Golf Nassau: How to Play & When to Press

By Kellie Noszka

Golfer holds a $20 bill towards the sky

Want to add a little more excitement to your golf game? Nassau is the most popular and most played golf tournament format that is easy to implement into any round. A Nassau consists of three separate matches, which are essentially bets on different parts of the round. It can be played with both stroke and match play formats and with or without handicaps.

The Three Parts of a Nassau

A Nassau includes bets on three parts of the round – the front nine, the back nine and the entire 18 holes. With Nassau, bad performance on a stretch of holes on the front or back nine won’t ruin the entire game since the nines are, in part, scored separately. Nassau can be played in teams or individually.

What makes Nassau the game of choice for so many is the ability to easily add additional matches through what is called a "press." Designed to ensure the match is not over until the final hole, the press allows the trailing team to move to double-or-nothing at some agreed upon point within the match.

Establish the Stakes

Most often played in pairs, Nassau is often referred to as "2 and 2" with the second two referring to the agreed upon wager for each match ($2.00, two brews, two balls). Be careful when deciding on the stakes. A simple $2 bet can balloon to $50 in no time when presses are involved.

You’ll also want to establish the pressing stakes and rules. Most often, the pressing stakes are the same as the original bet.

Rules of Pressing in Nassau

Since rules on pressing vary greatly, it is best to decide on ground rules before the round starts. Some typical pressing variations include:

  • Allow a team to press only when one of the original matche has been lost.
  • Allow a team to press at any time one team is losing.
  • Allow a team that is behind to press only on the last four holes of each nine.
  • Allow a team to press a specific number of times (for example, once per nine or per 18 really limits pressing while once or twice per match each of the three separate matches is the preferred option).

Where Did Nassau Originate?

It is believed that the Nassau betting format was developed by John Tappan, a club captain at Nassau Country Club in Long Island, New York in 1900. There are several theories as to why the game was invented, but many think it was an ego booster for golfers who often had the results of simple matches published in the local newspaper. A 3-0 loss sounds much better than losing every hole or finishing behind by double-digit strokes.

Remember to Have Fun and Stick to the Rules

Nassau was designed to enhance the enjoyment in your round, not ruin it from added pressure. Keep the bets at a price everybody is comfortable playing and be sure rules are well established and agreed upon by all golfers before you take the first tee.

Image: herreid/iStock via Getty Images

About the Author

Kellie Noszka is a freelance writer and former sports reporter for the Cincinnati Post. She was a golf caddie for 10 years and earned an Evans Scholarship to The Ohio State University. Kellie developed a deep appreciation for the game of golf at an early age.