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The 7 Biggest Gambles You Can Make Playing Golf

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com

Dan Kilbridge  | 9 mins

The 7 Biggest Gambles You Can Make Playing Golf

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Golf is a gambling game. Always has been. 

No other sport is so intrinsically tied with money exchanging hands between competitors, nor did other sports create a handicap system to allow evenly-matched money games between players of all skill levels.

The variety of potential golf betting wagers is also unmatched whether you’re playing in a twosome or a group of eight foursomes. Skins, Nassau, Chicago, Wolf Hammer, dots, bingo/bango/bongo, high/low, Vegas … the list goes on and on. 

Some players, however, choose not to gamble their hard-earned dollars on the course. They’d rather enjoy the walk and that’s absolutely their prerogative. But even those who don’t play for cash are gambling the second they tee it up, whether they know it or not. 

In honor of National Golf Day, here are the biggest gambles players take on the golf course without a single dollar changing hands. 

Partying the Night Before an Early Tee Time

We’ve all been there. The drinks are flowing on a carefree Friday night, the entire weekend at your fingertips. The before and after times are no longer relevant. Holy cow, that’s a delicious cold beer, you remark. You might have another one. Maybe even two more. Oh, you love this song! Shots! Where’s the nearest tobacco store? That 8 a.m. tee time? It’s, like, still nine hours away. A lifetime! 

Fight it, you must, but the 6:45 a.m. alarm clock is undefeated.    

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It’s still too early to rule out a great ground of golf. You take stock of your faculties and exit the domicile in a semi-dreamlike state, the stale taste of those hazy IPAs that no longer sound so delicious still lingering on the tongue.

But we’ve all heard stories of players shooting career rounds with a hangover. Psychologically, it can actually have a positive effect if the physical consequences aren’t overwhelming. That’s because your expectations aren’t very high when you’ve got a pounding headache and might puke. Removing that pressure and focusing on simply getting through the round rather than shooting a number can free up the swing and lead to surprisingly strong results. 

Of course, that’s never the case for most mortals. You pick up on the first hole and give yourself an eight, you’re sweating like Robert Hays in “Airplane!”, the course record is safe and the only good shots are the frequent pulls of a Gatorade bottle. The worst part is there’s no one else to blame. You did this to yourself.

Wagering with booze the night before a round is a very dangerous game.

Getting Paired Up With Randoms

Showing up solo is always a gamble. 

This is usually a push. Your random partner is polite and makes small talk on the tee boxes, mostly keeping to themselves between shots. They shoot 86 and wish you good luck on your 10K run the following weekend. You will never see or think of them again. 

You can also hit the jackpot here. Maybe get paired up with someone around your age, who plays at the same pace and provides great chatter. This can become a regular playing partner to avoid random pairings in the future.

But there are a number of nightmare playing partners lurking in clubhouses throughout the world, with whom getting paired is the equivalent of seeing 00 pop up on the roulette wheel. They won’t stop giving unsolicited swing advice, they talk nonstop, they’re not ready to play when it’s their turn, they walk in your line, they hit on the beverage cart employees, they were a scratch before the shoulder injury, their good friend who’s not there is actually a member at Seminole and played Pine Valley three years ago, yada, yada, yada. 

These people suck. And they will spoil your round. 

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Playing Golf in Florida

Playing golf in a bubble is difficult enough. Playing golf in Florida is just downright dangerous at times. 

You’ve got unfathomable temperatures, unforgiving rays, and, reportedly, one of the highest average handicap indexes of any state. So you’ve gotta be on the lookout for foul balls from the locals. It also rains every day around 2 p.m. for at least four months straight.

Don’t even get us started on Bermuda, which, contrary to popular propaganda films of the mid-1930s, is the true Devil’s Grass. 

If you’ve survived the elements enough to tee it up and get it around, congratulations. Now you just need to be on the lookout for prehistoric beasts ready to snatch an arm or a leg should you venture too close to the water. The gators are everywhere and they don’t care that your ball is still technically in play. You have entered their domain. Proceed with caution.

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Playing Golf in Arizona 

Basically the same thing as Florida, but rattlesnakes and scorpions. 

Bringing One Sleeve of Balls 

You’re a highly-proficient player who happened to bring just one sleeve of balls. The course doesn’t look too difficult and you don’t want to pay $15 for an overpriced pro shop selection. You’ll be fine. 

