How does Skins work in Golf

Hold on to your Wallet: How to Play Skins in Golf

Is there anything better than leaving the golf course with cold hard cash in hand? 


Which is why you need to learn how to play skins in golf.

Because even if you don’t have a great round you can still win big money – which doesn’t happen often in this game. Not to mention, the game works for multiple groups, different types of golfers, and you can play on any golf course.

While there are a lot of games to play on the golf course, skins are great because they can be played alongside other games too. Keep reading to learn more about one of the most fun gambling games in golf. 

How to Play Skins in Golf (Skins Games)

A skins game is a pretty simple game to play especially when compared to Wolf or Stableford events. Other names for skins game include scats, skats, syndicates, and cats (more on the naming of skins coming up). 

Here’s the premise for whole round skins – every golfer puts up a certain amount of money before teeing up on the first hole. It could be $5, $20, $100 or more depending on the group of people you’re playing with.

Then, play all 18 holes and try to get the lowest score on a hole. If you get a low hole score and no one else matches it, you win the skin and some money.

But it depends on how many other skins are paid out as well. Ultimately, good holes are rewarded more than a good overall score. 

Key Takeaways on Skins Games

  • Skins game is a golf gambling game where players compete for a “skin” on each hole.
  • Every person in the group (or multiple groups) contributes a certain amount of money before the match.  This is the pot and paid out to one or more players after the round.
  • If you get the lowest score on a hole and no one matches it, you get the skin. The fewer the skins during the round, the higher the payouts.  Or, you can play a skins game within your group for ea
  • You can also play skins with gross or net scores, making it more inclusive for all types of golfers.

Let’s get into how to play skins golf.

Whole Round Skins in Golf (Skins Game) 

The easiest way to talk about skins is to provide a real-world example. I compete in a ton of state events in Arizona and wanted to illustrate how whole round gross skins (no handicaps) work.

Let’s say there is a 72-man field with a $20 per day “skins buy in.” All 72 golfers have the option to join in on skins by paying $20 (typically cash, some tournaments might allow Venmo) to enter into the competition each day. Skins are almost never included in an entry fee as the payouts are cash and separate from other winnings. 

In this example, let’s say 50 of the 72 guys buy into the skin pot on day one. 50 players x $20 is $1000 in the skins pot. All golfers play 18 holes, following the rules of golf, and compare scorecards at the end. 

Let’s say an eagle wins the third hole and none of the other 49 guys made an eagle. That means this player would receive a skin if no other players tie. If no other skins are rewarded, this player would win all $1,000 in cash.

How to Play Skins in Golf

But if there were a total of four skins, each golfer would receive $250. The more skins, the lower the payout. 

What’s crazy is that sometimes golfers don’t enter into the skins and then end up having a great shot that would have paid off big time. For example, recently two players made a hole in one on the same hole (in different groups) but it’s still very rare. 

However, one of the guys didn’t enter the skin pot and thus didn’t cancel the other hole in one. So the player who did enter skins and made an ace, also got a nice payday too (which helped buy some of those drinks after the round). 

This is known as gross skins – meaning no handicap is involved. But you can play net skins too. 

Playing Whole Round Skins with Handicaps 

If you’re like a lot of golfers you probably want to know, “How do you play skins in golf with a handicap?” 

This is known as “net skins” and includes your golf handicap. Not much changes in terms of the game itself – all players need to pay a certain amount of cash up front to enter the skins game. Then, play all 18 holes and keep score on every hole.

But the change comes with scoring. Golfers need to factor in their handicaps (or let a course management software do it) to incorporate handicaps. 

For example’s sake, let’s say you’re an 18-handicap golfer and get one stroke on each hole. If you make a birdie on the hole, it’s actually a net eagle. If no one other golfer makes a net eagle on the hole, then you win the skin on the hole. 

It’s always important to establish before the round if it’s gross or net skins to avoid any confusion too. 

