Nassau is one of golf’s most popular games. It breaks 18 holes up into 3 separate competitions: front nine, back nine, and overall score.
Nassau can be played 1v1 or in teams of two. If you team up, it’s your choice how to set the teams and divvy up the winnings. You can spin a tee, toss balls into the air, get into a shouting match — whatever works for you.
If you choose to use handicaps, allocate them by subtracting the strongest player’s handicap from the weakest player’s handicap. The strongest player then plays from scratch while everyone else plays off of the difference. In the spirit of competition, we’d advise against stacking the deck, but even if you do, the handicaps are there to level the playing field and keep things interesting.
The most common wager in Nassau is $2 for the front nine, $2 for the back nine, and $2 for the overall match for a total of $6. That might not sound impressive, but things can easily add up if you choose to up the initial wager (i.e. from $2 to $6) or if there’s a lot of pressing going on.
Pressing happens when you’re down and you decide to create a second bet that runs concurrently with the first. For example, if you’re on the fifth hole of the front nine and things aren’t going well for you, you can press and create a second bet that covers holes five through nine, giving you a chance to win the second bet.
Pressing typically happens after you’ve gone down 2, but there’s no hard rule, so if you’re down 1 and want to press, go for it. How much you press for is your call, but we typically press for half of that section’s wager.
There are a few ways to determine who starts the game. We usually opt for a coin toss or a tee spin.
After the first hole, you can follow tee box honors, with the winner(s) of the previous hole going first. If you tie on a hole, honors remain with whoever won the previous hole.
If you’re playing match play, the individual or team who wins the most holes wins the bet for that section. If you’re playing stroke play, the individual or team with the lowest score wins the bet for that section. At the end of the game, whoever has won the most total holes or has the lowest total score wins the final overall bet.
The art of the press for the advanced golf nerds