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Game, set and match: Six fun game formats for your weekend round

August 30, 2017

Are you getting the gang together for a little golf this weekend? Or maybe you’re simply showing up as a single at your local muni and hoping for the best?

No matter what your golf plans are, it’s always more fun to get your group involved in a game. Top 100 Teacher Jerry King has the right competitive format for your group of friends, or the foursome the starter dealt you, so you can watch the fun (and the green) pile up.

THE GAME: Wolf Hammer

WHY IT WORKS: You’re all studs, and you’re not shy about sticking it to the competition. And since you all have game, you don’t have to worry about egregious mismatches when playing in pairs. Plus, where there’s bravado, there are Benjamins, and with Wolf Hammer you can quickly break—or empty—the bank. The name sounds medieval, and at times you’ll feel like you’re in the rack. That’s when the fun starts.

HOW TO PLAY IT: To start this better-ball game, toss a tee to determine the batting order, as the last one to tee off (the “wolf”) will be picking a partner for that hole. (The order rotates one spot on each successive hole.) After player 1 hits his drive, the wolf can decide to pair up with him, but he must do so before player 2 tees off, and so on. If the wolf passes on all players, he plays the hole as a “lone wolf.” This doubles the hole’s points, which double again if the lone wolf posts a birdie or better. Now here’s where the “hammer” drops: Either team (the wolf or the twosome or threesome he’s competing against) can hammer at any time during the hole, doubling the points. The competing team can hammer back, doubling it again. This can go on until the hole is completed and a team wins. The hitch: If a hammer is declined, the hammering team wins the points they were trying to double. Important: Assign dollar values to each point before teeing off, and revamp the batting order (most points first) on holes 5, 9, 13 and 17.

YOUR GROUP: Two Aces, Two Jacks
THE GAME: Nassau Dart

WHY IT WORKS: When half the group are ballers and the others mostly lose balls, you need to level the playing field. Nassau Dart does just that in a way that leaves no player embarrassed or unchallenged.

HOW TO PLAY IT: Pair each stud with a hack, and use the lowest handicapper as the “wheel.” For example, if the lowest is a 4, he gets no shots, the 6 gets 2 (6 minus 4), the 24 gets 20, etc. The foundation of the game is match play, with a net best-ball of each team of two. The Nassau game involves three smaller matches—front 9, back 9 and overall 18. A typical points game would be 5/5/5. In other words, 5 for the front, 5 for the back and 5 for the match. When a team goes 2-down, another bet begins (2 & 0). If the winning team happens to take the next two holes, the match would be 4, 2 & 0. But get ready to fire Darts on the par 3s! A team closest-to-the-pin side bet adds that special In-yo-face! to a round.

YOUR GROUP: One Ace, Three Jacks
THE GAME: : Sixes

WHY IT WORKS: You can call this Round-Robin, but let’s face it: Sixes sounds so much cooler. And it’s the perfect game to pump up the competition when there’s an obvious talent gap between the low man and the rest.

HOW TO PLAY IT: Split the round into three six-hole matches, with each of the three hackers briefly partnering with the ringer. Make sure you agree on handicaps; this will be net best-ball match play. On the first tee, have the ace throw the foursome’s balls in the air, twice. The two balls closest to each other on toss No. 1 pair up first. On the second toss, remove the ace’s partner’s ball; this will determine pairings for the second and third matches. Keep it simple when coming up with stakes, and, if you use it, make it clear that each team has one press per match. Game on!

YOUR GROUP: Three Men and a Lady
THE GAME: Wraparound Skins

WHY IT WORKS: If you’ve got a foursome with three hombres and one señora, you’ll want a festive and casually competitive format, especially since you’ll likely be playing off two sets of tees. Propose (careful here!) Wraparound Skins.

HOW TO PLAY IT: Simple: the lowest score on each hole earns a skin. Because of the suspense it creates, I’m a fan of carrying over the pot. If, for example, your foursome is tied through the first four holes (remember, “Two tie, all tie”), the low scorer on hole 5 wins five skins. That initial skin win is crucial for the “wraparound” component. If, say, holes 16–18 end in a tie, the player earning the round’s first skin(s) bags those three additional pelts.

EXTRA: How many times have you teed it up with a woman and, on her turn to hit, motored your cart right past the forward tee? Pull that stunt in this head-to-head match and you’ll be penalized one skin. Hey, indignity has its consequences.

YOUR GROUP: Anyone…and a VIP
THE GAME: : Shamble Nassau

WHY IT WORKS: You’re about to tee it up with a VIP, be that your soon-to-be father-in-law, new boss or potential investor. Your first directive: Partner up with your guest to create a team feel and ensure the ability to manage and control the experience more effectively. A Shamble Nassau is a quality option for playing with Mr. Special. Unlike a regular scramble, this fun format more closely mimics a typical round of golf, where it’s mostly up to you to get that little white ball from the tee to the bottom of the cup. It’s your chance to shine in front of your VIP—or stroke his ego by leaning on him here and there throughout the round.

HOW TO PLAY IT: For the rookies out there, a scramble format is where everyone tees off and each team selects the best shot and both play from there, then proceed to do the same for each best shot until the ball is holed. A shamble is where everyone tees off, each team selects its best drive, and all play their own ball in. It makes for a great day, since with two shots off the tee box, you’re more likely to be hitting approach shots from the fairway, not the weeds. Award each player half of their handicap and implement match play with a Nassau format (see Nassau description, previous page). With this group, I suggest a modest 2/2/4 point structure (set a dollar-per-point value prior to teeing off) with some added character on hole No. 18. Throughout my twenty plus years living in Maui, the standard Nassau addition was a “half-aloha press” on the last. Here it is: for the team trailing in the match, they can cut their losses in half by winning the last. If the team that’s ahead takes 18, well, “Moose, Rocco: help the judge find his checkbook!”

YOUR GROUP: The Gang (and a lot of drinks)

WHY IT WORKS: When it’s you, your boys and a case of beer, it’s a safe bet that the course record’s going to survive another day. Odds also are sky-high that at least one member of your foursome will crawl off 18 a total train wreck. Train is the perfect fit.

HOW TO PLAY IT: As soon as a player cards two net pars or better (full handicaps awarded here), he’s officially “on the train,” and makes a switch from medal play to Stableford scoring, as such: 0 points for a double bogey or worse, 1 for a bogey, 2 for a par, 3 for a birdie, 4 for an eagle, and if you happen to bounce one down a cart path and off a sprinkler head and into the cup for an albatross, take 5. Here’s the kicker: If you make two net bogeys in a row, you’re off the train and lose all your points! High point total takes the pot; loser buys aspirin in the grill room.

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