Golf Tournament Formats, Side Games and Golf Bets

Definitions of Tourney Formats and Betting Games

Posing for the pre-tournament group photo
Posing for the first tee group photo - it's a tradition at recreational tournaments, charity tournaments and corporate outings. These three guys got to pose with Chi Chi Rodriguez (second from right). Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Listed below are dozens of golf tournament formats, golf bets and golf betting games. Click on a term for the definition. (If you were looking for information about professional tournaments, see our Golf Tournaments index.) When you're finished here, return to the Golf Glossary index for more definitions of golf terms.

1-Man Captain's Choice
1-2-3 Best Ball
2-Man No Scotch
2-Man Scramble
2-Person Best Ball
3 Blind Mice
3 In 1
3 Little Pigs
4-Man Cha Cha Cha
4-Point Game
40 Balls
5 of Clubs
6-Point Game
Air Presses
Alternate Shot
Ambrose Competition
American Foursomes - See Chapman System
Arizona Shuffle
Auto Win
The Bear
Beat the Worst
Best Ball
Best Nines
Better Ball
Bingle Bangle Bungle - See Bingo Bango Bongo
Bingo Bango Bongo
Bisque Par
Bisque Stroke
Blind Bogey
Callaway System
Canadian Foursomes
Captain's Choice
Chapman System

Devil Ball
Dots (or dot game)
Favorite Holes
Fairways to Heaven
Flags (Flag Competition)
Florida Scramble
Forty Balls
Four Ball
Fourball Alliance
Four-Point Game
Hammer (or Hammers)
Hate 'Em
Hole-in-One Contest
Hollywood - See Round Robin
Honey Pot
Horse Race - See Shoot Out
In the Bucket
Irish Four Ball
Joker's Wild
Ladder Tournament
Last Man Standing
Las Vegas
Las Vegas Scramble
Lone Ranger
Lone Wolf - Wolf
Longest Yard
Low Ball-High Ball
Miami Scramble
Modified Pinehurst
Modified Stableford
Money Ball
Nine Points (or Nines)
No Putts
One Club
One Person Captain's Choice
Oozles and Foozles
Par Is Your Partner
Par or Out
Peoria System
Pink Ball - See Yellow Ball
Pink Lady
PowerPlay Golf
Press (or Pressing the Bet)
Proxy (or Proxy Contest)
Putt for Dough
Quota tournament
Red, White and Blue
Reverse Scramble
Round Robin
Rumpsie Dumpsie - See Shoot Out
Scotch Foursomes
Selected Score
Ship, Captain & Crew - See Wolf
Skins Game
Shoot Out
Split Sixes
Step Aside
Strike Three
String It Out
Swat Tournament
System 36
Texas Scramble
Thirty-Nines - See Chicago
Three Ball
Three Club Monte
3 In 1
3 Little Pigs
Three-Putt Poker
Umbrella (or Umbrella Game)
Various Pars
Whack and Hack
Woodies - See Barkies
Yellow Ball

Plus a Few More ...

'Acey Ducey' or 'Aces and Deuces'
Acey Ducey, also called Aces and Deuces, is a betting game best for groups of four golfers. On each hole, the low score (the "ace") wins an agreed upon amount from the other three players, and the high score (the "duece") loses an agreed upon amount to the other three players.

Our Most Popular Betting Games top-10 list includes an example using dollar amounts, so check that out for more.

'Bag Raid' or 'Pick Up Sticks'
The game that goes by the names Bag Raid or Pick Up Sticks is a match play game between two golfers. Player A and Player B tee off and play match play. And each time one wins a hole, his opponent gets to remove a club from the winner's bag:

Every time you win a hole, your opponent raids your bad and selects a club to remove from play.
Every time you lose a hole, you reach into your opponent's bag and take one of his clubs out of play.

To reiterate: The loser of a hole gets to remove a club from the winner's bag. In theory, that helps level the playing field over the course of the round.

Bag Raid can be played with all clubs vulnerable to removal, or you and your opponent can agree before teeing off to exempt the putter.

Best At Something
This is a points-based betting game that can be played alongside any other type of match in which golfers are playing their own balls throughout. Points are awarded or subtracted for different things throughout the round, most commonly in this fashion:

  • Fairway hit, +1 point
  • Green in regulation, +1
  • 1-putt green, +1
  • 3 putts or more on a green, -1 point
  • Hitting into a hazard, -1
  • Lost ball, -1
  • Out of bounds, -1

Tally points at the end and high points wins the agreed-upon bet.

