There are almost as many golf games you can wager on as there are card games. Unless you play (and gamble) extensively, most of them have never come to your attention. Some of them, however, are de rigeur to know and understand, much as in cards one is at least supposed to be familiar with Poker, Gin Rummy and Go Fish. Today’s golf lesson concerns how to play a Nassau and for now, we’ll just concentrate on the 2 player or 2 team variety. The Nassau is a great game for players of all skill levels, but only if handicaps are used.
Learning to score a Nassau is as easy as taking a walk. If I win the first hole, I’m +1 (that’s if I’m the one keeping score-if you’re keeping score the card should read -1.) If we’re playing 18 holes, the Nassau is divided into three separate bets, the front-nine Nassau, the back-nine Nassau and the overall Nassau. A simple example is: I win the front-nine by one hole and you win the back-nine by two holes, you have also won the overall bet. So if we were playing a five-dollar Nassau, I’d win $5 for the front-nine bet, you’d win $5 for the back-nine bet and another$5 for the overall bet meaning I owe you five dollars. Scoring Nassaus is basically match play golf with a few added wrinkles.
I’m guessing that this all seems simple enough to you albeit not tremendously exciting. You could always make it more interesting by raising the stakes but that’s not necessary as you’re about to learn. A Nassau is a multi-faceted game where betting strategy can be just as important as the quality of your golf game.
HOW TO PLAY A NASSAU
Introducing the “press.” Although different golfers have different customs regarding presses, a simple explanation is that the golfer who is on the losing end of a match has the option to press-that is, start a brand new match in the middle of the existing one. A rule of thumb is that you are allowed to press when you are two holes down in a match. The new match might only consist of the one hole but it’s a separate match nonetheless. Players involved in a Nassau are obligated to accept a press. One important note: presses do not have any bearing on the front-nine, back-nine, overall match you are playing. They are simply side matches that have a monetary value only. Using the previous example, had I been two holes down on the back-nine going into the 18th hole, pressed won the hole, the match would end with you owing me $5. I won the front-nine by one and the press while you won the back-nine by one but the overall bet was halved by my winning 18.
There’s no limit to the number of presses in the match. Even though you may have been winning at one point and been pressed by your opponent, what happens if he goes ahead? Can you now press? The answer is yes if you are two holes down. I have pressed the bet as early as the second hole and many times there have been so many presses I ran out of room on the scorecard. In many cases, the bet is pressed automatically when one side is down two holes. Make sure you know the “rules” before you enter into a Nassau as there are so many variations of the game. If your Nassau dictates that players are only allowed to press when down by even numbers (-2, -4, -6, etc.) you don’t want to pin your hopes on pressing 18 when you are -3. Your opponents would have every right to refuse the press, leaving you annoyed and a little bit lighter in the wallet.
HOW TO PLAY A NASSAU
I should remind you that each one of these presses carries it’s own price tag. Is it possible to lose fifty dollars playing a five-dollar Nassau? You betcha! A Nassau that has been pressed, double pressed, and triple pressed can add up.
By all means, join a foursome that plays Nassaus and learn to play it first hand. With time you’ll be well versed in all of the variations available and be able to decide what type of match you prefer playing. In the end, what’s comfortable for everyone in the group is what will provide the most enjoyment.
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