Variations of golf

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Variations of golf are games or activities based on or similar to the game of golf, in which the player utilizes common golf skills. Some are essentially identical to golf, with only minor rules changes, while others are more distant and arguably not simple variations but distinct games. Other variations include contests or activities intended to help the player practice or reinforce skills, which may or may not have a competitive aspect. Most of the variations are played in non-professional settings, without the presence of officials and sometimes without strict adherence to official game rules. Some of the variations were created to level the playing field for players of varying skill levels to be able to compete. Often, the rules are in place to provide a structure for side-betting that is independent of the final "traditional" score.

Scoring Variations


In a skins game, golfers compete on each hole, as a separate contest. Played for prize money on the professional level or as a means of a wager for amateurs, a skin, or the prize money assigned to each hole, carries over to subsequent holes if the hole is tied.[1]

Stableford scoring

In stableford points play (originated by Dr Frank Stableford, 1870–1959, was first used on 16 May 1932 at Wallasey Golf Club, Cheshire, England) the player gains points for the score achieved on each hole of the round or tournament (1 point for a bogey, 2 points for a par, 3 points for a birdie, 4 points for an eagle). The points achieved for each hole of the round or tournament is added to produce the total points score, and the player with the highest score wins.[2]

Team play

  • A foursome (defined in Rule 29) is played between two teams of two players each, in which each team has only one ball and players alternate playing it. For example, if players A and B form a team, A tees off on the first hole, B will play the second shot, A the third, and so on until the hole is finished. On the second hole, B will tee off (regardless who played the last putt on the first hole), then A plays the second shot, and so on. Foursomes can be played as match play or stroke play.[3]
  • A four-ball (Rules 30 and 31) is also played between two teams of two players each, but every player plays his own ball and for each team, the lower score on each hole is counted. Four-balls can be played as match play or stroke play.[4]

There are also popular unofficial variations on team play:

  • In a scramble (also known as Ambrose), each player in a team tees off on each hole, and the players decide which shot was best. Every player then plays his second shot from within a clublength of where the best ball has come to rest, and the procedure is repeated until the hole is finished. In a champagne scramble, each player in a team tees off on each hole. The best drive is used and all players play their own ball from this spot.
  • In best ball, each player plays the hole as normal, but the lowest score of all the players on the team counts as the team's score.[5]
  • In a greensome, also called modified alternate shot, both players tee off, and then pick the best shot as in a scramble. The player who did not shoot the best first shot plays the second shot. The play then alternates as in a foursome.[6]
  • A variant of greensome, often referred to as a gruesome, is sometimes played where the opposing team chooses which of their opponent's tee shots the opponents should use. The player who did not shoot the chosen first shot plays the second shot. Play then continues as a greensome.

Betting Variations

Bingo Bango Bongo

Bingo Bango Bongo is a points-based game that can be played by two or more players or teams. In Bingo Bango Bongo, three types of achievements are rewarded with a point. The first player in a group to get his ball on the green gets a point (bingo). The player in the group whose ball is closest to the pin once all balls are on the green gets a point (bango). And the player in the group who is first to hole out gets a point (bongo). Lowest score on hole wins 2 points, but if 2 players tie, all tie, which means no points are given out. At the end of the game the player with the most points wins the money which comes from the other players in individual play or the other team. The amount of money can be a certain amount for 18 holes or for Team-play a certain amount for each hole.[7] Bingo Bango Bongo is considered a game for skilled players, and its point-based scoring makes it a popular side-game for wagering.[8]

Extreme Battle Piff Paff Poof

Extreme Battle Piff Paff Poof originated in Okehampton, UK in the late Noughties with annual developments creating its current game play. The games main structure is still based around the popular Bingo Bango Bongo but each point gained also adds to one Battle Play. Battle play equates to the removal of a club from one of your opponents - excluding their putter. Should a player achieve a full 6 pointer they are allowed to take two clubs from each opponent adding the Extreme element to its name. The game is best played over 9 holes and adds great enjoyment when watching a player tee of a short par 3 with a very open 4 iron or trying to hit a pitching wedge 200 yards.


