Golf is a sport that is traditionally played with a handicap system to allow players of different skill levels to compete fairly against one another. The handicap system works by assigning each player a number based on their average score that allows them to subtract a certain number of strokes from their total score. This helps even the playing field between better and lesser skilled players.
Skins is a popular gambling game format in golf. In a skins game, players compete hole-by-hole, and the player with the lowest score on a hole wins the “skin” for that hole. Skins are usually worth a certain dollar amount or number of points. If players tie on a hole, the skin carries over to the next hole, raising the stakes and making the following hole more competitive.
Since handicaps are not used, the skins format highlights the best man-to-man player and creates excitement throughout the round. Skins games are fun and dramatic ways to compete directly against other players hole-by-hole.
Bingo Bango Bongo
Bingo bango bongo is a points-based game that rewards three different achievements on each hole. It works like this:
- Bingo – Player with the first ball on the green gets a point
- Bango – Player who gets closest to the pin once all balls are on the green gets a point
- Bongo – Player who is first to hole out gets a point
At the end of the round, the player with the most combined Bingo Bango Bongo points wins. This game adds suspense and fun side competitions to every hole while keeping things fair by not requiring handicaps.
Wolf is a game that adds an element of strategy and teamwork. Before each hole, players take turns being the “Wolf” and get to choose their partner for that hole. The Wolf tries to choose the player they think will help them record the lowest team score.
The winning team for the hole gets 1 point and the losing team gets 0. If there is a tie, both teams get 0.5 points. This continues until everyone has been the Wolf the same number of times. The player with the most points at the end wins.
Picking partners and trying to outplay the other team removes handicaps from the equation and makes for a spirited match.
Best ball is a format where two or more players form a team and each play their own ball throughout the hole. At the end of the hole, the one best score from the team is recorded as the team score.
So if player A makes a 5, player B makes a 6, and player C makes a 4 – the team score is a 4. This continues for all 18 holes. Best ball puts emphasis on the best shots each player can make rather than their total score vs the field.
A scramble format or captain’s choice is a popular team-based golf game. All players on a team take a tee shot, then the team decides which tee shot was best and all players take their next shot from that location.
The process repeats until the ball is holed. This creates a cooperative environment and gives everyone opportunities to contribute great shots each hole. The focus is on the best collective score, not individual ones.
In a Stableford competition, players are awarded points based on their performance on each hole rather than total strokes. Scoring works like this:
- Double bogey or higher = 0 points
- Bogey = 1 point
- Par = 2 points
- Birdie = 3 points
- Eagle = 4 points
At the end of the round, the player with the highest number of points wins. With a Stableford format, every hole presents an opportunity to score points for good shots. Players aren’t penalized for having one or two bad holes.
Odd Holes and Even Holes
In this game, players score themselves against the rest of the group on only the odd or even numbered holes. For example, the scores on all the odd holes are added up to get the odd hole total. Whoever wins the odd or even holes wins the match.
By only competing on half the holes, players get a chance to redeem themselves if they struggle on a few holes. It keeps things close throughout the round and gives everyone a chance heading into the final few holes.
Playing for Honors
If players aren’t comfortable keeping actual scores, a fun alternative is to play for honors on each hole. The player with the lowest score on a hole earns the “honor” and gets to tee off first on the next hole.
This keeps a friendly sense of competition going and allows players to reset after each hole. Having the honor and teeing off first is a nice bonus for players who make great shots without keeping formal scoring.
Not every golf outing needs to factor in handicaps and Strict rules in order to be enjoyable. There are many engaging games and formats that bring out players’ competitive juices while keeping things friendly and fair.
Skins, bingo bango bongo and wolf add scoring elements, while scramble, best ball and stableford competitions encourage cooperative play. A match divided into odd and even holes or playing for honors each hole are also casual and upbeat ways to compete.
Golf is meant to be fun. By learning some new games and formats to play from this list, you can find exciting new ways to enjoy golf without handicaps. So try out some of these options on your next trip to the course or during your regular weekend games. Ditch the handicaps and experience golf in a fresh, competitive and entertaining light.