What is a Nassau in golf? As you get up to the first tee with your weekend golf group, one of your buddies says, “Want to make this interesting?”. The conversation then continues with various grumblings, complex mathematical calculations, haggling on over inflated handicaps, and the overall fairness of the proposed terms. Then, someone cuts through the noise and says, “Let’s keep this simple. Let’s play 10-10-10.” Everyone agrees and the round commences.
So what is this mysteriously easy format of “having skin in the game”? Though thousands of golfers have used this betting structure, only a select few know it’s actually called a Nassau.
So, what is a Nassau in golf? A Nassau is a format of betting in which equal monetary values are placed on the front nine, back nine, and overall round. In the typical format, the player who wins each portion of the round is awarded the agreed upon value of each leg of the wager. The Nassau wager can come in many different shapes, sizes, formats, etc. but was designed to attract competitive golf betting for a wide range of handicaps.
When we hear the word “Nassau”, many of us are immediately transported to the Caribbean and envision ourselves sitting on a beach with a frozen drink and umbrella. However, the iconic destination from the Bahamas has nothing to do with the commonly used golf betting format…
Where did Nassau in Golf Originate?
The term Nassau originated from Nassau Country Club on Long Island and has been used in the game of golf since the early 1900’s.
As the story goes, NCC had the most talent on their core golf team and many of the area clubs became disgruntled when asked to play. Hence the birth of the Nassau bet, yet another nod to the legacy and long standing traditions of the game of golf. The Nassau bet is just one of many golf idioms that have developed over the years.
The Nassau Format
When considering who wins the front nine, back nine, and overall round, a few parameters must be established prior to starting the round. Typically, handicap strokes are assigned by playing off of the low handicapper in the group. In an example of two players, one having a +5 handicap and the other with +10, the second player would get 5 strokes on the first.
Secondly, with the assignment of handicaps, the overall scoring format must be determined.
The most common choices amongst golf groups would be stroke or match play. Stroke play counts the number of strokes across the front nine while considering handicaps.
On the other hand, match play scores each individual hole as a point and would be best served if handicaps are wildly variant between competing teams.
Outside of the basics of a Nassau wager format, there are additional components that can be added during a round to keep things interesting, or at least in theory for the players looking to double down or catch up on the leader.
One common mid-round addition is called a Press, essentially representing a subsequent bet to the originally defined terms. In most situations, a press is proposed by the player who is behind in the round in attempts to break even or perhaps minimize the monetary damage. Examples of a press include: playing for the same value as the Nassau for a particular range of holes, in the event of a tie on the front, pushing the wagered amount to the back nine (double down), or even betting the agreed upon amount on the final hole.
In addition to Presses, a variety of side bets can be appended to the overall wager format such as closest to the pin, closest chip, putting contest, etc.
As you can see, a Nassau with various side bets strung together can become quite confusing and can easily consume the conversation throughout the round. However, when formatted correctly, it can be a very straight forward wager for all players to enjoy.
Conclusion: What is a Nassau in Golf?
At the end of the day, you are there to play golf, enjoy the round, and if you are a gambler, come home with more money than when you left that morning. Betting is meant to be fun and add some friendly competition to the round, along with the inevitable trash talk.
A Nassau is an excellent way to keep things simple and when not considering presses, a good way to allow the loser of the front nine to get a reset for the back.
For many of us, we only get to play golf once a week, once a month, etc. The last thing you want to be thinking while standing over that golf shot is
“How much have I lost?”, or
“I got to turn this around!”, or even
“Wait, I thought I won that hole?”
Emotions and unnecessary thoughts can easily derail an amateur golfer’s round and any chance of winning bets. So next time you tee it up with your buddies, get back to the basics on proposed terms and strive to play your best game. There’s no arguing that if you score better than your opponents, your odds of winning have greatly improved!