How to Play Vegas: Secrets to a High-Stakes Golf Game

By Savannah Richardson

Las Vegas golf course

As the name suggests, the “Vegas” golf game infuses your round of golf with a high-stakes, high-risk, high-reward, go-for-broke, pressure-packed thrill. If that’s your definition of fun, it’s time to try this great game. In Vegas, the payout and competitiveness all depend on the stakes and players at hand.

What is Vegas Golf?

Vegas consists of two teams of two competing against each other. Instead of adding scores together, you pair them. For example, if the two players on team A make a three and four, their team score for the hole becomes 34. If the players on team B make a four and five, their score is 45. Subtract the smaller score from the larger score and award that number of points to the team that won the hole. For that hole, team A gets 11 points, the difference between 45 and 34.

The other element in this game is the wager. Before you pick the value of each point, keep in mind teams can earn points by the dozen, and they can add up quickly. Pick any amount — nickels, dimes, quarters or dollars — to prevent losing an entire rent check over 18 holes.

rules for playing vegas golf game

Vegas Golf Rules

The rules of Vegas Golf are simple. First, pick your partner and your wager. Remember to be mindful of handicaps and try to play against a team as close to your skill level as possible. Otherwise, the points could get lopsided fast, and tension will rise when you have to pay up at the end of the round.

Apply handicaps if there are a variety of skill levels in your foursome.

Always set the wager at a comfortable number and try not to get out of hand with it. There’s no fun in losing friends and more money than you can spare in the event of a poor round.

Vegas Golf Strategies

While Vegas is pretty straightforward, there are a few ways to avoid disaster and go home feeling like a winner even if you didn’t win the match.

One of the most straightforward strategies is picking the correct playing partner. Play with and against someone with similar skill sets. If you trust your partner’s game, it’s easier to cough up money if you lose.

The following strategies are ways to avoid disaster and keep things interesting. Installing these tactics or exceptions into the rules will help in the long run and avoid losing a ton of money quickly.

When to Not Take the Low Score

Start with the lower score of the two when pairing the numbers together. If you make a three while your partner makes five, you’ll put the three first because 35 is better than 53. The exception to this rule is when someone enters the double-digits, because 104 is better than 410.

Flipping the Bird

Hopefully, there won’t be too many birds flipped during your Vegas golf match, but having this rule in place can help when a birdie putt drops. When one team makes a birdie, they can flip their opponent's score so the higher number is first. If you make a four and a five on a Par-5 and your opponents make a five and six, they’ll have to take a 65 instead of 56, and you’ll enjoy 20 points instead of 11. The bird-flip is nullified if at least one player on each team makes a birdie.

Monte Carlo

The Monte Carlo tactic can come into play if the group wants to spice things up instead of keeping it basic. Instead of just pairing the two scores, you multiply them. For example, instead of a three and a four becoming a 34, it would be 12.

Doubling and Tripling Points

Having the double and triple point rule in place when a birdie or eagle drops can really up the stakes.

When one team makes a birdie, double the points. If someone makes an eagle, triple the points. For example, if one team makes a four and a five on a Par-5 while the other team makes a five and a seven, the points will shake out like this: 57-45=12 (x2) = 24 points. In the event of an eagle, multiply it by three: 57-35=22 (x3) = 66 points. This tactic is bold, but one that could earn teams a lot of points quickly and make that birdie or eagle that much more thrilling.

Settling Ties

What if the two teams tie a few holes in a row before one edges the other? One tactic you could incorporate is the carry-over. If the two teams tie holes 1-3 and then Team A wins the fourth hole, simply multiply the winning points by the number of holes it took to break the tie. So if Team A makes a 45 and Team B makes a 55 after tying the first three holes, the points will break down like this: 55-45 = 10 (x4) = 40 points.

Tips & Warnings

Vegas is a game for golfers who are serious about their play — every stroke for every player on every hole is crucial.

Know your stakes beforehand. Don't ever get into a game where the stakes are so high your play suffers.

Make sure you keep up with the rules and tactics you put in place, and everyone knows them, so you don’t have issues when it's time to pay at the end of the round.

Keeping a running score is a great tool, so you know where the game stands at all times.

Sample Scorecard for Vegas Golf

Here's a sample scorecard for a game of Vegas with no Monte Carlo, Double or Tripling. Flipping the Bird is in play, and the lowest score is always first.

Hole Par Team A Team B
1 4 45 (+11) 56
2 4 34 (+30*) 64
3 3 33 23 (+10)
4 5 44 (+1**) 45
5 4 66 33 (+33)
6 4 44 (+11) 55
7 4 34 (+40) 74
8 4 56 44 (+12)
9 5 56 35 (+21)
Out 37 93 (+17) 76
10 3 45 33 (+12)
11 4 44 44
12 4 44 44
13 3 33 23 (+30***)
14 4 34 (+20*) 54
15 4 34 (+30*) 64
16 3 23 (+10) 33
17 4 54 34 (+20*)
18 5 55 34 (+21)
In 36 60 83 (+23)
Total 71 153 159 (+6)

* Flip the bird
** Flip the bird nullified
*** Carryover

Image: glen4st/iStock via Getty Images

About the Author

Savannah Richardson is a staff writer for GolfLink. She’s a daily golfer and has worked for two years covering amateur and professional golf events with Amateurgolf.com and The Brunswick News. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.