Golf is often seen by some as a very sedate, serious affair. The high pressure of wanting to improve, the frustration of having a poor day, or bad weather as well as always getting beaten by your partner can sometimes build up and make us forget how fun golf can truly be.
The solution to this problem is to mix things up, turn the rules on their head and try some of the weird and wonderful games people have come up with to make things a little more interesting. Whether you want to help a newcomer ease to golf, make a few fun bets, or enjoy a less competitive, more casual day at the links you should check out some of the weird and wonderful games you can play at the golf course.
There are games that work for solo players, doubles, or larger groups - all you need to bring is your golfing gear and a sense of humor - and maybe a few friends for added hilarity and gameplay options!
Solo Games for Solo Players
In this first section, we’re going to look at some of the most fun games a single player can enjoy. These games can be a great way to practice skills, unwind or reconnect with the fun side of golf if you have been getting stressed or frustrated with your game.
Herman and Sherman
This game is one of the more difficult ones that solo players can use to practice specific skills. The basic rule is to try to play the first and second hole of the round using only a draw for each shot. A draw is a shot where the golf ball travels from right to left, and being forced to only use this type of shot is a great way to improve your accuracy with it.
On holes 3 and 4 you then play each shot as a fade, which is where the golf ball flies from right to left. As with the first two holes, this will help you to practice your control over these different techniques and can be both fun and challenging.
This is probably one of the most common solo games a golfer can play on their own, but it’s a great mix of fun and practice which maximizes the amount of play you get on each hole. The idea behind best ball is that you play 2 or 3 balls each hole and use all of them. Once you’ve finished the hole, you pick whichever score was best out of the balls you used.
This is a great way to build confidence and practice your skills. You’ll often find that your second or third shot will often be much better than your first, which can be a massive help in improving your understanding of the game.
Worst ball is a similar idea to best ball but reversed to make things much more difficult. This is a way for experienced players who want a challenge to really force themselves to improve their consistency. It’s a great way to practice for players who are more confident.
Again, you simply play 2 or 3 balls each hole but at the end, you pick whichever score was worst out of them and use that. You should try to get your normal score by the end of the round, a challenging but fun way to test yourself.
Two Player Games
If you and a buddy fancy some laughs or a more relaxed round of golf, these two-player games will lighten the mood while still allowing you to get in some good practice.
This is the traditional way golf is played, and we couldn’t make a list of golf games without including the real rules of the game somewhere. As they say, there’s no school like the old school.
In stroke play, you simply count the number of shots you take to finish a hole, and the person with the lowest score at the end of the round wins.
Stringball can be done in pairs or groups of up to four meaning it's a versatile game and a lot of fun, while also being quite unconventional.
You’ll need a pair of scissors and some string to play this game, as well as a rough idea of each player’s handicap. If a player has a handicap of 10, they get given 10 feet of string.
The idea is that players can move their ball a certain number of feet after a shot, but must cut that amount of string off their allotted supply. This will help newer players get out of traps and bad positions and keep the game moving. You earn back a foot of string for each birdie you score.
A game for two or more players, Stableford is comparable to normal stroke play but has a bit of a twist. Instead of using the bar of the hole or course, players earn points for the score they get. You get 1 point for a bogey, 2 points for a par, 3 points for a birdie, 4 points for an eagle, and give points for the rare hole in one.
This style of play helps to relieve some of the immediate stress and pressure associated with trying to stay on par for each hole, making the game more easygoing for everyone.
This is another game suitable for various group sizes and is another way to take the pressure off group play.
The idea with skins is that you get a point for each hole you win. So, winning a hole gets you a point, but if you draw that point is carried over to the next hole and whoever wins that hole takes both points, or 3 points if the previous two holes were drawn.
The player with the most points, or skins, at the end of the whole round, is the winner. This is a great way for inexperienced players to enjoy golf, as the number of strokes you make per hole isn’t important. You simply need to do it in less than the other players!
Bingo, Bango, Bongo
This is another versatile game that works with groups of various sizes and is particularly good for groups with a lot of different skill levels within it.
The idea behind this game is that there are three points available on each hole. The first player to get their ball onto the green gets a point. Once all players have reached the green, the first player to get closest to the pin gets a point.
Finally, the first player to successfully sink the ball gets a point.
The highest score at the end of each hole/round is the winner, making this a great game for encouraging new players.
This game is essentially a normal round of golf but each player is allowed a set number of mulligans.
A mulligan is essentially a chance to put your ball in a better position, either by kicking it or placing it depending on your particular preference.
Before each round, the group sets a number of mulligans and if a player doesn’t like the position of their ball they can take a mulligan to reposition it. This system helps to keep the game moving, especially for newer players who are worried about holding up other groups playing behind them.
