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Match play is one of the main forms of competition in golf. It pits players one against another, rather than one against the field as in stroke play. Opponents compete to win individual holes, and the player who wins the most holes wins the match.
Match play can be played by two individuals, one on one, and that is known as Singles Match Play. Or teams of two players can square off, with Foursomes and Fourball the most common formats for team play.
"Skins" are what a "skins game" is played for. A skins game pits players in a type of match play in which each individual hole has a set value (usually in money or points). The player who wins the hole is said to win the "skin," and whatever that skin is worth.
Skins games are a popular gambling format among recreational golfers, but also are sometimes played at the highest levels of golf.
Skins games are often more dramatic than standard match play because holes are not halved. When players tie on a given hole, the value of that hole is carried over and added to the value of the following hole. The more ties, the greater the value of the skin and the bigger the eventual payoff. For example, a friendly skins game might be played for $1 per hole.
A Nassau bet, or match, is a match play wager that is actually three wagers in one. It is a match play wager on the entire eighteen holes, it is a match play wager on the first nine, and it is a match play wager on the second nine. The amount of money bet usually ranges from $2.00 on up. The normal bet or game, is a $2.00 Nassau. That means that you have a $2.00 bet for the first nine holes, a $2.00 bet for the second nine holes, and a $2.00 bet for the entire eighteen holes.
So, it is possible to win or lose up to $6.00. If you are playing a $20.00 Nassau, your potential win or lose would be $60.00.
The vast majority of golfers who do this type of wagering, fall into the $2.00 to $5.00 category.
A common variation of the Nassau is to add a bet called "a press". A press is an additional bet that takes place when one team is down by two holes or more. For example, after completion of the seventh hole, team A may be down two holes to team B and they may press that team an additional bet $2.00 bet for the remainder of the nine holes in play at the time of the press. If for example team A is 2 holes down to team B after 7 holes, this means that the" press" is actually a bet for the 8th and 9th holes only. Presses as you can imagine can become quite confusing and their outcome quite stunning.
Keep in mind also there are two different types of presses. There are optional presses, and there are automatic presses. Automatic presses automatically become effective when one team is two holes down. The optional press; the down team has the right to increase the wager or "press", and the leading team has the right to decline the wager. A situation, for example, where the wager may be declined, however it’s considered very un-sportsman-like, might be again, team A presses team B on the ninth tee after being two holes down on the eighth, but both players on team A have strokes as a result of the handicap. So, team B declines because they believe the advantage would be too strong in team A’s favor.
The automatic press is just that, it is announced and agreed upon before the golf match begins and must be defined as to how many holes down a side must be before the press takes affect. Normally the press begins when one team leads by 2 holes.
We have created the following scorecard sequence in an attempt to make "the press" and its scoring a little clearer. In this match all of the golfers agreed to a $5 Nassau with automatic presses, no additional bets. The first card shows the initial scorecard set up with each stroke a player is to receive checked off on the card. Please note that the strokes are given not by the golf course but by the lowest handicap golfer, that being Adam at 7. You will also note that they are playing to full handicap. (Although this is not un-common it is also fairly common for golfers to set up their matches and bets based on 90% of handicap.) With the handicaps set up at full, you can see that Adam, a 14 handicap gets 7 strokes from his partner Alan, on team B, Bill a 12-handicap gets 5 strokes from Alan, and lastly Bob a 9 handicap gets 2 strokes from Alan. (For additional information on handicap see our section on golfing handicaps.) You might also note that Team A consists of the highest and lowest handicapped golfers in the group with Team B being the 2 "mid range" handicappers. This is considered a fair and equitable way to set up the teams in a group playing a round of golf with a "friendly wager" just to keep it interesting.
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