Whether you play for 50p, a fiver or simply for bragging rights, there are dozens of games that can add a bit of competitive fun to a round of golf.
For a game that is anything but predictable, it's ironic that that most golf competitions follow on of these formats. And whether it's strokeplay, stableford or matchplay, you can guarantee that nearly every club tournament will be played over 18 holes.
They may be good fun, but there are hundreds of other ways to liven things up on a Sunday morning with your regular partners. The European Tour is starting to get in on the act by debuting World Super 6 and the recent GolfSixes event in Hertfordshire – golf's equivalent of Twenty20 cricket.
The six-hole shootout is one of several formats which breaks from tradition and offers an alternative to more popular team games such as skins, foursomes, fourball-betterball and the Texas Scramble.
These new formats are being championed by European Tour boss Keith Pelley, who said: "This is not about wholesale changes in the game. The game is in great shape and 72-hole tournaments will always be there. But we need to be more entertaining for the younger generation. Rugby has its sevens, cricket its Twenty20, golf will always have 72 holes, but there has to be other formats. This may work, it may not. But we are excited about GolfSixes and spent a lot of time working on it. But no question it's a trial."
With the help of Golf Genius – a new service for your club that can manage more than a million different formats for competitive golf – we've picked out 16 underused golf games and scoring systems for you and your partners to try this summer.
Bingo Bango Bonga
It may sound like a cheesy pop song, but it's actually a points-based betting game where scoring well doesn't necessarily win you the match. On each hole, points are awarded for three separate achievements. The rst is given to the player who gets on the green first. The second is awarded to the player who is closest to the pin once all the balls are on the green, and the third is given to the player who holes out first. The goal, as you can probably guess, is to earn the most points during the round. There are 54 points up for grabs so just be mindful when setting the betting stake.
No, it's not a dance. It's a twist on a traditional fourball format with only the best ball counting on the 1st hole, two on the 2nd and then three on the 3rd. The process repeats so that you count the best score on the 4th and so on.
The player with the lowest net score on each hole becomes the Chairman on the next hole. If two players tie, then the current Chairman continues for the next hole. The big difference maker is that a hole can only be won by the current Chairman. The player who wins the most holes takes the bragging rights – and the money.
This fourball variation might not win you any friends, but it's a great way to stitch a playing partner up. Each player tees off and then hits his/her teammate's ball for their second shot. Thereafter, both players must decide which of the two balls to play with for the remainder of the hole. The other ball is then picked up and the players must alternate strokes before holing out. If you're still talking once you've nished, consider it a job well done.
If you've ever played double or quits, you'll like this one. When playing a shot from off the green in matchplay, the player can shout " ap" between striking the ball and its rst bounce. The player then has to hole out with the next shot to win the hole – great if you've got a makeable chip or bunker shot. If they don't, they lose the hole. Once a player calls a ap on a shot, the opponent(s) can shout "double" before the ball bounces to double the win or loss.
A game of fourball better-ball matchplay with three real players and one imaginary player. One player is allocated to play with the "ghost", who makes par on every hole. The ghost plays off scratch and gives shots to every other player in the group. We'd recommend pairing the higher handicapper with the ghost.
Follow in the footsteps of Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan by playing in a greensomes pairs knockout tournament, spread over two days. The only catch is that you need a group of 16 to make it work, hence it's perfect for a society weekend. Teams are split into groups of four – similar to the UEFA Champions League – and face off in a round-robin format on the rst day. Each match is played over six holes, with three points being awarded for a win and one point for a draw. The top two teams from each group then progress to the knockout stages, all of which take place on day two. In the event of a tie, matches are decided by a sudden-death play-off.
A variant of traditional pairs matchplay, where both players tee off, and the opposing team then decides which ball is played next. Alternate shots are then played for the rest of hole, as in foursomes.
Lone Ranger/Yellow Ball
A popular scramble format during charity days, where your partners can only bail you out on so many occasions. Played in groups of four, each player takes it in turns playing with a yellow ball for the duration of the hole. For example, player A uses it on hole one, player B on the second and so on. The score of the designated "lone ranger" is then combined with the lowest score of the other team members to make up the team score.
This takes "pick and place" to a new level. The idea is that you can ditch your less-than- desirable shot for someone else's in your group on any hole. Just move your ball to where the other shot nished and play your next shot from there. This is permitted on any type of shot, from a drive to a putt. To keep the peace, make sure you decide on the amount of Metoos allowed before you begin your round.
A favourite among players permanently gripped by bad luck. Instead of handicap strokes, every player is allocated a foot of string per shot of handicap. You can then move your ball by measuring the distance and cutting that amount off your piece of string. It's a great way to save yourself a penalty stroke if your ball lies out of bounds, behind a tree or just in a hazard. Just don't forget to pack a pair of scissors and discard each piece of string once you've used it!
This is effectively a stableford format, but the scoring is different. Players receive -3 for a double bogey or worse, -1 for a bogey, zero for a par, +2 for a birdie, +5 for an eagle and +8 for an albatross.
If you struggle to motivate yourself after a shocking front nine, this side-betting game could be for you. Nassau scoring is made up of three separate matches, with a competition on the front nine, back nine and all 18 holes. The beauty is that Nassau works for nearly all types of scoring, and it can even be played individually or as part of a team.
If you're playing with someone who does not have an established handicap, you may want to consider using Peoria handicapping. This system uses just six scores from an 18-hole round so you can calculate a one-off handicap for that event. Just make sure an impartial observer pre-selects the six holes – a par 3, 4, and 5 from each nine – before the round begins. That way the player doesn't know which holes count; hence they will not be able to "blow up" on a hole in order to "blow up" their handicap. Once the round is complete, add up the amount over/under par (with a maximum of a double bogey) and then multiply by three. Subtract the par for the course and hey presto, you've got an unof cial handicap.
The next best thing to a mulligan. Each player is allowed to move their ball by kicking it out of trouble – without penalty – a set number of times. If only this was permitted in competitions...
A hybrid version of skins for a group of three golfers. As the name suggests, there are six points at stake on every hole. If someone wins it outright, they get four points. The second-best score gets two points and the third gets none. If the hole is won and the other players halve, then the allocation of points is 4-1-1. If two players halve and beat the third, then it's 3-3-0. Don't worry; it's easier than it sounds.
What is Golf Genius?
Golf Genius can manage in excess of a million different formats of competitive golf. The software, which is accessible online and via a free mobile app, lets tournament organisers deliver live scoring, printed scorecards and a branded tournament website.
Craig Higgs, director of international sales, explains: "With regular golfers so used to playing medals and stablefords on a monthly basis, it's important for clubs to be forward-thinking with their approach to competitions. Golf Genius is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of any tournament organiser, and provides a complete and end-to-end administrative solution that enhances the group golf experience on the day of play."
The US-based software is currently being used by more than 50 clubs in Europe and the Middle East. Subscriptions start from £250 per event, and for less on longer-term agreements. For a free demo, email firstname.lastname@example.org.