By Jack Madigan AKA The Golf Guy • Main Photo by Jordan Weaver
When it comes to money, golf is not a piker’s game. And when it comes to ponying up for the green fees, there are certain unwritten rules of golf etiquette because, after all, it is a gentleperson’s game. So let us start with the simple question of who pays the green fees, and later on tackle the question of betting.
First, there are member guest tournaments. The member pays, and that’s that. When you are a member of a country club and you invite a friend to participate in a member guest event it is always the member’s treat. In fact, most private country clubs are set up on a non–cash basis, and the guest is simply unable to sign for anything.
All other events are discretionary, but should be handled up-front. If you should ask someone to play with you at your club and you do not intend to pay for him, then you should always advise him when you extend the invitation that the green fees are $XX amount of dollars. This gives the person the freedom to accept or reject the invitation with no feelings. Way too many times the green fees are not mentioned until the parties are at the course, and then hard feelings can ensue.
The rule is the same for tournaments and scrambles: The organizer should always apprise everyone of the costs, then each golfer is responsible for his or her expenses.
However, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cash on the course. The real money is in the betting, and no one likes to look like a boob when people start talking about a five-dollar Nassau or a Skins game with Greenies, Barkies, Sandies and with carryovers, and you just stand there without a clue as to what was just said.
So let us start with the Nassau. The two-dollar Nassau is the most frequent bet in golf and is simply a two-dollar bet on the low score on the front nine, a two-dollar bet on the low score on the back nine, and an equal bet on the overall low total for the match. Obviously the amount of the Nassau is entirely up to the players. This bet can be made with any number of players in the group.
The next most common betting game is a Skins game. Once again, this can be played for any amount of money, but because it has the potential of one player winning a lot, many golfers prefer to keep the wager small. For example, I’ll explain with a one-dollar Skins game. That means that each hole is worth one dollar, and the low score on each hole wins that dollar. If there is a tie for the lowest score, then that hole is simply not won by anyone and you proceed to the next hole, which is again a one-dollar hole. However, if you are playing carryovers, then the value of that tied hole carries over to the next hole, making it a two-dollar hole and so on until a hole is won. Then the next hole reverts back to one dollar.
There are usually side bets in a Skins game, and that’s where the Greenies and others come into play. A Greenie is won by landing your tee shot on a par 3 closest to the hole of anyone in your group. This is an additional bet, usually equal to the original hole value, thus making a par 3 worth two dollars if you land your tee shot closest to the hole and win the hole. Greenies are almost always a part of any Skins game.
A little less common bet than the Greenies are Barkies and Sandies. A Barkie is being able to score par on a hole after hitting a tree, and a Sandy is achieving par out of a sand bunker. These two bets are like Greenies in that they are in addition to the value of the Skin.
There is one more thing to add to the Skins game, and that is the Press. Once again, whether or not Presses are allowed is a fact that should be agreed to at the outset of the game. Only a player who is losing can Press his opponent. When this losing player calls a Press it doubles the bets on all the remaining holes. If that losing player should get ahead, then his opponent is in the position to Press him back, which would again double the bets on the remaining holes. This can really run the money count up a lot.
A variation of the Skins game is when you have a foursome and play two-man Best Ball. All of the rules for Skins apply except that two members of the foursome team are up, and the lowest of their two scores is pitted against the lowest of the other two-man team.
Another popular betting game is the Round Robin, also called the Hollywood. This is usually played in a Skins format and requires that you have a foursome. The group is divided into two–man teams and they play each other; but after six holes you switch one man on each team, and then again after 12 holes. All the side bets can still be made, but each man’s winnings must be tabulated after each hole because of the changing teammate scenario. This can be a scorekeeper’s nightmare, especially if the side bets are incorporated.
All in all, the green fees are usually just the start of the green on the greens and the betting, whether for money or just fun items, can make the game even more enjoyable.