Three is typically a good number in the world of golf. You love to see it on your scorecard with a circle around it, but cringe when it’s the number of putts you had on a hole.
No matter how you associate the number as it relates to your game, it almost always means trouble when talking number of players in a group. You can’t play a match straight up. Teaming up to go 2-on-1 is never even. And don’t even think about trying to tell someone they’re the third wheel while you and the other person play against each other.
Fortunately for golfers everywhere, this is a situation that has come up and been thoroughly addressed. I mean, did you really think golfers weren’t going to find a fair way to effectively compete (gamble) despite an uneven number of participants?
There are some golf games for 3 players you’ll know and some you might not.
If you can’t decide on just one, break the match up into halves or thirds and play a few different ones. You make the rules here, get as crazy as you’d like.
Bingo Bango Bongo
We like this one because players of all skill levels have a chance. There are three chances to win every hole and you won’t need a pad filled with pages of notes tracking who won and when.
It’s a silly name, but each word represents one point. The rules are consistent throughout the round and once you have the hang of it, there’s no looking back.
The first player to land their ball on the green wins the Bingo.
There are no ties, even if multiple people land their second shot on the green. Whoever hits the shot that lands on the green first is the winner. This means that the player who hits the ball shortest off the tee has the first whack at it.
Full reset. Timing doesn’t matter. The Bango is awarded to the player who, once all three players reach the green, is closest to the pin.
While it doesn’t usually pay to miss the green, you get a shot at redemption with your pitch shot while your other two opponents wait for you to come up. It could be your second shot. It could be your fifth. Get it closer than your opponents and you win.
The final point of each hole, the Bongo, is given to the player who gets their ball in the hole first.
Don’t let players finish up. Don’t concede putts. Either one of those means that person holes out first and will sneak the point out.
Quick math lesson—81 divided by 18 is 9. In this game, there are 9 points up for grabs on each hole. Whoever scores the lowest gets 5 points, second place 3 points, third place 1 point.
Naturally, there will be plenty of ties throughout the round. When this happens, you divide the two or three scores by the total number of points for their place.
Suppose these are the scores on a hole:
- Player A makes a 5
- Player B makes a 4
- Player C makes a 4.
Players B and C get 4 points each and Player A gets 1.
If all three players tie, they each get 3 points.
You can also play this as a Nassau. Check the scores for the front 9. Check the scores for the back 9. Check the scores for the full match. There could be one, two, or three winners this way. Even with a disastrous front side, you’ll have a chance to be in the money on the back 9.
A 2 vs. 1 match is unrealistic and trying to play one match three ways just isn’t a thing. What you can do, however, is play two matches at a time.
Instead, you play two individual matches—one versus each player. Each golfer plays a match against one another. Player A against Player B, Player A against Player C, and so on.
Your scorecard will get a little messy, but the matches themselves are straightforward. Play it as a Nassau or however else you like it. The matches themselves are simple enough.
When it comes to conceding putts, establish a firm radius around the hole where all putts are given—no wiggle room. Keep things consistent as there will be plenty of putts in that gray area that don’t affect you.
At its core, Skins is a gambling game. And really, at its core, golf might as well be too. The two go hand in hand together.
Skins can be played two ways.
The first is each hole has an equal value. The total pot is split into 18 pieces. Be the low golfer on a hole and you win the skin. This is a perfect golf game for three players, or however many number of golfers you have.
If two golfers tie, all golfers tie and no skin is awarded. The prize for that hole shifts to the next hole and is added to the existing prize for that hole. The more ties, the more the next hole is worth. After the built-up prize is won, the prize resets back down to the standard size.
The second way is a bit more eccentric and holes have different values. Holes usually increase in value as the round goes on, but that’s not always the rule. You get to pick the value of each hole before the round.
Some groups will throw extra on the top for drivable par 4’s or par 5’s you can get to in two shots. Others add on the hardest holes. Your game, your choice.
Sometimes you just want to have a little fun and don’t want to play too competitively. You probably know the scramble, but you might not know the shamble. You can play this game easily within your foursome, or threesome in this case.
Each player hits a drive. You decide on the best drive. Every golfer plays the hole from there on their own. There’s no resetting back to the best shot again. You play your own ball and every golfer records a score.
This is a great game to causally play with golfers of varying skill levels because there’s three opportunities for a good drive. Even if you hit a bad shot, chances put it near the fairway. Chances—not definite.
After the drive lands you in the fairway, or at least close to it, you’re on your own. You’ll have the chance to hit meaningful plenty of shots throughout the day, something that doesn’t always happen for high handicap golfers in a standard scramble.
As you can see, there are plenty of good options for entertaining golf games for 3 players. Next time you end up with a threesome, give one of these a try!