Golf Games Explained is exactly what it sounds like. You want to mix it up and try something new for once? Well, someone has to do the thankless work of playing different golf formats and telling you if it’s worth it. You can thank me later.

Betting on the golf course with friends of varying skill levels can be tricky, especially when trying to introduce everybody to a new game (like, say, Wolf). Games with all sorts of rules and variations and, let’s face it, extra ways to potentially lose your hard-earned money can scare the wishy-washy folks in your friend group away. And when nobody can agree on the first tee what the game is, that’s when you end up playing for *gulp* “fun.”

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Golf friends don’t let other golf friends play for “fun,” though. Having something on the line is what can make playing golf with your friends so much “FUN.” Hell, having something on the line makes life worth living. If the group is struggling to agree on a game, a dollar amount, etc., suggest one of the most simple, reliable betting games in golf – Skins.

Number of players required: At least three players are required to play Skins. Four is ideal.

Best for: People who like to play for money. Players who like high pressure situations. Golfers who like keeping it simple. Folks who carry cash. Those who like to play for themselves but also sometimes have to rely on others. Players who are inconsistent but can have a few good holes.

How to play: Skins is about as easy as it gets—you win a hole/make the lowest score on the hole out of the group, you win a Skin. There are 18 holes during a full round, which means there are 18 Skins available. The only thing you have to decide on the first tee is the dollar (or cent) amount for each hole, and how many shots everyone is getting off the low handicap player in the group.

For example, let’s say you are playing for a dollar a hole and there are four people in your group. That means every hole/Skin is worth $4 ($1 per person). Four times 18 is $72, so there are $72 in the pot, $18 per person, meaning the most one player could possibly lose is $18. To make it as easy as possible, everyone should put their $18 in on the first tee and designate someone to hold on to all $72 to divvy up at the end.

The only other thing to know, really, is that if two players tie the hole, everybody ties the hole. So if Player A and Player B both make pars, but player C and D make bogeys on Hole No. 1, nobody wins the Skin and the Skin carries over to the second hole, making the second hole worth two Skins ($8). They can continue to carry over as long as players keep tieing holes. Just last week, playing with my dad and brother, we tied the first seven holes making the 8th hole worth 8 Skins ($24 hole since there were only three of us). The pressure continues to build with every carry over and creates a scenario where a lesser player can come up clutch and win just one hole the entire day and somehow come out on top. Once someone wins a carry over hole, the next hole is back to being worth one Skin again.

After 18 holes, let’s say Player A won 10 Skins, Player B won 4, Player C won 3 and Player D won 1. Player A would take $40 from the pot (10×4=$40), Player B would take $16 (4×4=$16), Player C would take $12 (3×4=$12) and Player D would take $4 (1×4=$4). Again, a strong suggestion to make this as easy as possible would be to have cash on you and put it all in the pot before you start, making the payout process a seamless one.

Variations: One common variation of Skins is to double the dollar amount per Skin on the back nine, thus creating an even more high-pressure environment down the stretch of the round. This also keeps everyone fully engaged to the very end. That way, if one player wins a majority of the Skins on the front nine, there is still plenty to play for on the back. You can also throw in some challenges like closest to the pin on par 3s, longest drive or, like they do in the made-for-TV events, the one-club challenge, where you designate a hole where everyone can only use 1 club of their choosing for that entire hole.

Another wrinkle to add into your regular Skins game is something called “validation.” This means that when a player wins a Skin, they have to match or better their score on the next hole in order to “validate” them, thus avoiding the scenario in which a player has one good hole, steals a bunch of Skins, and then blows up on the very next hole. If they are unable to validate them, the Skin(s) carry over, unless someone were to win the hole. If that’s the case, that person steals the Skin(s) and now it’s their turn to validate them.

If you have any other variations you employ in your Skins games at home, or any exotic games you’d like to introduce to the masses, don’t be afraid to hit me up on Twitter/X @CPowers14.

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