Go low? Nope, in this clever golf gambling game the goal is to go high

While it'd be fitting to play the gambling game "Chicago" on one of the area's gems (like Medinah Country Club, pictured), this is a perfect game for golfers of all origins.

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Golf’s obsession with “going low” can be exhausting. Sure, it’s great in theory. But in practice, it seems there are far more golfers struggling to break three digits than are regularly breaking 70.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be rewarded for having a score higher than your playing partners? We asked the same question, which led us to this week’s golf gambling format, Chicago.

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The Big Picture

The object of Chicago is to have the highest overall score in your foursome or on your team. Scores are determined not by counting strokes but by assigning a specific point value to your outcome on a hole (bogeys are worth one point, pars are worth two, etc.). At the end of the round, the one with the highest point total wins. It is very much like your classic Stableford, but check Rule 3 for a key difference.

The Rules

1. Money: Before the round begins, each player contributes a set amount of money to the pot (anywhere from $1-$20 per player is more than enough). The money from the pot is then split into two lump sums, one to be given to the highest-scoring team, another to be given to the highest-scoring individual player.

2. Scoring: Bogeys are one point, pars are two points, birdies are four points, eagles and better are worth eight points.

3. Handicapping: Golfers start their scores in the negatives. A scratch golfer or better begins their round with a score of -40, a 1-handicap, -39, and so forth. 35-handicaps or higher begin with a score of -5.

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4. Playing: Tee off and keep your score by writing your point value for the hole. At the end of the round, add together the point total with your pre-round score to get your overall point total. Combine your overall score with the other players in your foursome for your team score.

5. The Goal: Players should aim to tally the highest score possible. The better their round, the higher their overall point total. Generally, the line of demarcation between successful and unsuccessful rounds in this format is “crossing the barrier” into positive points. If your final score is positive, you’ve given your team a good chance to contend.

6. The Final Tally: Each foursome tees off and plays their respective round. At the end of the round, each foursome tallies up their overall score. The team with the highest score and the player with the highest score then split the pot.

Why You Should Try It

Chicago is great for those still shaking the rust off after a long winter, or who just want to focus on the positives in their round (and forget the snowmen). If you’ve got enough players, it can also prove to be a lucrative format, regardless of your handicap. If you enjoy good golf (and detest blow-up holes), Chicago is the perfect gambling format for you.

Got an awesome golf game you want to see highlighted by us? Send your suggestions to james_colgan@golf.com

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.