A betting game whereby any player making par after having been in a bunker on the hole wins points or money. The bunker can be at any spot on the hole. But the particulars are really up to those playing the game.[7]


Barkies, sometimes called Woodies or Seves (as in Seve Ballesteros), are paid automatically to any player who makes par on a hole on which he hit a tree. The value of a Barkie is determined before the round.[7]


Arnies are side bets whose value should be determined prior to the round. They are won automatically by any golfer who makes a par without having managed to get his ball into the fairway. Named in honor of Arnold Palmer, who made quite a few "Arnies" in his time.[7]


Wolf is one of the classic golf betting games for groups of four, but it gets a little complicated. Wolf is an individual side-betting game, however it is played mostly as changing 2-on-2 teams throughout the round. A predetermined driving order is set by arbitrary means (birthdays, alphabetical order, drawing tees, etc…) and is kept throughout the round. The starting person rotates each hole (and thus the Wolf rotates because the wolf always tees off last). If the order for hole 1 is ABCD, then player D is the Wolf for hole 1. The order for hole #2 would then be BCDA and person A would be the Wolf.

After the first person tees off, the Wolf must either choose that player as his/her teammate for the hole or pass. If the Wolf chooses the first driver as a teammate, then the teams are set for the hole. If the wolf passes on the first drive, then he/she may view the second drive and then either pick or pass. Once the teams are set, everyone plays the hole individually, but the players on the team with the lowest score for the hole each earn a point/skin. If the Wolf doesn’t like any of the first three drives, he or she may choose to go it alone on a 3 vs. 1 hole worth two points/skins. The player with the most points at the end of the round wins the wolf side-betting game. Points/skins may also be worth money if agreed upon before-hand. The low score for the round may or may not be the winner of the wolf points.

In a variation, the player designated as Wolf must choose a teammate or 3-on-1 BEFORE any drive.

In the event there are only three golfers available, another version of this classic game can be played. Once per round, each player must call "Black Imjo Woofez". This enables the "Wolf" to score 8 points by scoring better than the score of his two opponents. In the event he does not score better, each opponent receives 4 points each. In addition to calling "Black Imjo Woofez", each player must also call "Black Imjo Woofez Dupont" once per round. Adding the "Dupont" variation allows the lone wolf to hedge his bet to a degree. While playing "Dupont", beating your two opponents gives you 6 points, and a tie will offer you 2. However, both opposing players will earn 6 points each for an outright win.[7]

Acey Deucey

Aces and Deuces, or Acey Deucey, is a bet in which there is a winner, two modest losers, and one big loser on each hole. It's a game for groups of four, obviously. The low scorer on each hole wins a certain amount from each of the other three players; while the high scorer on each holes owes each of the other three.[7]


The Nassau is three bets in one: low score on the front nine, low score on the back nine and low score over the full 18. The $2 Nassau is perhaps the most common bet among golf buddies.[7]

Round Robin

Round Robin, also known as Hollywood or Sixes, is a betting game for groups of four that involves two members of the foursome teaming up against the other two. The catch is that partners rotate every six holes.[7]

Criers and Whiners

Criers and Whiners is known by many different names, but the gist is the same: it's a game of mulligans for those players who are always crying and whining about that handful of shots they screwed up. "If only I could have hit that one again ..." The number of do-overs golfers get in Criers and Whiners is based on their handicap index.[7]

