Business Golf Primer: The Art of the Bet

There are two things you can count on happening at some point in your climb towards productive business golf.  While the duo is not as rough as death and taxes, many quiver at the thought:  horrific shots and course bets.  Sometimes those bad shots occur exactly when a crucial course bet is on the line, making it the worst double whammy of fear.

The art of the bet involves knowing how to make a bet, knowing the person who is making the bet and how they play, knowing your opponents, knowing how you yourself perform under pressure, and finally, knowing the maximum amount you could ultimately lose.  Please note that this last item is NOT negative thinking, rather, assessing the situation accurately.  Nothing is more embarrassing than not making good on a bet, and even worse is the stress arising from knowing you are losing and cannot cover that bet.

The most common bet for a foursome is the best ball match-play Nassau.  Usually the best and worst (highest and lowest handicap) players are paired together and the ‘tweeners’ are partners but you can pair up however you wish.  Sometimes you’ll witness the ‘tee-tossing’ ritual where a tee is thrown up in the air twice and the two players the tee subsequently points to are the first team.  To make things equitable, a 6-6-6 match can be scheduled and team players can rotate every six holes so that each person plays with each member of the foursome.

Nassau Calculation:  If the Nassau bet is $5 this means $5 goes to the front nine winner, $5 to the back nine winner, and $5 to the 18-hole winner.  If you win it all, you’ll net $15 – same with losing.  Usually things come out pretty even with no one winning or losing more than $5 or $10.  But watch out for the money players who want to play a $50 or $100 Nassau.  I’m not saying don’t do it, just be careful.  People like that have been around the course a time or two and won’t normally wager higher amounts if they are constantly on the losing end.

An Important Note About High Stakes Wagers: When beaucoup money is at stake, tempers can flare…..and so too the watchful eyes of all who are playing in your group.  Rules mishaps can occur and sometimes phantom rules are called, that is, rules which are non-existent or assumed, with arguments erupting to create tense situations.  Friendships have been fractured over conceded putts that weren’t, disputes over too much time spent searching for lost balls, or at worst, cheating.  Things can get ugly quickly.  It is probably best to keep golf course bets under $20 or to play for drinks or dinner.  That way, the camaraderie is saved yet the competitive edge a bit of gambling provides will keep the juices flowing.

Sometimes a ‘Press’ may arise.  A Press takes place when one team is losing – or has already lost –  the original bet and wants to initiate a new bet to hopefully play better and cut their losses.  In essence, you could lose the original bet but win the Press and end up even.  If there are numerous presses, it can be tricky to keep track of them all.  If you don’t trust the scorekeeper, don’t agree to them.

Also recommend is not using handicaps other than to determine who will be partners.  Why?  So many people fudge their handicaps or calculate their own, incorrectly, that you would be the only one playing fair.  Women tend to play by the rules more so than men.  Try to pair the teams up as equitably as possible and go for it.

A note to women about the Forward Tees:  even though it is perfectly acceptable for women to play the Forward Tees and that your handicap is probably calculated from them, you will still get nagged about it with comments like “what an advantage you have” or “you’re almost cheating playing from there” or “you should play it back here with the big boys”.  You can offer these retorts:  1) “I don’t see them putting John Daly or Tiger Woods on another tee farther back than everyone else because they can pop it,” or 2) “If I were playing on your scramble team, would you want me to play from the back tees?”   If your game can take it, go back to the men’s chosen tee and let it fly.  However, you’d need to negotiate a few more handicap strokes to compensate for the distance – and this comes from the USGA when calculating course ratings and handicaps for women playing tees from farther back.  Even if you don’t win the bet, you’ll win the respect.

A note about course handicapping of holes: There are some courses which do not have a separate system for handicapping holes for men’s play and women’s play.  You’ll see this when you look at the scorecard:  the men’s handicap holes will be listed under the Men’s hole-by-hole par rating, and the Women’s at the bottom of the card, by their hole-by-hole par rating.  If there is only one set of hole handicap numbers, that means there is no rating for women.  This may not seem like a big deal but it can be if handicap strokes for the match are allocated according to the hole handicap.   For example, if there is a 180-yard downhill par-3 over a bunker which is rated the 15th handicap hole for everyone (most par-3’s are usually rated as easier), it may be fine for the guys who could likely hit a 5 iron or hybrid wood.   However for most women, this hole would probably be impossible for them to reach, even with a driver, due to the carry needed.  As the 15th handicap hole, it is obviously unfair, yet there is really no compensation that can be made for this oversight.  A women’s only recourse is to gut it out, try to stay clear of the bunker, then go to the Director Golf after the round and request that the course establish handicap hole ratings for women.

One other wagering game involves individual contests for various conditions, so,etimes affectionately named ‘junk’:  ‘sandies’ for up and down saves from the bunker;  ‘barkies’ for shots that hit trees and land on the green accompanied by a one-putt;  ‘snakes’ , where a dollar might be assessed for a three-putt; ‘chip-in’s’, shots holed out from off the green; ‘greenies’ when you are closest to the pin on a par-3 and at worst two-putt (a three-putt normally negates your win).  There are many other similar terms and games but these are the most common.  It doesn’t hurt to go in on this type of contest;  in fact, if you refuse, you’ll likely be viewed as a cheapskate because just about anyone can win at these games.

Above all, make sure everyone is in agreement about the game to be played, the partners, rules, conditions, the presses, the extras, and the handicaps being used before you tee off. Once the game begins it is too late to alter anything, unless of course you decide to re-evaluate everything at the turn.  This is sometimes done when the people playing together don’t know each other very well or don’t know the level of expertise within the foursome.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)