Blind Nine
Sometimes called Blind Hole, Blind Nine is a scramble tournament in which only nine of the 18 holes count in the team's final score. The catch is that the teams don't know which nine holes count until after the round is completed. The tournament organizers usually wait until all teams have teed off before randomly selecting the nine holes whose scores will be used.

Bridge (or 'Name That Score')
In Bridge, a set amount of points or money applies to each hole. This amount is agreed upon before the round. When stepping up to a tee box, one team makes a "bid" on the number of strokes (net or gross - decide beforehand, obviously) they think it will take them to play the hole.

(The format is usually played 2-vs.-2, but 1-vs.-1 also works.)

Say you're at a tough par-4. You and your partner bid 11. You are offering a bet (of the set amount) to the other team that your side can play the hole in no more than 11 strokes.

The other side has three options:

  • Take the bet;
  • take the bet and double it;
  • or bid lower than 11.

If the other side is confident it can beat 11 strokes, it will bid 10. Then it's back to your team: Take the bet, take the bet and double it, or bid 9 strokes.

If one team takes the bet and doubles it, then the other team has the option of doubling back (meaning that if you're playing for money, carefully consider how much you're playing for because it can add up quickly).

Which team opens the bidding on the first hole is determined randomly. On each ensuing hole, the team that lost the previous hole opens the bidding.

A choker tournament is one using 3- or 4-person teams in which one team member goes it alone on each hole, with his or her score required to count as half the team score for that hole. That puts a lot of pressure on that player to perform - and also gives him the chance to choke. Hence, the name of the format.

Let's say our tournament is a 4-man Choker. The players are A, B, C and D. On the first hole, Player A is the choker - he plays alone. The other three - B, C and D - play as a team. At the conclusion of the hole, Player A's solo score and B-C-D's score are added together to create the team score.

The three members on each hole who are playing the team ball might be playing any number of formats; they might each play their own ball and count the one low score; they might be playing a scramble. If it's a 3-man Choker, then the two players teaming on each hole might play alternate shot. There are options, in other words.

Perhaps the most common variety of Choker is this: All team members tee off on each hole. The best drive is selected, and the golfer who hit it becomes the choker. He completes the hole solo. The other team members play a scramble into the hole, with their scramble score combining with the choker's score.

Criers and Whiners (Also Called Replay, No Alibis, Play It Again Sam or Wipe Out)
This game of many names takes a golfer's handicap and converts them into do-overs, or mulligans. Have a course handicap of 14? You get 14 mulligans to use during the round. The game can be played with full handicaps, as just cited, but it is most common to use only three-fourths or two-thirds of handicaps. That forces the player to be judicious in using his replay strokes. Two other conditions usually apply: The first tee shot of the day may not be replayed, and no shot can be replayed twice.

Criss Cross
This can be a tournament format or a betting game among friends. In Cross Cross, the front nine and back nine holes are paired up - No. 1 and No. 10 form a pair, No. 2 and No. 11, No. 3 and No. 12, and so on, up to No. 9 and No. 18.

Following the round, compare the scores you recorded on No. 1 and No. 10 and circle the lower of the two. Compare No. 2 and No. 11 and circle the lower of the two, and so on through No. 9 and No. 18. Then add up the 9 holes you've circled. That's your Criss Cross score.

As a tournament, Criss Cross is usually played in flights using gross scores; handicaps can be used to determine flights.

Daytona is a variation on the Las Vegas betting game: A 2-vs.-2 contest in which the partners' scores are paired to form one number. In Las Vegas, they are paired with the low number going first. Player A makes 5, Player B makes 6, that combines to form 56. In Daytona, which number goes first depends on whether either player made par or better. If one of the partners makes par or better, you combine the scores to form the lowest number. But if both golfers on a side make bogey or worse, their scores are combined to form the highest number. If, on a par-4, the partners make a 5 and 7, that becomes not 57 but 75. See Las Vegas for more about the basic structure.

Disaster (or Trouble)
The format the goes by the names Disaster or Trouble is a points game in which the winner at the end of the round is the player (or team) that has collected the fewest number of points. That's because points are "awarded" for bad shots. Hit a ball out of bounds, for example, and that's a point.

