How to Play the 'Joker Stableford' Golf Format

Have you ever heard of a golf game called Joker Stableford? It's a fun game for a group of two, three or four golfers, ideal for friendly wagering or just bragging rights. The bottom line: Joker Stableford is played using Modified Stableford scoring, but you get to double your points on one or more holes that you select before the round begins.

Points Per Hole and Selecting Your 'Joker' Hole(s)

Modified Stableford scoring awards points based on your score on each hole. You can "modify" Stableford points any way you wish, but one common set of values used in Joker Stableford is this:
  • You get one point for a bogey;
  • Two points for a par;
  • Four points for a birdie;
  • Six points for an eagle.
(In the PGA Tour event that uses Modified Stableford, they subtract three points for double bogey or worse, subtract one point for a bogey, award zero points for par, award two points for a birdie, five for an eagle and eight for a double eagle.)

So settle on your point values, either the ones above or your own. Next, select your "joker" holes. The name of Joker Stableford comes from the joker in a deck of cards and the "jokers are wild" concept. In Joker Stableford, each golfer in the group gets to pick one hole (or more, it's up to your group how many joker holes are used) before the round begins on which his or her points will be doubled.

Let's say your group agrees to three joker holes. Then Golfer A, on those holes, makes a par (2 points), a bogey (1 point), and a birdie (4 points). Double those point values and they become 4, 2 and 8. At the end of the round, you tally up your total score for the entire round, but with your joker holes doubled in value.

So, clearly, it's important to have a good understanding of your game in order to pick the holes where you have the best chances of good scores. Knowing the golf course certainly helps. But once you've picked your hole or holes, then you have to go out and perform well on them.

And the more holes your group agrees to use as joker holes, the greater the impact those holes have on the scores and the overall outcome.

You can play Joker Stableford in a number of ways, using gross or net scores. Pay out the difference in points at the end of the round. Or ante into a honey pot before the round begins, and use the joker holes only as a side game (in which the normal Modified Stableford points apply for your final score, while the joker holes are also totaled separately for the side bet).

Variation: The Joker Hole Draft

Once your group agrees on the number of joker holes to use for Joker Stableford, each member has to announce before the round begins his or her choices. And if two or more golfers wind up picking one or more of the same holes, that's OK. There is often some overlap. Many golfers who play Joker Stableford focus on par-5 holes, for example.

But maybe your group doesn't want any overlap. Maybe you want to make sure that any given hole can be selected by only one golfer. How can you do that? Hold a draft.

Choose draft order randomly if all the golfers in your group are roughly the same talent level (or you are using handicaps). For a quartet of golfers, each chooses four holes (two holes will go unpicked). Reverse the draft order every other round. If you are playing as a threesome or twosome, all holes on the course can be used (in a threesome, each golfer picks six holes; in a twosome, each gets nine), or you can limit the number each golfer chooses so that some holes go unused.

(Note that this format is sometimes called Favorite Hole or Favorite Holes, but that is also the name of a related but different game.)

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