How Do You Play Skins in Golf?

by Brian Hill
    The skins-game format is a fun alternative to traditional ways of keeping score.

    The skins-game format is a fun alternative to traditional ways of keeping score.

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    The skins-game format in golf has long been a staple of friendly competitions among amateurs, but it reached national prominence in 1983 when a skins game was televised with four legends competing: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. The match was played over Thanksgiving weekend on the rugged and difficult Desert Highlands course in Scottsdale, Arizona. Viewers got to experience all the drama and excitement of the skins format – how the stakes can rise as the match progresses and a player who has been struggling all day can rise up and win by having a great hole or series of holes at the end.

    Step 1

    Assign a skin value to each of the holes. The values could be the same, such as 10 points, or increase in value, with the later holes being worth more than the early holes. For example, the first four holes could be worth 10 points each, the next four holes worth 15 points apiece, the next eight worth 20 points each, the 17th hole worth 25 points and the 18th hole worth 30 points.

    Step 2

    Ask each player to contribute a set amount of money for each hole if the value of the skin is going to be the same for each hole. Or divide the total number of points by four and ask each player to contribute that dollar amount of money for the pot.

    Step 3

    Toss a coin to determine who tees off first. Each player tees off in turn, and normal stroke play continues until each player holes out. The player with the lowest score on the first hole wins the skin for that hole. If there is no lowest player – because two or more of the golfers tied for the lowest score on the hole – the skin is rolled over to the next hole. Handicap indexes are not considered in skins.

    Step 4

    Tee off and play the next hole and continue through the remaining holes until the round is finished. Keep track of who wins the skins for each hole as you play.

    Step 5

    Total the number of skins, if the value of each hole is the same, or total up the number of points. The winner is the player with the most skins or points. For instance, using the assigned points from the earlier example, if there was no low scoring player for the first four holes, each worth 10 points, the winner on the fifth hole would get the skins for the first four holes plus the skin for the fifth hole (15 points) for a total of 55 points. If there is no low score for the next three holes, the winner on the ninth hole would get the skins and points for holes six through eight (15 points apiece) and the ninth hole (20 points) for a total of 65 points.

    Step 6

    Continue the match with a playoff if two or more golfers tie on the 18th hole. On the first playoff hole, if just two players tie for the lowest score, only those two continue to the next playoff hole. The others drop out.

    Tips

    • Choose an alternative method of awarding the pot by dividing it up based on the number, or value, of skins each player has won rather than giving the whole pot to the overall total winner in terms of points or skins.
    • Increase the value of the skins for the back nine holes quite a bit over the first nine for more excitement.
    • Skins is more enjoyable with players of similar playing abilities. Very skilled players will likely win more skins than those who are not as skilled.

    About the Author

    Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."

    Photo Credits

    • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images