Your group can come up with its own list point-earners and value for each. But one common point system is this:

  • Water ball - 1 point
  • •Out of bounds - 1 point
  • •In a bunker - 1 point
  • •Failing to get ball out of bunker - 1 point
  • •3-putt - 1 point
  • •4-putt - 3 points
  • •Hitting from one bunker into another - 2 points
  • •Whiff - 4 points

Tournament format for 4-person teams, or a betting game for several groups of four. Also known as In the Bucket, is a best-ball format with a twist: As a player's score is used for the team score, he is "eliminated" from counting as the team score on ensuing holes, until only one player is left whose score is eligible to be used (then the process starts over).

Example: Players A, B, C and D tee off on Hole 1. Player A is the low-ball on the first hole. All players move on to Hole 2, but Player A's score can't be used; Players B, C and D are eligible. On the second hole, Player B is the low-ball. All players move on to Hole 3, but the scores of A and B are now ineligible; only C and D have a chance to provide the team score.

On No. 3, Player C is the low score. And that leaves Player D as the lone survivor - his or her score must be used on the fourth hole as the team score. On Hole 5, the rotation starts over.

Fairways & Greens (or F&G's)
This is a betting game best for groups of golfers with similar handicaps. The object is, of course, to hit fairways and greens. The catch is that you have to be the only player in your group to hit the fairway (off the tee) to win the bet, or the only player in your group to hit the green (in regulation) to win the bet.

Determine before the round the value of each fairway and each green. Each hole (excluding par-3s) has two bets - one for the fairway and one for the green. If two or more players find the fairway, or two or more players are on the green in regulation, then that bet carries over to the following hole (ala skins).

Fairway & Greens can also be played for points. Each golfer in a group tracks his points earned through the round. At the end of the round, high points wins an overall bet (the amount of which is set before the round).

Five of Clubs
Tournament format in which each golfer has to choose only five of his or her clubs to use during the tournament. Variations in the format revolve around how the putter is treated. Sometimes the putter doesn't count as one of your five clubs; however, in most cases when Five of Clubs is played, the putter does count as one of your five.

Fort Lauderdale
While there may be some regional variations in the specifics, when a tournament is using the Fort Lauderdale name it is usually just a typical scramble format. In other words, Fort Lauderdale is usually just a synonym for scramble.

A "greenie" is a side bet that automatically pays off for any golfer who records a green in regulation. Greenies are commonly included in the game known as Garbage or Dots. A group using greenies only has to agree before the round starts that a) greenies are in effect; and b) how much - in monetary value or in points - each greenie is worth. The group then tees off, and every time during the round a greenie is recorded by a golfer, the golfer marks it down. At the end of the round, golfers compare how many greenies each recorded, tally up the points or money, and pay out the differences.

Gruesomes (or Yellowsomes)
Gruesomes is a 2-person team game that is more common as a betting game but is also sometimes used as a golf tournament format.

In Gruesomes, both members of Team A hit drives. Then the members of the opposing side (Team B) select which drive Team A has to play. When Team B's golfers tee off, Team A selects which drive they have to play. Needless to say, when you're choosing which of two drives your opponents have to play, you're going to make them play the worse - or most gruesome - of the two drives.

Following selection of the tee balls, the teams play out the hole in alternate shot fashion, except that the player who hit the "gruesome" tee ball also plays the second shot for his or her side.

Hog is very similar to Defender and Wolf. On each hole, one player in a group of four golfers is designated as the Hog, and the order rotates through the round (A on No. 1, B on No. 2, C on No. 3, D on No. 4, then back to A and so on).

In Hog, all members of the group tee off, then the "Hog" has two options: "hog" the hole by playing against the other three players; or pick one of the other three players as a partner for the hole, making it 2-on-2. The one low ball wins the hole.

  • If the "Hog" plays 1-vs.-3 and wins the hole, he get 3 points;
  • if he loses the hole, the other three golfers get 1 point each.
  • If the "Hog" chooses a partner and wins, both players get 1 point; if they lose, the other two players get 1 point each.

Honest John
Before the round starts, members of your group each put an agreed-upon dollar amount into the pot. Each player predicts the score they will shoot for the round, and writes it down. At the end of the round, they compare their actual score to their predicted score. Who came closest to shooting his or her predicted score? The golfer who did wins the Honest John pot.

Jack and Jill
When a tournament is called a "Jack and Jill," it means that it is a team event in which men and women are paired together to form the teams.

Long and Short
Format for 2-person teams. The name explains the game: One member of the team plays the long shots (drives and approaches), while the other member of the team plays the short shots (pitches, chips and putts).

Long and Short can be played as team vs. team match play, or as team vs. field stroke play.

