called "carryovers." This means that if two or more players tie for the best score, the skin is added to the next hole.
So lets say that Jim, Tom, Willy, and Chubbs are playing a game of skins
On the first hole Chubbs and Willy make eights. Tom and Jim both make fours. Because they tied, the skin will be carried over to the next hole.
On the second hole, Tom, Jim, and Willy all make four, but Chubbs manages to score a three. Despite making eight on the hole before, Chubbs gets both skins.
After 18 holes have been completed Chubbs has nine skins, Willy has six, Jim has three, and Tom is shut out.
Tom would owe Chubbs $9, Willy $6, and Jim $3. (-$18 total)
Jim would owe Willy $3 and Chubbs $6. (-$6 total)
Willy would owe Chubbs $3. (+$6 total)
Chubbs wouldn't owe anyone anything. (+18) total
Nines is a perfect game for three people. Although it seems complicated at first, it's really quite easy once you get the hang of it.
First you must assign a value for each point. Generally that value is between a dime and a dollar, as there are lots of points to be scored.
The way it works is that each hole, there are nine points awarded total based on the final scores.
The lowest score gets five points, the middle gets three, and the highest scores only one.
If all players tie, each gets three.
If one players wins and the other two tie, the winner gets five points and the others get two each.
If two players tie for the lowest score, they earn four points each, and the loser only gets one.
This scoring system is used every hole until the end of nine or 18, and then scores are totalled to determine the total wins and losses for each player.
As an example, let's say three guys play nine holes, giving each point a value of one dollar. Jim winds up with 38 points, Tom with 27, and Willy with 16.
Willy owes $22 to Jim and $11 to Tom.
Tom owes $11 to Jim.
So overall, Jim makes $33, Tom breaks even, and Willy loses $33.