How to Play 'Putting Syndicate' or 'Putting Skins'

Have you ever heard of a golf game called "putting syndicate"? You can think of it as a skins game, but based only on the golfers' putts taken on each green. Take the fewest putts, win the hole.

Putting Syndicate is an old name for this game (and there are plenty of alternate newer names for it, too), more commonly today called Putting Skins. A 1922 pamphlet published by the men's clothing retailer Brooks Brothers, a pamphlet titled "A Box of Matches," because it details various types of golf matches to play, uses Putting Syndicate as the name of this game.

That same pamphlet includes a game call just Syndicate, and another called Progressive Syndicate, which describe what we would called today a Skins Game. Each hole is a bet, and the winner of a hole wins the pot for that bet. The term "syndicate" in these names was nicknamed in some parts of the United States as "cats," and there are still places today where golfers saying they are "playing cats" rather than saying they are "playing skins."

Anyway, that's a little golf history diversion. Back to Putting Syndicate, also called Putting Skins. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, putting skins works just like a regular skins game, except that winning is based only on the number of putts, rather than the number of strokes for the full hole.

The golfers in the group agree before the round what each green is worth. Let's say they agree that each green is worth one dollar. On the first green, Golfer A takes two putts, B three putts, C one putt and D two putts. Golfer C had the fewest putts, so C wins the $1 putting syndicate, or skin.

Hole 2 is now worth one dollar, and the process repeats. What if two or more golfers tie for low putts on a green? You can call it a halve and not award the bet amount (which is a good option for golfers who want to limit how much money is paid out at the end of the round). Or you can carry over the value of the skin from the halved hole to the next. If the greens are worth $1 each, and Hole 1 is halved because two golfers tied for low putts, then the second hole, when carry-overs are used, is worth $2.

Another variation to consider: A doubling of the bet, or a bonus payout, to any golfer who holes from off the green — to a golfer who uses zero putts on a green, in other words. If the green is worth $1 and Golfer C holes from 30 yards short of the green, then the payout is doubled to $2. Or you can agree before the round that, for example, there is a $10 payout to anyone who holes from off the green. (The amounts we are using are just examples, groups can set the value of the each syndicate, or skin, at whatever they want, as low or high as they are comfortable.)

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