Nassau Golf Game

Nassau in Golf: The Classic Betting Game

Have you ever heard someone on the first tee say, “Want to play 5-5-5” and have no clue what they meant? 

If so, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is known as a Nassau in golf and is one of the most common golf betting games

It’s a unique format that is three bets in one and can be played vs. another golfer or another team. Plus, you can enjoy this game with other betting games, use with handicaps, mix it up with stroke play, or traditional match play

Today I’ll break down the details of Nassau, answer your most common questions, and show why it’s one of the best gambling games in golf. 

How to Play Nassau Golf Game 101 

So, what is Nassau in golf? 

Consider it one of the easiest golf betting games in the world. And one you’ll probably play most rounds once you read this article. 

Key Takeaways

  • Nassau is a common golf betting game that can be played with match or stroke play.
  • The concept is pretty simple; an amount is established for three different bets. Let’s say it’s a $5 bet (known as a $5 Nassau).
  • The front nine, back nine, and total score are each worth $5 per bet ($15 total).
  • However, you can also add presses and other bets to make it even more exciting throughout the round. 

Keep reading to learn the full details of this iconic gambling game and other ways to make the round even more exciting. 

Nassau in Golf

Overview of Nassau 

There are a lot of gambling games and formats in golf like Wolf, match play, Stableford, and many others. But some gambling games are a lot more complex in terms of scoring and keeping track of during the round. 

Nassau is not one of those complicated games which is why it’s such a popular one among golfers. As mentioned above, there are three bets or wagers inside a Nassau and each has their own dollar amount. 

  • Front nine bet (holes 1-9).
  • Back nine bet (holes 10-18).
  • Total score bet (all 18 holes). 

One of the most common wagers is a $5 Nassau which implies $5 on the front, $5 on the back, and $5 for the total score. Other names for this game include “Best Nines” or referring to the dollar amount (ex. 10-10-10) which represent three different $10 wagers. This is a unique format because the entire round counts – not just the front or the back. 

For example, if you’re playing poorly early in the round, you might lose the front nine. But if you can turn it around, you can win the back nine bet and total score wager too.

Another reason to love Nassau bets is that you can use it with match or stroke play. It was originally a match play type of format, but things can get a lot more interesting (especially with stroke play format) for the total score. 

Nassau Press 

Nassau is a pretty easy format to understand and very easy to keep score of on your card. However, presses are allowed in Nassau and where things can get a little more complicated. If you don’t know about presses, make sure to read our full guide here.

A press is a side bet that is separate from the original bet. This is initiated by the player or team who is losing the front or back nine. 

If a player or team decides to press, it starts a new bet for the remaining holes on the front or back nine. For example, let’s assume it’s a two person $5 Nassau match. After hole 7, player A is down by one and presses player B. 

This starts another $5 bet for the last two holes alongside the front nine wager. A few scenarios can play out:

  • Player A wins the press, but they tie the front nine. This means player A will win $5 for the press while the front nine is halved.
  • Player A wins the press but loses the front nine. This is a wash as each player wins $5, so no money is won or lost.
  • Player A wins the press and wins the front nine. This means player A is up $10 as he came back to win the front nine and the new press bet. 
  • Player A loses the press and loses the front nine. This means player A is down $10 ($5 on the original bet and $5 on the press). 
Golf Press

Auto-Press Bets 

Another way to make this format even more exciting is to have auto-presses. This action is typically triggered when a player or team is down at least two in the match. 

For example, let’s say that player B is losing to player A and goes two down after the sixth hole for a $10 Nassau. This would create an auto-press for another $10 wager for the front nine. 

Nassau History

There are a lot of golf terms out there – including ones like shank, skull, mulligan – and many others. Which might lead you to wonder where the word “Nassau” came from? Since it is a very common golf term, I had to do a little research myself because I love this format.

Apparently the term Nassau was coined for this golf game as it started at the Nassau Country Club on Long Island. This format was invented in the early 1900s by John B. Coles Tappan who was the club captain at the time. 

It’s been said that the members of this club were superior to surrounding clubs and always won. Which led to other golf clubs not wanting to compete with them. 

This is where the Nassau betting game was born.

This new format (now more than 100 years old) allowed them to be more competitive with other clubs. It was originally done with match play but as discussed above, can be used in stroke, match, and Stableford too. It can also be used with handicaps as well. 

FAQs About Nassau and Other Gambling Games

Do you have more questions about Nassau and other ways to gamble on the golf course? If so, keep reading through the most commonly asked questions and answers now. 

What is a five dollar Nassau in golf? What is a two dollar Nassau in golf?

A $5 Nassau is commonly known as a 5-5-5 bet. Or if it’s a $2 Nassau, known as a 2-2-2 bet.

Regardless of dollar amount, it’s three separate bets; one on the front nine, one on the back nine, and one for the total score

Can you press in Nassau?

Yes, a press doubles the bet for the remainder of the front or back nine. Sometimes auto presses can kick in if a certain player or team goes down two as well. 

Can you play Nassau as a team?

Yes, this format works as solo competition or as a team. Just make sure to clarify the rules (stroke vs. match, auto-press, etc.) before starting, so everyone in the group is on the same page. 

What’s the best way to keep score of Nassau?

You can easily keep this on a scorecard, but there are apps that make it easier when doing auto-presses as well. 

Golf Side Games

My Experience

I love playing Nassau as it’s a good way to stay mentally engaged during the entire round… especially if you’re playing match play. Because even if you have a blowup hole, you’re still the match. 

My friends and I like to use this format when playing practice rounds for competitive events, as it keeps us involved. Plus, you can always have different Nassau bets with other players. It’s not uncommon for me to play vs. one or each guy in my group (with handicaps). This is easier if it’s stroke play as you can just play your ball and see if it is the others in your group.

If you play against multiple golfers in your group and doing match play, it’s a little tricky. For example, if you are player A and competing against the other three players, you’ll need to check with all of them before dragging a short putt. Player B might let you have it, but player C or D might want to make you hole the putt. 

When compared to most games, I think it’s one of the easiest to score and play. This lets you focus more on playing good golf than trying to worry about the complexities of keeping score. 

Learn more about dominating match play now. 

Final Thoughts 

Nassau is a great game that was created more than a century ago and still more relevant than ever. Some of the reasons it’s loved by golfers are:

  • Easy to score.
  • Gross or net scoring. 
  • Three separate wagers. 
  • Works in stroke or match play. 
  • Keeps you engaged on all 18 holes. 
  • Presses make it even more exciting. 
  • Works with other games (like Skins).
  • Can be done with teams or one on one. 

If you want to have more fun during your rounds, make sure to add a simple $5 Nassau. Just make sure to clarify presses and auto-presses before the round. 

What’s your favorite golf gambling game? Let us know in the comments below.

Next, make sure to read these similar articles: 

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael is an avid golfer of 25 years who played in high school, college, and now competes in Arizona amateur events. He is a full-time writer, podcast host of Wicked Smart Golf, and mental golf coach.