In order to avoid potential disagreements between teams over which player should play certain shots, it's advisable for the Long and Short tournament organizers to set a specific yardage that delineates the "long" and "short."

Low Putts
Can be a tournament format or a side game.

  • Low Putts tournament: In a Low Putts tournament, you throw out all your other strokes and only count putts. And the golfer or team with the fewest putts is the Low Putts winner.
  • Low Putts side game: Before the round, agree on the value of the bet (each member of your group puts in an equal amount), and after the round count putts. The golfer with the Low Putts wins the pot.

Luck of the Draw
Betting game for a group of golf buddies that combines golf and poker. Start with a full deck of playing cards per participating foursome, and with each participating golfer ponying up his or her share of the pot.

Then, throughout the round, cards are dealt out depending on each golfer's score on each hole, in this fashion:

  • If you make a par, you get one card.
  • If you make a birdie, you get two cards.
  • If you make an eagle, you get three card.

At the end of 18 holes, the golfer who can make the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot.

Mutt and Jeff
Tournament format or a side bet in which the focus is on par-3 holes and par-5 holes only. The round of golf is completed, then the total net score for each player or each group on the par-3 and par-5 holes is recorded. The low net on those long and short holes is the winner.

N.O.S.E. Tournament
Golfers count their scores only on holes that begin with those letters - N, O, S, E. That means holes one, six, seven, eight, nine, eleven, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen. (You play the full course, but only count scores on those holes for your NOSE score.)

As a tiebreaker, low putts (on the N.O.S.E. holes only) is commonly used.

A betting game played on the putting greens in which golfers bet on the chance that another golfer will 3-putt. Once a golfer has reached the green and at any time before he putts, one or more of the other players in the group may call out "Shazam." When another golfer calls out "Shazam," the one putting is forced into a bet with that player. If all three other members of a four-ball Shazam the putter, then the putter has a bet with each of them.

The outcome of the bet varies depending on how many putts the Shazammed golfer then takes:

  • A 3-putt results in the golfer who was Shazammed losing the bet.
  • If he 4-putts, he loses double the bet.
  • If he 1-putts, he wins double the bet.
  • If he 2-putts, no money changes hands.

A player may also Shazam himself if he is outside one flagstick-length from the hole, thereby forcing a bet with all other members of the group. A golfer who Shazams himself wins the bet by 1-putting, but loses double if he 3-putts.

You know how some charitable golf tournaments sell mulligans before the tourney tees off? "Skirts" describes a similar situation, but in the case of "skirts" what is for sale is the ability for the golfer who buys a skirt to tee off from the forward tees (a k a, the ladies' tees). Let's say tournament organizers are offering "skirts" for $5 each. You buy three of them. You now have the right, during the tournament round, to tee off from the forward tees three times during the round.

Can be a tournament format or a betting game for a group of four playing 2-vs.-2. Either way, it involves 2-person teams on which the players switch balls following the tee shots, then play out the hole using those balls. After the drives, Player A walks to Player B's ball, and plays it from there into the hole. And Player B takes over A's tee ball. Use the combined score of both golfers, or the one low ball of the side.

T and F (or T&F)
In a T and F tournament, holes whose numbers begin with "t" or "f" - Nos. 3 and 4, for example - holes hold special significance. There are two ways the format is played most commonly:

  • With teams of three or more, or in individual competition, a T and F tournament counts only scores recorded on holes beginning with "t" or "f." There are nine of those holes, four on the front nine, five on the back nine (holes 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15).
  • With 2-person teams, one person's scores are used on the "t" and "f" holes, the other partner's scores are used on the remaining nine holes.

A Threesome match is one in which one golfer competes against a team of two golfers, the team of two playing alternate shot.

The Train
In The Train, points are awarded to a golfer who makes par or better:

  • •Par - 1 point
  • •Birdie - 2 points
  • •Eagle - 5 points

Obviously, you want to finish the round with the most points to win the tournament or the bet. But if at any point in the round you make two bogeys in a row - or one double-bogey - you lose all your points and start over again at zero.

Three Blind Mice (or Three Little Pigs)
Version 1: A tournament format. After the round, tournament organizers randomly draw three numbers from 1 through 18. Those three holes are thrown out. Golfers add up their scores on the remaining holes, and those are the scores for the round.

Version 2: More often a bet, at the end of the round each golfer throws out her three worst scores of the round. Add up the 15 remaining. See 3 Little Pigs for more.