Another game for groups of various sizes, this game is pretty similar to Stableford but with a few key differences. If a player gets a double bogey or worse, they get -3 points. If they get a bogey it’s worth -1 point. A par is worth 0 points, while a birdie is +2, an eagle is +5 and a hole in one is +8.
The player with the highest score at the end of the round is the winner. This is a little bit more challenging than Stableford making it a good choice for experienced players or groups who want to make every shot count.
Pairs or groups can play this game. The idea is that the whole round of golf is split into 3 sections. The player with the best score on the first 9 holes gets a point. The player with the best score on the last 9 holes also gets a point, while the person with the best score overall gets a point. The person with the most points overall is the overall winner, however, it’s equally possible for there to be a draw in groups of 3 or more. It’s a fun way to break up the play, and you can raise the stakes by taking wagers on who will win or lose each section of the round.
Games for Three Players
Some of the prior games, such as Skins, Stableford, Murpheys, Stringball, Nassau, and Bingo Bango Bongo can be played with three players, and the rules were previously explained in the two-player section. Feel free to check them out, or take a look at the other three-player games here.
This is a fun little game that is almost like playing tag, but while also playing golf.
The first thing you need to do is place a bet. Whenever a player 3-putts a hole they become the Snake. If a different player three puts a hole, they are the new Snake. The player who is the Snake at the end of the round has to pay the agreed-upon bet, which could be anything from a round of beers in the clubhouse to something sillier, depending on your sense of humor.
This game is a lot of fun and a great way to inject some real levity into proceedings.
This is a game that only works with 3 players. The idea is that one player, (it’s best if this player is the worst player in the group) is paired with an imaginary player who pars every single hole. The remaining pair of players are a team and are trying to beat the solo player and his perfectly average imaginary teammate.
The team with the best score at the end of the game wins.
In this game, there are 6 points to be earned for each hole. If a player wins the hole, they get 4 points. The player that comes in second place earns 2 points. If the bottom 2 players draw they each get 1 point, whereas if two players tie for the win they each get 3 points and the bottom player earns 0 points.
This game is similar to six-six-six, except each hole is worth 9 points. If a player gets a birdie, another player hits par and the third gets a bogey the points are distributed 5, 3, and 1 respectively. If all the players tie the hole they all get 3 points, whereas if one player gets a birdie and the other two get a par then the scores are distributed as 5, 2, and 2.
Chairman is similar to Skins, which we described in the two-player section.
In this game, the player with the lowest score on each hole is designated as the Chairman. If they win the next hole they remain the chairman. If two other players tie for the best score, the sitting chairman remains in the hot seat.
The player who is the chairman for the most number of holes is the winner of the round.
Four Player Games
In this game, the group of players splits into pairs. The first player will hit the drive on even holes, and the second player will hit the drives on the odd holes. After the tee-shot is taken, pairs alternate taking shots until each hole is completed, and the team with the best score at the end wins.
This game is a lot of fun for a group of mixed abilities and can be a lot of fun for couples. Just make sure the skill levels are roughly even for each pair to avoid a totally unbalanced scenario.
There are a lot of variations on foursomes with many different names and slightly different rules. There’s Greensomes, where each player will have a tee-shot and then the pair will choose which of the tee-shots they want to play with for the rest of the hole. Players alternate taking shots after this, which is another way of helping newer players with their driving while still getting a full round of golf in.
There are also Shambles, Gruesomes, American Foursomes, Canadian Foursomes, Scotch Foursomes, and even St. Andrews Foursomes. Each variation on the original version of foursomes has a slight difference, such as hitting the ball your partner previously played as in American Foursomes, or allowing your opponents to pick which ball you have to play as in Gruesomes.
These tiny variations are all designed to add to the fun and can be tweaked as you like to make things more interesting.
This is a fun little game to add some spice to your short game. At the start of the game, players set a fixed cost that is put into a pot whenever someone shoots a 3-putt. The offending player donates this amount to the pot. Any time a player hits a 1-putt, they get given a playing card at random from a shuffled deck.
At the end of the round, the player with the best poker hand wins the whole pot!
This game is very similar to Portuguese Caddy. Before the round, a set number of ‘meetoo’s’ are allotted to each player. Whenever you find yourself in a bad spot you can use a meetoo to play from the same spot as another player in the group.
A player who hits an awful tee-shot can call a ‘scruffy’ at any point. This allows him to wager with the rest of the group that he can make par for the hole. The other players must agree to the bet. The funny thing is that players can call a scruffy after a good drive, but if it’s a difficult hole players may still take the bet hoping that the player who called scruffy still fails to make par.
Games for 5 Players +
Groups of this size may be able to use a number of the previous games we’ve mentioned such as Stableford, Nassau, or Murpheys, as well as some of the team-based games.
BOOZY BONUS GAMES
The first player to end up in the sand has to take a shot or down a beer in one. The second player has to take 2 shots or down 2 beers, et cetera. This may be a good one for stag parties and is a great way to lubricate proceedings.