How to Play a 'Shoot Out' Tournament or Betting Game

many golf balls on a putting green
Hmm, that's a lot of golf balls on the green - maybe there's a Shoot Out going on. Martin Diebel/Getty Images

"Shoot Out" is the name of a golf tournament format for 19 golfers (yes, specifically 19) and it's also the name of a betting game that four golfers can play within their group.

And "Shootout" is increasingly being use as the name of a tournament add-on that is similar to a hole-in-one contest.

The Shoot Out Tournament Format

To play a Shoot Out tournament, first gather 18 of your golf buddies to form a 19-player field. Why 19? Because on each hole of the Shoot Out, every remaining golfer plays, and one golfer is eliminated. The one who is left standing at the end of 18 holes is the winner.

Shoot Out is one name for this format, but "Horse Race" is another very common name for it. Derby (which comes from the same place as Horse Race) is another name. And, for some reason, it is also sometimes called "Rumpsie Dumpsie." We've also seen this tournament format a few times referred to as "Eliminator," but Eliminator is much more commonly used as the name of an altogether different format.

Shoot Out is a slow game, very slow in the early going, because all remaining golfers must complete each hole before play moves on. So on the first hole, 19 golfers have to play the hole.

On each hole, the high score is eliminated. Expect a lot of playoffs in the early going, adding even more time. (Chip-offs are the usual methods for playoffs, with farthest-from-the-hole being eliminated.)

Clearly, a Shoot Out tournament requires some coordination with the pro shop. Many golf courses frown on fivesomes, much less 19-somes.

One way to speed up play is to cut the game in half: Start with 10 golfers and play through the ninth hole.

The Shoot Out Betting Game for a Group of 4 Golfers

There's also a betting game called Shoot Out that works on the same principle—one golfer per hole is eliminated—that can be played within a 4-person group of golfers.

All four golfers must be playing their own golf balls throughout. Within a group of four, it only takes three holes to determine the Shoot Out winner: a golfer is eliminated on the first hole, another on the second, another on the third, and the one left standing is the winner.

And that means you can play six shootouts within a round of 18 holes. Example:

  • On the first hole, Golfer A scores 4, B makes 6, C makes 5 and D makes 4. Golfer B's 6 is the high score, so B is out. (B keeps playing on the following holes, he or she is just eliminated from the Shoot Out bet.)
  • On Hole No. 2, A makes 5, C makes 6 and D makes 5. Golfer C is eliminated.
  • On Hole 3, A makes 6 and D makes 4. A is eliminated, leaving Golfer D as the Shoot Out winner.

And on Hole 4, all four begin again in a new shootout. Make each shootout worth whatever your group agrees on—a dollar amount, a point value, a beer, bragging rights, whatever.

What about tie scores? Chip-offs are the easiest way to settle them. Just be sure you're not holding up play of any groups behind yours. You can also, after a few holes, count back on the scorecard to settle ties. (If you're on Hole 4 and two golfers tie, look back to their scores on Hole 3 to break the tie. If they are still tied, go back to Hole 2. And so on.)

The Shootout Tournament Prize

Something gaining popularity among charity golf tournament organizers is the Shootout add-on, a bonus game played after the tournament ends.

Shootouts, like hole-in-one contests, give golfers the chance to hole out a very unlikely shot but win a very large prize if someone does it. Shootouts are even harder to win than hole-in-one prizes, though, because they are typically limited to just four golfers. Those golfers might be the ones on the tournament's winning team. Or maybe they are chosen at random from among all entrants.

But once tournament play is over, the four Shootout golfers are taken to the ninth or 18th hole and given the chance to hole-out a difficult shot. (Typically, it's a long approach shot, unless the hole chosen for the Shootout is a par-3.) The four golfers each try to pull off the shot, and in the rare event a hole-out results one of them wins the prize.