And you will be fine, until that one tee shot with a little too much top spin on a firm fairway running severely left to right feeding into a wooded area you didn’t even know was there. And then that one shot that everyone had a line on and could have sworn it would be right there under the shortest of those four trees and it just doesn’t make any sense that it’s not and they’re sorry, man, that’s a tough break.

You’re down to your last golf ball and the situation is dire. It’s all you can think about, you’re bailing out hard on every shot and oh God there goes that last ball into the drink.   

Now you have several options, none of them good. You can take the golf cart ride of shame back to the clubhouse and pay $15 for three more. You can hold up the group and search in a desperate attempt for a freebie. Or, you can ask your playing partners to borrow a ball or two, which leads to questions about preparation, logic and executive function that you’re not prepared to answer at this time. 

Either way, you feel like an idiot. Don’t make this bet. Bring enough golf balls. 

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Hitting Tee Shots into Slow Groups

This is like the 12-leg parlay of golf bets your friend makes on betting apps weekly. It never wins. 

Slow play is very frustrating and we don’t blame anyone if they’re starting to get big mad when the foursome ahead is dilly-dallying around the fairways, marking three-foot putts, holing everything and generally showing a complete and total disregard for their fellow human beings who have places to be and things to do. 

Groups stuck immediately behind these inconsiderate sloths in khaki shorts will sometimes choose to fire a warning shot off the tee and hit into the group to send a message. 

This is a high-risk, low-reward wager. 

If the goal is simply to get them to play faster, just catch up and talk to them like civil adults. Ask to play through, or see if they could just pick it up a little bit as a common courtesy. They will always blame the group in front of them, which is bogus, but they will likely oblige on the next hole. 

There’s no room for peace talks if that group feels you intentionally fired a missile. Sure, they could be passive-aggressive, or chalk it up as an honest mistake. But they won’t play faster in that case. 

More likely, they’ll get pissed off and fire one back your way or play even slower because they think it makes a point. Everyone is in the wrong. This is how brawls start on the course. Rather than breaking it up, surrounding players will pull out their phones and hit the record button. Next thing you know you’re, on the ground, in the turtle position, while some pot-bellied general contractor rains uncontested blows upon your temple and eardrums. There is video evidence. It goes viral on Twitter. Your day, and possibly your life, are ruined.

Once again, this is a truly horrible bet. 

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Ordering Lunch at the Turn

The proper move here is to order a hot dog, Snickers and beverage of choice. Hot dogs are easy to eat in a few minutes, you don’t necessarily need all the toppings and you’ll be back on your way with a full stomach before you know it. 

Too often, players forgo the traditional and opt for a house special that’s meant to be consumed in the dining area. It’s one thing to get a turkey sandwich on rye. It’s another to do the rodeo burger loaded with condiments and a heap of homecooked kettle chips smashed uncomfortably into a flimsy, Styrofoam container with a dill pickle spear poking out. 

It often seems we have all the time in the world at the halfway shack, exchanging pleasantries while ogling the menu. One must remember as soon as the burger hits the counter and receipts are printed you’re now scrambling to the 10th tee to get back on pace. And the senseless order you’ve just made creates problems. 

You won’t even make a dent in it before teeing off. Now you’re trying to eat while rambling along uneven terrain, getting mustard everywhere, spilling chips left and right, trying to maintain this whole charade while a half-eaten burger rests in your lap. You’re a complete yard sale.

Once you’re ready for your approach shot, there’s nowhere to put this ridiculous meal. The rear cargo basket is now a water-logged abyss having fully succumbed to the large bags of ice after the third hole, soaking everyone’s discarded quarter-zips and headcovers in the process. Your keys, phone and whatever else are in the passenger compartment. The only option is placing the food on your empty seat cushion, from which it will fall off when the driver moves the cart without realizing it was there. 

Now your hands are covered in mustard and barbecue sauce, you’ve got diced onions all over your pants, you’re not focused on the task at hand and you’re still hungry. 

Make the safe bet at the turn. Stick to the basics. 

About the Author

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com
Dan Kilbridge
Handicapper Dan Kilbridge writes about college football, MLB and other sports for Bookies.com after spending three years covering Tiger Woods’ comeback and the PGA for Golfweek.