Wholesome gambling

7 things other than money you can play golf for

February 27, 2023

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Forget all the talk about money in pro golf. Let’s talk about the stakes that actually matters to golfers: what you’re playing for in your weekly game. Deciding on a cash wager can be tricky. There’s a fine line between playing for enough money to make you nervous—and not too much to where friendships (and account balances) are jeopardized. Maybe the monotony of trading $20 bills back and forth every Saturday has you searching for a better option. It’s time to get creative.

To help you brainstorm some new bets, we consulted our editors, who turn to these wagers when, for one reason or another, money isn’t cutting it. From fantasy football, to shameful rituals, to a coveted conch, there's something for every group.

Neighborly punishment: My hated golf rival, Joe, lives around the corner, and he always used my little side street as a shortcut. Our bet one day for our match was over his right to cut through the street. If I won he had to go around. He won, and then made sure to honk his horn obnoxiously every time he drove past our house for months, sending our dog into a frenzy in the process. — Sam Weinman

A sweet sip: Something a buddy and I do when we want to keep it relatively low stakes and make sure everyone stays friends afterward is playing for one single beer. And the thing is, the competitive juice with this one particular friend is already there anyway. Yes, we play for money here and there, but tasting that beer after the round is so much sweeter than receiving a Venmo payment or watching someone fumble around for four dollars and 67 cents after you took $5 off him. Also, win or lose, the second beer is always on the other guy anyway. — Christopher Powers

The coveted conch: One summer when I was on the maintenance crew a coworker found a 1970s PowerBilt 8-iron on the course. When we would play after our shifts that 8-iron served as our version of the conch, for he who held that beat-to-sh– club held the power. — Joel Beall

Wheel and deal: If your money is tied up in other gambling endeavors, such as fantasy football, why not wheel and deal your fantasy assets like Jerry Jones on a trade-deadline bender. It could be something as innocuous as top waiver-wire order or better seeding in next fall’s draft, or something as nerve-wracking as having to trade your buddy Christian McCaffery for Kenyan Drake if you lose the match. Good luck and may God have mercy on your soul. — Coleman Bentley

Shameful rituals: To mimic the pressure of playing for money, without actually putting your cash on the line, play for shame. Find an obnoxious headcover—you know, of the giant, pink unicorn sort—and the loser has to show it off until the next match, when it’s on the line again. Opposing NFL team hats/shirts/bags also do the trick. — Drew Powell

Chief Scheduling Officer: If your group gets out several times a week, and you’re the one in charge of figuring out who can play at what time and securing those prime tee times, you know how tedious the process can be. It doesn’t have to be just you. In your next match, the loser gets scheduling duty for the week. — Drew Powell

I'll take that one: A friend recently told me that when he was a kid, his group of friends would play for the best golf ball in each other’s bags. A genius game, if you break it down. Do you take only the cheap, dug-it-from-the-pond balls and roll the dice with suspect performance? Or do you throw in a couple new Pro V1s, hoping to gain the advantage but risking a far more painful consequence should you lose? Low stakes, sure, but genius nonetheless. — Drew Powell

We want to hear about your game if you play for something other than money. Send us an email: editors@golfdigest.com or tag us on social media @GolfDigest.