The premise of “Skins” is simple. It’s a game played within a round of golf. In most cases, it’s more gambling than it is casual, but it can be both.
A “skin” is a point awarded to the player with the lowest score on an individual hole. If the lowest person ties another, no skin is awarded. This article will explain how to play skins in golf and how to play skins with your handicap so all skill levels have a chance!
The Game Within The Game
You play golf by counting each shot you take. Then you compare it to par or the people you’re playing with, and judge your round accordingly. Everybody knows this. What outsiders and beginners don’t always realize, notice, care about, or whatever, is just how competitive golf can be.
To commemorate that competitiveness, golfers play games within their rounds, that more often than not incorporate some type of gambling. Whether it’s for money, a drink, or bragging rights varies between groups, but the feel remains the same.
Even on the PGA Tour, you know, the guys playing for millions each week, there are side matches and games in their practice rounds. For those players, a round isn’t fun unless there’s some competition—and that mindset trickles down all the way to guys struggling to break 100.
Rules – How to Play Skins in Golf
There are two ways to play skins. With the first, you assign a value to each hole before the match starts. Playing this way, hole values increase as you go along and individual holes can be worth double or triple others-whatever you decide. Additionally, if no one wins the skin from a hole, the prize carries over into the next, making for huge holes throughout.
With the second way to play, each hole is equal, but prizes carry over. If there is no skin winner on the first three holes, the player who wins on the fourth hole gets the prize for all four holes. Every hole is a chance to win, and every time you play spoiler to an opponent’s big hole, you step closer to a bigger purse.
The first method is best for a small group of players and really lets you customize your round to the points in the match you think will be most exciting.
The second method, the one we’re going to focus on, plays well with bigger crowds.
Handicapping the Round
You’re a golfer that shoots 90 surrounded by a bunch of people who don’t shoot higher than 80. You have no chance in skins. Not quite.
Just like in a head-to-head match, you can apply your handicap to a game of skins. Everyone plays off the lowest handicap and strokes are awarded this way.
Let’s put it this way. The best player is a 6 handicap and the others are 7, 8, and 9. The 7-handicap player gets one stroke (on the hardest handicap hole), the 8 gets two shots, and the 9 gets three shots.
Can you win more than once?
The total prize pool is divided by the number of skins won. It doesn’t matter who the winners are.
If only one skin is won, that player receives the whole prize pool. If two skins are won, those two players split the prize based on what hole the skin was won. If the two were won on holes 9 and 18, they split it evenly. If they were on 6 and 18, it’s 1/3 and 2/3.
There are no restrictions on the number of skins one player can win.
What happens if there’s a tie on 18?
There are bound to be situations where there is no skin won on 18 and money is left in the prize pool. Some groups run straight the 19th hole and consider the leftover prize money free drinks. Good for them, they’re having fun. Others, not so much. This means a playoff.
From the 18th, you stay on the course. If you’re at a place where you’re paying greens fees, there’s a good chance this happens on the putting green. If not, head to hole 1.
To finish the game, you play sudden death until a skin is won. That player collects the prize from the holes pushed to end the round. Game over.
How many people can play skins?
There is no limit to the number of players that can play one skins game. You can play with the people in your foursome, or you can play with every golf that plays 18 that day. There is no maximum number of players for one game of skins. However, more people counting towards the game usually leads to fewer skins being awarded.
If the pot size stays the same and less skins are awarded, the skins won are worth more.
Suppose the pot is $90. If 18 skins are won and three of those are yours, you get $15. If only three skins are won and one is yours, you come away with $30.
With more people fighting for the same prize, it’s a bit higher stakes and usually winning a skin is worth more. The only difficult thing is, that birdie you made back on the fourth hole is much more likely to be matched when 100 people are playing, instead of 10.
Why don’t skins carry over when you play with a big group?
A lot of clubs will have a skins game going on during tournaments and weekends. For these, it is not possible for skins to be pushed hole to hole due to the sheer number of people playing. Instead, you take a look at the whole day’s scores and go from there.
This is especially the case if the skins game is through a shotgun start. Here, tracking it as you would for a foursome game is nearly impossible and makes dividing the prize pool by number of skins won the easiest way.
Never Overlook This!
There is one rule in casual golf that is not enforced, or followed, nearly enough. And that is there are no gimme’s in a competitive round of golf where you’re playing against more people than are in your group.
When you play a game of skins with a handful of groups, you cannot tell someone to take a putt away. It is your responsibility to protect the field.
That 3-footer you gave them because no one in your group could beat them might just have been the difference of them beating another player. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.
You have to have the entire field’s best interests at heart, and hope that they have yours in mind too.