Best in Show

Best in Show allows golfers to score points in up to six different categories. Before the round, each player should contribute an equal amount of money to a central pot. On each hole, a player scores a point for driving in the fairway (not played on par-3's), hitting a green in regulation, or one-putting a green. One point is also awarded for having the longest drive in the group (obviously, not used on par-3's), being closest to the pin once all balls are on the green, and for having the lowest score on the hole (all players who tie for lowest score are awarded points). After the round, the player who scored the most points in each category wins 10% of the pot, except for most holes won, which pays 20%. The player with the most points overall is deemed "best in show" and wins the remaining 30%.[7]

Pitch and Putt

The "par 3" or pitch and putt course in Shibden Hall, England

Pitch and putt is an amateur sport, similar to golf also known as "chip and putt" by Dan Lickman. The maximum hole length for international competitions is 90 metres (100 yd) with a maximum total course length of 1,200 metres (1,310 yd). Players may only use three clubs; one of which must be a putter. The game is played from raised artificial teeing surfaces using a tee and it has its own handicap system.[9]

The game was developed mainly in Ireland since the 1940s, but is today a growing sport all over the world. In December 2010 the IPPA were informed by the R&A that, after a thorough study of the Pitch and Putt sport, IPPA would receive financial support for its tournaments and the right to use the R&A logo. It was the only Pitch and Putt body in receipt of financial support.

Comparison between Golf & Pitch and Putt
Particular Golf Pitch and Putt
Number of holes in one round 18 18
Combined length of 18 holes 6,000 to 7,500 meters 1,200 meters maximum
Maximum Distance of a Hole (from tee) no specific regulation 90 meters
Total Par in a round (average) 72 54
Type of shots Driving, Pitching/Chipping and Putting Pitching/Chipping and Putting
Clubs/Iron Complete Golf Set Two Irons and One Putter
Approximate time taken for a complete course 4–5 hours 75–90 minutes
Land required for developing 18 hole course 100 acres to 150 acres for championship course 12 acres to 15 acres for championship course
  • apart from above differences; rules and regulations of the game are similar for Golf & Pitch and Putt

Game Variations

Games based on golf have evolved as well.

Miniature golf is a popular variation of golf, using only a putter in unusual, often comical situations. Examples include putting into a dragon's mouth or between the blades of a windmill or Abraham Lincoln's legs. This mill/president combination featured in an episode of The Simpsons which climaxed with a grisly decapitation for President Lincoln. More sedate miniature golf holes might require the ability to navigate through a skull's eye socket or over a see-saw. It is not uncommon to putt through a loop-the-loop or the portcullis of a castle. Further examples include putting round a lighthouse and avoiding the rotating legs of an octopus. Some holes don't even have comical obstacles, employing merely the use of unusual gradients to negotiate. Some courses, especially those built with a limited budget and/or imagination, have few obstacles and undulations to overcome. Regardless, one can still garner much pleasure from these paltry courses by employing new rules such as ricocheting the ball off a pre-determined number of walls before holing out. In these cases the potential for great amusement is limited only by the competitor's enthusiasm. Apart from that featured in The Simpsons, celebrated miniature golf courses include those found in:

Other variations of golf include Speed golf which is a combination of golf and running played with a limited number of clubs.

Beachgolf is a variation of golf mainly played on sandy beaches. It was devised with the aim of a simplified and more accessible version of golf. The game is played along a distance of about 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) on which the players, two per team, with as few strokes as possible, have to reach the final hole, hitting a soft polyurethane ball with a classic golf club.

Special Beach Golf Ball Games similar to golf using items other than clubs and a golf ball have also been created, including Dart Golf, Sholf, Disc Golf and Footgolf.


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  2. Sandwedged Guide to Scoring Stableford Golf
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  4. Kelley, Brent. "Definition of Fourball". Retrieved 2008-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kelley, Brent. "Definition of Scramble". Retrieved 2008-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kelley, Brent. "Definition of Greensome". Retrieved 2008-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 "Most Popular Golf Betting Games and Side Bets". Retrieved 2008-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Bingo Bango Bongo Wagering". Retrieved 2012-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Pitch and putt rules". European Pitch and Putt Association.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>