3 easy gambling games for a foursome with a wide range of handicaps

golfers on tee

Golf is funny and matches can go sideways, but you can choose match formats that help keep things close. Here are our top picks.

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The handicap system is the game’s great equalizer, meant to ensure that players of all skills can compete against one another on a level playing field. Still, golf is funny. Matches can go sideways, even when nobody is sandbagging. And while taking your friends for a few bucks is fun, Tiger Woods-on-Stephen Ames-type beatdowns can get boring. One way to adjust is to start fudging numbers. But that’s no fun either. A better option is to choose match formats that help keep things close. Here are our top picks.

Scramble with a Twist

This is a nice option when you’re playing in a foursome of wildly divergent handicaps. Split into teams, 2-vs-2, with each team playing a scramble (meaning that you always play the ball that turns out better). To determine how many strokes you give or get, take 33 percent of the differential between the combined handicaps of the two teams. If, for instance, one team has a combined handicap of 19 and the other has a combined handicap of 10, the differential is nine. A third of that is three. The stronger team is giving the weaker team a stroke on the three hardest holes.

Why does this work? You’ll have to ask the eggheads at MIT. Math is not our strong suit. But trust us. We’ve done it a zillion times. It works.


Because everyone has good days and bad days, switch your two-player teams around three times throughout the round, mixing things up every six holes.


Named for the famous club in England — and popular at courses throughout the UK — this format is for singles matches, one-vs-one. The rule is simple: if, at any time during the match, a player wins two holes in a row, the other player gets a stroke on the next hole. Traditionally, this game is meant to be played at level handicaps, with no strokes given at the start. But it doesn’t have to be. No matter who you’re up against, it will help keep you both engaged throughout the round.

Josh Sens

Golf.com Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.