Foursome Skins Game

While the whole round skins game is fun, it’s best with a bigger group of golfers. This means less money up front and fewer skins typically paid out. But there are other variations of skins that you can play with a normal foursome group. 

Here’s how this skins game works…

In this game there is a skin on every hole for a pre-established amount. Let’s say each hole is worth $5 – with this version you don’t need to contribute money to the skins pot before the round. Instead, it’s paid out after based on the results.

Let’s say player A gets a birdie on the first hole one and everyone else gets par or worse. Player A would receive $5 from every player (which is tallied and paid out afterward). 

But things get interesting when there are ties. If more than one player gets the low score, there is no payout and the skin gets carried over to the next hole. Now, the next hole is worth $10 in this example.

Once a player wins, the skins are reset.

The more holes that are tied, the bigger the payout which makes for some entertaining holes. Not to mention aggressive strategy to try and make birdies or maybe even eagles. 

Additionally, if there is an 18-hole no skin payout, it goes into a sudden death playoff hole. In this instance all players would start the hole and get eliminated with higher scores. 

For example, if player A & B both make par while C & D make bogey on the first playoff hole, those two golfers are out. Then, player A & B duel it out to determine who wins the entire skin amount. 

Like whole skins, this can be net or gross skins and lowest score on the hole wins.

Golf Bets

FAQs About Gambling Games

Do you have more questions about gambling and/or different types of games on the golf course? If so, keep reading to learn more now. 

Can you play skins and other games?

Yes, this is one of the reasons I love whole round skins. You can still play other games alongside it – like Nassau or total score – while still fighting for skins. This gives you a reason to play consistent golf but also try to make a few more birdies too. 

How do you bet on golf skins?

There are several variations of skins in golf and it depends on if you’re playing hole skins vs. whole round skins. Hole skins are better for a foursome, while whole round skins are better for big groups in a tournament. 

Why do they call it a skin in golf?

Legend has it that once Americans got involved in golf they bet pelts (animal skins) instead of money. This term stuck and is now on one of the most common gambling games around. 

Do they have skins on the PGA Tour?

Unfortunately, no, not on a weekly basis. While sports betting is legal in a lot of states, there is no formal gambling on the PGA Tour. 

However, they did have PGA Tour sanctioned skins games from 1983 to 2008. These events happened in November or December and had huge payouts. Here’s how the payout structure went in the final event:

  • Holes 1-6: $25,000 skins
  • Holes 7-12: Double – $50,000 skins 
  • Holes 13-17: $70,000 skins
  • Final Hole: $200,000 skin

Imagine putting to win a $200,000 skin, talk about pressure. Fred Couples had the most skins in these events with over $3,000,000 in skins during his 11 appearances. 

Golf Match Play

Can you do skins and match play?

Yes and no. While you can, it’s a little weird doing skin games and match play as you typically don’t hole out every putt. It’s more common to play with normal stroke play.

My Experience on Winning Skins

I love entering into skins games as it’s a great way to stay mentally engaged, even on a bad day. Since you’re never out of it, you can keep playing aggressively and firing at skins to try and get some money back. Even if you have a bad score, you can still win money! 

Plus, who doesn’t like to play golf more aggressively at times? More drivers, more aggressive lines, and more shots fired directly at the flag. It could pay off big time as you walk away with cash from a skin (or more than one).

I once won four skins in a 72-man field and more than tripled my money on the entry fee plus skin amount. Not to mention shot 67 too, that was a good day! 

Final Thoughts on Golf Skins Game

Skins is one of my favorite golf games for all types of golfers as it rewards good holes more than good scores. Whether you do gross skins or net skins, it’s a fun way to get more people involved which means bigger payouts.  

From the first hole on, a basic skins game is a great way to mix it up with your group. Plus, you can play skins alongside stroke play, best ball, or other types of tournaments. It’s nice to have that in conjunction so you can still keep score if you’d like.

Lastly, always enter a skins game in a tournament in case you win the hole outright as you can take home some big money.