Explaining the Golf Side Bet Named Fish

"Fish" is the name of a side bet in golf that involves making the first birdie of the round, the longest birdie putt, and the most overall birdies.

If your group doesn't make a lot of birdies, then you'll need to use handicaps and net scores to make Fish a fun game. (This game is not to be confused with two similarly named games, Big Fish and Fishies.)

Here's how Fish works in a group of two, three or four golfers:

There are three bets involved in Fish. Each bet carries its own dollar amount, typically the same for each but your group can vary the amounts if you wish.

  • The golfer who makes the first birdie in your group wins the first bet.
  • The golfer who makes the longest birdie putt during the round wins the second bet.
  • The golfer who makes the most total birdies during the round wins the third bet.
First, longest, most. Fish can be played as a standalone bet, but is most commonly combined with other, similar betting games, so that the group is playing multiple betting games at the same time.

Why is a game that involves birdies named "Fish"? Because this bet originated among anglers. In the angling world, the three bets are for catching the first fish, catching the biggest fish and catching the most fish.

Do eagles count in Fish, since it's based on birdies? Many groups that play Fish count an eagle as worth two birdies. Your group can do that, or count an eagle as a birdie for the purposes of the game, or decide that eagles don't count. It's up to you.

One tip: Before any golfer in your group has a birdie putt, be sure that everyone in the group agrees on the distance, and if the ball goes in, write down the distance. That will help later in case there are any disputes about who had the longest birdie putt.

And if a tiebreaker is needed, add up the total distance of the tied golfers' birdie putts to break it.

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