5 Simple Golf Side Games

golf side games

When you’re out on the golf course with your friends, playing a side game is a good way to get those competitive juices flowing while having some extra fun. Whether you decide to play for money, for who buys the drinks after, or simply for pride, playing a side game always spices things up.

Here are some simple golf side games that anybody can play:

Classic Match Play

The basic form of match play is played over 18 holes (or 9 if that is all you’re playing), where the lowest score on each hole wins that hole. For example, if you score a four and I score a seven on the first hole, you go one up. If I win the next hole, the match is back to all square. The match is over once one player is up more holes than the number of holes remaining to play.

The Nassau

A very common form of a match play side game, the Nassau is essentially three separate match play contests – one on the front 9, one on the back 9, and one for 18 holes. The Nassau is also commonly referred to as “2-2-2” (or a $2 Nassau), where each of the three matches are worth $2. Of course, you can play for whatever you’d like.


The closeout is a form of match play which is good for those who want to do less score keeping than a Nassau but still want to put a twist on traditional match play. In this game, you simply play one 18-hole match for the stake of your choice. Once that match is over (if somebody is 4-UP with 3 holes to play, for example), a second match is played over the remaining holes for half of the original wager. This gives the loser of the first match a chance to cut their losses, and puts pressure on the winner to “closeout” the match and win the full wager. If the original match lasts until the 18th hole, the second match is played out on the 18th hole. If a player is 1-down in the original match going to the 18th hole and wins the 18th hole, they would tie the original match and win the second match.

Points (or Stableford)

When you play Points, you can use the standard Stableford points format, or make up your own points format. In this format, you get a predetermined amount of points depending on your score for each hole. The standard Stableford points system is:

Double bogey+ = -3 point
Bogey = -1 points
Par = 0 point
Birdie = 2 points
Eagle = 5 points
Double Eagle = 8 points

Depending on skill level, you can structure the point system to make it challenging but feasible to walk away with positive points. For high handicaps, I’d suggest:

Double bogey+ = -1 point
Bogey = 0 points
Par = 1 point
Birdie = 3 points
Eagle = 6 points
Double Eagle = 10 points

Whoever has the most points at the end of the round wins.


Snips are great because you can designate anything you want as a “snip”, and you don’t necessarily have to shoot the best score to win. A snip is given a value of your choice, and you tally them as you go. Common snips are birdies or better, hitting a fairway, closest to the pin on par 3’s, hitting a green in regulation, one-putts, sand saves, and chip-ins. Feel free to get as creative as you’d like with snips. You can also throw in a twist by taking away snips for things such as 3-putts or hitting a ball into the water.


All of these games, except for Snips, can be played with handicap strokes in order to level the playing field and allow players of different skill levels to play against each other fairly. In match play, simply take the difference in handicaps between two players in a match, and that is how many strokes the higher handicap will receive. If that difference is five, the higher handicap will receive one stroke on each of the five hardest holes (as indicated on the scorecard). When playing Points, if a player has a handicap of 10, they will receive a stroke on each of the ten hardest holes. When they score par on one of their stroke holes, it is counted as a net birdie and points for a birdie are awarded.

If players don’t keep track of their handicap (they should start since it’s free and easy with the Offcourse App), you can still attempt to level the playing field by guesstimating the number of strokes given for matches based on skill level and typical scores shot by each player.

There are many variations and twists to the above games, but this should give you a good start to playing some basic side games with your friends without the score keeping getting out of hand. Not only are they fun to play, but the little bit of pressure you might feel with something extra on the line will be good practice under pressure and help you improve your game in the long run.

by Josh StrukoffOffcourse contributor and owner of the Golf is Mental Blog.