The Great Green Casino: Golf's Greatest Betting Games
Gambling and golf go together like nachos and salsa. That’s to say they get along real well. A little golf wager can add some paprika to your putts, szechwan to your swing and quench that competitive fire that burns deep inside every duffer’s soul. You’re probably familiar with “buck-a-hole,” and while this pedestrian skins game can be a lot fun, the George Washington per cup racket is the mah-jong of golf betting games.
Crank up the action in your golf game with these fairway zingers.
BINGO BANGO BONGO
This classic triple wager game is the “Texas Hold’em” of golf betting games and is also a great handicap equalizer since two thirds of the purse is awarded once everybody has made it to the green.
Heres how it works: There is a total of three points up for grabs per hole. Each point can be worth any monetary value the players decide, but one dollar a point is a smart place to start to feel out the competition. The first point (Bingo) is awarded to the first player to get on the green. Bango is given to the player with the closest ball to the pin after everyone has reached the green, and finally, “Bongo” is scored by the first player to sink their ball (the lowest score on the hole).
Variation: If the name of the game sounds too geriatric for you, no worries, just Italianize it. How bout ‘Bada bing, Bada bang, Bada bong?’ Same rules apply.
Watchout for that tree
Warren Little/Getty Images
A favorite of Lee Trevino’s back in the 60’s when he was a regular at Dallas’ Tenison Park. This game ain’t cheap, but as Trevino once said, "If you only have to worry about putting money in your wallet and not taking it out, “that ain’t gambling.”
The golf legend has a bag full of wise words. He also gave us, "Winning isn't everything. It's the money you make doing it that's everything."
Here’s how it works: Every time somebody hits a tree, they have to pay $10 to the rest of the foursome. A “whoa there, Tiger!” shot, when a ball rebounds off one tree and into another costs the hapless tree-tapper $20.
Variation: Call the game George of the Jungle, and if someone walks or smacks their golf cart into a tree, they’ve got to ante up $30 bones.
Probably the most popular ways to make golf, “a little more interesting,” Nassau plays very well as a two-on-two team bet.
Here’s how it works: Partner up and establish the stakes for each of the three legs of Nassau: “the front nine,” “the back nine”, and the “whole 18 holes.” Usually, golfers opt to make the back nine worth double the front nine so the early match losers have a chance to win their money back.
So for example, if the front nine and the whole 18 stretches are valued at $10 each, the prize for the back nine would then be $20. The actual play is pretty basic: after each hole, both twosomes' lowest scorers are compared (i.e if your buddy pars the hole and the best score between your opponents is a bogey—your team wins a point).
In the event of a tie, the point can be either be carried onto the next hole, (as in a Skins match) or players can opt to allow the possibility of a tie game and move on without awarding a point to either side.
Variation: Add additional side bets called “presses”. A press is made by a team that is a few holes down and wants to make a wager that they will win a leg of the Nassau game from the next hole onward.
Nines is one of the best golf betting game to play with a threesome. Bring along an extra scorecard to keep tabs, though, because nines is downright algebraic.
Here’s how it works: Every hole is worth nine points. Five points for the lowest score, three for the second lowest score and one point for the highest score. If there’s a tie for lowest score, both players get four points, if there’s a tie for highest score both players get two points apiece and if all players tie for lowest score then everybody gets three points. At the end of the round, whoever has the most points wins the predetermined pot.
Variation: 666. The points are broken down by the same ratios as in Nines. Only minor calculus operations are performed to each hole-end result just to make things more interesting. Anybody caught futzing with a calculator to add up their score is fined $20. 666 is a favorite of mathematicians, Mensa members, actuaries, and of course, geeky Satanists.