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Games to Play on a Golf Course

A lot of people see golf as a fairly one dimensional sport. Hit the ball in the hole, the fewest shots wins. This is a shame, because there are so many games to play on a golf course. It isn’t all about beating par. It doesn’t even have to be about counting the number of shots at all. Here are a few ideas that should make things a little bit more interesting on the course.

Matchplay and Scramble Matchplay

This might not seem like a particularly innovative idea, but actually is a different way of looking at golf. The beauty of matchplay is that par essentially becomes irrelevant and strategy can change all the time. It is perfectly possible to win a hole with a double bogey or lose it with a birdie. I find it a very liberating way to play because the idea of protecting a score goes out of the window.t

As an example, I played a scramble matchplay in a group of 4 very recently. Scramble matchplay is even more enjoyable for me because you can try all sorts of things. I hit driver off the deck twice during the round, simply because my partner was already in the middle of the fairway with his second shot on a par five. The other team were in trouble after messing up their tee shot and it was an opportunity to push home the advantage.

I would love to say both shots were perfect! One was an absolute peach, taking us to the edge of the green in two and ultimately a win on the hole. For the other, I thought I was Bubba Watson and tried to hit a driver off the deck round the corner of a dogleg off a sloping lie. Needless to say, I didn’t even bother looking for that ball!

The point is, these were fun shots to play and shots that I wouldn’t have played in other circumstances.

Best Ball, Worst Ball

Another game that works well in a four is best ball, worst ball. This is just as you might imagine. Two teams of two. The best score on each team at the end of the hole is compared and the winner gets a point and the worst score on each team is compared for another point. This is a great way to keep things interesting and keep everyone playing the hole. It also works very well with golfers of differing abilities.

Maybe the only proviso here would be that the better golfers on each team are comparable in standard and so are the weaker ones. Given this is essentially a form of matchplay, it is great for having fun because the actual score doesn’t matter as much as how your score compares to the guy in the other team.

Removing Clubs (Battle Golf)

There are various ways to play this. I think I saw Peter Finch and Rick Shiels do this a few years ago and call it battle golf but there are many ways to go about it. It involves either progressively removing or exchanging clubs depending on the result of a hole. Here are a few that I like, but you could probably find a dozen other ways to make it work.

The most basic method would be that each golfer starts with his full bag of 14 clubs. As much as I like a minimalist golf bag, this isn’t the right time for a round of one club golf! After each hole, the winner chooses a club to take out of the bag of the loser. If the hole is halved, this carries over to two clubs on the next hole.

You can also add in bonuses. For example, a birdie means you can choose two clubs, an eagle might be three. Or you could have a forfeit whereby both players lose a club for a bogey or a three putt. This can get quite tactical as well. Taking away the driver or the favourite wedge someone can really make things tricky!

Another addition is that you can use the club you have ‘confiscated’ from your opponent. You might choose to take a club that you don’t have in your bag, maybe a 64 degree wedge or a driving iron.

Roll the Dice and Choose the Club

Something that can be a lot of fun either on your own or with partners is to add in a random element to club selection. This can de done by rolling a die, using playing cards or writing all the clubs on a piece of paper and pulling it out of the bag. Even easier today is to go online and use a randomiser which will choose a club for you. This can be done before each shot, on the tee, of once when you choose in the hole. You have to play the shot with whatever club is selected.

This can mean that you have to step on a wedge to squeeze distance out, cut a long iron to make it into a medium iron, or even try to find your way out of a bunker with a driver! It should certainly lead to attempting to hit some shots that you haven’t played before at the very least.


Skins is a form of group matchplay that has become more common over the last few years. It is associated with big money matches, but you can really play for anything at all, even just to see who wins the most skins. Each hole counts as one skin. A player from the group has to win the hole outright to win the skin. If two or more players share the hole, the skin automatically transfers to the next hole, which is now worth two skins and so on in a rollover format.

For example, on the first hole if golfer A and B score 4, and golfer C scores 6, nobody wins and they move on to hole 2. If our friend golfer C then scores 3 and A and B score 4, golfer C wins two skins. The fact that he is actually one shot more than A and B in stroke play doesn’t matter. He has two skins and the others don’t have any. On the next hole (hole 3) we go back to one skin and start again.

This is a good format because it doesn’t matter how you are doing over all. You only need to turn up to one hole and potentially you have won. It is also interesting because you can take a risk or two in order to try to win because there is a good chance that the other players will ‘protect you’ by drawing the hole. It might well be worth trying that 1 in 10 shot over water because even if it doesn’t come off, you only need two players to finish equal on the hole and all bets are off.

One shot, Two (or More) Clubs

I suppose this game is halfway between practice and fun. It is something I do all the time, especially when I am playing on my own and the course is a little quieter. I will try to hit a shot in several different ways using several different clubs. Of course, this is quite common on the tee. Maybe you hit driver with one ball and then a long iron or hybrid with another to see how that works out.

I actually tend to use this on approach shots and especially around the green. I think it is an interesting way to find out about your game. For example, I might find myself at a perfect eight iron distance into a green. I will hit the eight iron, but then will try to hit a seven iron and perhaps a six as well. You might find that your chances of getting close are actually far better with more club and a half swing.

Around the green, this can be even more enlightening. Hitting a chip with everything from a 64 degree wedge to a three wood is a lesson in itself. You might find out that your chances of getting close are much better with a club you don’t usually use. And the opposite is also true. Using an unexpected club might just rule out that horrible disaster shot that has been plaguing your game for years.

2 Ball, Worst Ball

One last suggestion that works with others but is also great when you are on your own is to play a two ball, worst ball. This is just as it sounds. You (or you and a partner) hit two balls. Instead of choosing the best one, you choose the worst. The difference this can make to a score for the average golfer can be frightening! As an example, I can comfortably and regularly get close to par or even under playing a two ball, best ball on my own. This can sometimes make me think that I am quite a lot better than I am.

Playing the worst ball gives me a whole different picture. Suddenly, I can’t ignore that drive in the woods, the duffed chip, or the three putt. A double bogey isn’t all that rare over 18 anymore. At the very least, it keeps me humble!

Thousands of Games to Play on a Golf Course

These are just a few examples of games that I like to play on a golf course. I could really give you ten more off the top of my head. In fact, I should probably do a part 2 to this article with a few more. The point is, golf can be a little less rigid than it is often made out to be. You don’t have to play exactly as the rules set things out. As long as you are not damaging the course of making life difficult or dangerous for the other golfers, all you need to do is to use your imagination and find different ways of thinking about the game.

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