5 Fun Buddy Golf Trip Games for a Wide Range of Handicaps

I have been very lucky in my golfing experiences over the years.

I have played the Old Course at St.Andrews and other world-famous golf courses, enjoyed playing off a single figure handicap and even managed to win a competition or two over the years.

But of all my golfing adventures I can honestly say nothing beats a golf trip away with your buddies playing a bunch of fun golf games over a few rounds.

The amazing thing about golf is that through the handicap system it allows players of all varying standards to play against each other in a legitimate contest and it’s this unique aspect to the game that makes trips away such good fun.

So the next time you organise a golf trip away with your buddies here are 5 golf games and ideas for you to consider playing with groups of golfers with a wide range of handicaps.

1. Nassau

This game originated in the Nassau Country Club of Glen Cove, Long Island, New York and dates back to the 19th century.

Competitions between Nassau and other country clubs founded at around the same time lead to this game’s creation by Nassau’s Captain at the time – J.B.Coles Tappan.

The classic ‘Nassau’ splits a round into three different parts:

  • The first is played over front nine
  • The second part is played over the back nine
  • The third is counted over the full 18 holes.

The classic version also involved a $2 bet on each portion of the game so occasionally it is also known as “2-2-2”.

This game is great because it can be applied to any format – for example match play, Stableford, stroke play etc – but most importantly because it is based on the idea that the game’s result cannot be any worse than 3-0.

And that’s a great thing because it allows all players to have a chance throughout the round and not be out of the competition straight away if they get off to a bad start.

Trust me, there is nothing worse than one of the group feeling like there’s no point in them trying after a couple of holes because they are already out of the competition.

And especially if that person is you!

2. Las Vegas

This buddies golf game is great if your group includes newer golfers or teams with a wide range of handicaps as it’s designed to reduce the negative impacts of the weakest player’s score.

The game is played in teams of two and the team’s score is calculated by counting the scores of each player independently instead of summing them.

For example, if one teammate scores a 4 and the other scores 6, then their collective team score would be 46, rather than 10.

The important thing to remember is that the lower score of the two will always be placed first, except if one member of the team scores a double-digit number in which case this mechanism is reversed.

In other words, if one teammate shoots 10 and the other a 5, the score would not be 510 but 105.

Saying that though you can easily add a maximum possible score for each player on a hole – e.g. a net or gross double bogey – so golfers don’t have to suffer holing out if they are having a shocker on a hole.

If you’re playing for money though you may think differently on this point!

Whatever game format you choose try and make sure it keeps everyone involved!

3. Multiplier

Multiplier is another fun game to play on a buddy golf trip where is a real mix of handicaps and abilities.

Just like Las Vegas it is played in teams of two and is designed to not let the best players run away with things by using the creative method of multiplying a team’s scores together to give the team score.

For example, if one player shoots 3 and the other teammate scores 5, the team score would be 15, and not 35, as it would be in Las Vegas.

You can also change up the way the team scores are tracked throughout the round as follows so as potentially to create even more types of game:

  • The team score can be multiplied on a hole-by-hole basis and used in a match play format against the other team.
  • You can calculate the team score cumulatively at the end of the round to decide the winning team.
  • Team scores could be added up across 3 or 6 hole sets and different formats and prizes applied to each set.

As with all these buddy golf trip game ideas there are lots of tweaks and adjustments you can make to the Multiplier game to make sure everyone has a great trip and keeps getting a chance to win something.

4. Ringers or Eclectic

If you are away on a buddies golf trip a critical thing is that the game you choose gives everyone involved a chance to contribute or win no matter how many rounds you are playing or how badly they have played the day before.

And this is where the game of Ringers, or Eclectic as it also sometimes called, is a great option to consider, especially if you are playing a number of rounds on the same course.

This multi-round format game works as follows:

  • Each player plays a set number of rounds.
  • At the end of each round, the player compares their score on each hole per round.
  • Counts the best score on each hole to give the golfer’s best 18 hole score.

Let’s take an example of a Ringer or Eclectic tournament trip that is made up of three rounds.

In the first and third rounds, they post a 7 on the first hole but in the second round, they make a great par 4.

The lowest of the 3 scores counts as the player’s ‘eclectic or ringer’ score.

As I said this is a great game if you are playing a few rounds over the same course and there’s no reason also why you couldn’t make it a team event also and make the team’s best score on individual holes over a few rounds count towards their final tally.

Finally for those of you who want to know why the game has two different names the term ‘ringers’ is more often used when gross scores are compared across rounds while ‘eclectic’ is often preferred when net scores are counted.

Saying that the terms are frequently used interchangeably and the only important thing is to make sure you are clear whether you are counting gross or net scores at the outset.

5. Scrambles and Shambles

This is my personal favourite game on golf trips away with buddies when there are a wide range of handicaps in the group.

It’s a classic staple but there’s a reason it’s so popular in my view.

And that’s for the simple reason that every player can potentially make ‘the’ telling contribution all the way to the final shot irrespective of how they have played before then.

Scrambles can involve 2, or 3 or 4 person teams and work this way:

  • Each player on the team hits a tee shot.
  • The team then decides what was the best shot.
  • The team members whose shot was not taken pick up their balls and move them to within one lcub length of the spot of the best shot.
  • Each player then play again from that spot and again select the best shot and this continues until the team holes out.

This format is great for beginners and high handicap golfers as it lets them ignore their bad shots but also contribute at any point during the round.

You can easily make small tweaks to it also to add interest such as mandating that you have to use at least one or more drives of all the team members throughout the round.

This ensures you are not just always playing from the best players spot and adds a bit of extra pressure if you haven’t used a team member’s drive until later in the round!

A ‘shamble’ by comparison is slightly different in that only the best tee shot is used after which each individual team member plays their own ball until it is holed out.

Therefore while you only have one score to count in a ‘Scramble’ event in a ‘Shamble’ you can choose to count the best one out of two, best two out of three or four scores, or if you’re feeling brave, all the team scores to give the overall team score.

If you’re playing for money make sure all the group are clear on the rules before you start!

Final Thought

Every buddies golf trip is unique. Some are about having a serious competition while others are really all about the banter where the golf is almost incidental.

Whatever games you decide to play on your next golf trip though I would recommend you follow these three important points:

  • Make sure everyone is honest with their handicaps. Not everyone may have one but it’s important everyone does their best to accurately estimate what it is. If not, there may be some arguments in the 19th to deal with.
  • Keep the games simple and always think about the worst players. Golf is a tough game and there’s nothing worse than struggling with your game while at the same time having to worry whether you need a calculator and a slide rule to work out what your score is.
  • And finally, and most importantly, if there’s money involved make sure everyone is clear on the rules before you start! If you don’t you maybe one or two buddies down when it comes to organising the next trip!
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Graeme Hay

Graeme Hay is the owner of GolfingFocus.com. Graeme started playing golf when he was only 4 years old and has loved the game ever since. A single figure golfer all of his adult life and a member of Royal Troon Golf Club he lives in London and still enjoys playing whenever he can with friends and family.

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