If you haven’t read Part 1: The Easiest Way to Get Better at Golf: Play. For. Something. go back and check out the science of why playing a game within golf will improve your scores. Or don’t, and read on. Do you!
Chapter 3: Beginner Games
Beginner does not require you to be new to golf. It requires you to be new to games while golfing. The introductory games below have less bets to track, no handicaps – like an intro course for how to put yourself in pressure situations to improve your golf focus and scores.
(If you like to parlay your trifecta box when playing the ponies, then choose your own adventure. But if you didn’t follow most of the words in that sentence, let’s continue on)
These games are mostly played in teams. This helps not just build internal pressure (of meeting your own expectations), but adds external pressure of being a contributing teammate.
How do I pick a teammate?? Let me count the ways.
- Take a golf ball from three of the players and (softly!) toss them over your shoulder. Ensure your back is not facing a pond. The two that land closest become one team, the other two players become the other.
- Have everyone stand around you in a circle (square?) and flip a tee horizontally. Whomever it points at is – you guessed it – your teammate. If it points at yourself, someone will undoubtedly say “Not the first time they've played with themselves”. Try to laugh.
- Put the best golfer and the worst golfer together. Would not recommend, as you end up with one player who has a load of pressure to succeed, and another who has little chance to step up.
- Pair the people who hate each other the most, and watch them develop a lasting bond through sport and…sorry, that’s Remember the Titans. Great movie.
OK I’ve got a teammate, what game are we playing?
6-6-6: Despite its demonic name, this is angelically easy to learn. Your first 6 holes you will be on a team with one of the players in your foursome. The next 6 holes, you will be on a team with a DIFFERENT person from your foursome. The last 6 holes – anyone guess it? – you will play with the LAST person in the foursome.
6-6-6 is BEST BALL format. That means each player will play their golf ball for the entire hole, and take the best score between them and their teammate. Compare that against the other team’s best, and the winning teammates win the hole (if it was a tie, nothing happens). At the end of the 6 holes see who has won the most holes, they win the bet!
Why chose this game? This game is great for all skill levels as it heightens focus through short, intense matches. You get 3x the focus for your 18 holes. Socially I enjoy this when I’m in a cart, as it gives more opportunities to spend time with the two who are NOT your cartner (yes, that’s a word).
Left Right: This game keeps it fresh in that your partner could change every single hole. After all 4 players have hit their tee shots, the two farthest left will be on one team, and the two farthest right will be on the other. It is also BEST BALL format, and each player on the winning team gets a point. At the end of the round, each player owes the other based on their difference in points (you have 10 and I have 7, I owe you 3 bets).
Why chose this game? This pushes you to play hard every hole and keeps the teams creative if there is an imbalance in skill level. It is the one game that adds focus to the tee shot as those who tee off third and fourth may try and position their ball to a certain side to get a certain teammate!
Skins: Played individually or in teams of two, each hole is worth a bet in this game. Each player plays their own ball, and the lowest score wins the bet, or the “skin”. If two or more players tie the lowest score, the hole is a PUSH, and no one wins the bet. At the end of the match determine how many skins each player has, and the losers pay the winners the difference.
Why chose this game? This can lead to some intense pressure if you play with CARRYOVERS. The golf version of Let it Ride, if a hole is tied, the next hole is worth double. If that is tied, the next is worth triple, and so on.
These last two are not matches, but are games that add onto the match to focus on a specific skill. Because you can't have too much of a good thing!
Junk: Junk pays a bet for achieving the extraordinary. The most common are par out of a greenside bunker (sandie), hitting it closest on a par 3 and making par or better (greenie) and making a birdie (birdie). Some players may include making par after hitting a tree (woodie), and of course an eagle (eagley (?)). Decide with your group how much you pay per junk (eagle is at least double), and then mark who achieves each during the round. If you made 3 junk and everyone else made 1, then each player owes you 2 bets.
Why add this game? Junk positively reinforces some of the most critical skills in golf; scrambling for par, approach shot accuracy and putting prowess. Golf is hard enough, let’s celebrate the wins!
Snake: On the other hand, let’s punish the mistakes! In this game there are no gimmees, every player must putt it in the hole. The group decides an amount before the round starts. If you three putt you are considered to be ‘holding the SNAKE’, and owe the pot whatever that amount is. Each time another player three putts they now hold the SNAKE, and the pot doubles. (Third three putt, pot is 3x, etc). Whomever holds the snake at the end of the round owes the other players the amount in the pot. This can add up fast! If two players three putt on the same hole, they’ve both got the snake.
Why add this game? Drive for show, putt for dough! You hit your putter MORE THAN DOUBLE any other club, so it’s no surprise that improving at putting is the fastest way to drop strokes off your score. Even a tap in gives you more reps with the flat stick, which make you better from all distances. It’s like free range time. NOTE! Finishing each putt will increase your time on the green, so don’t hold anyone else up behind you.
Try these games to get you started, and you’ll start to see your strokes drop! Hopefully not at the expense of your wallet, but either way these are a heck of a lot cheaper and more effective than a new driver we KNOW you’re thinking about buying!
Leave a comment if you like, hate, have questions or suggestions for what to write about next!
In two weeks PART 3: SOLO GAMES. This is not an Obi-Wan spinoff, sadly. Games you can play when you’re golfing by yourself, or when your opponents aren’t looking to improve the way you are!