The Fishies Golf Betting Game Explained

The book and movie The Godfather (affiliate links) brought to common understanding the expression "sleep with the fishes." In golf (as in life), you never want your golf ball to sleep with the fishes, because that means you've hit into water. But hitting into water can also be an opportunity when your group is playing the golf betting game called Fishies.

Fishies (also called Splashies, Cousteau and Shark) is pretty straightforward: When a golfer in your group hits his or her ball into water, then still makes par on the hole, he or she wins whatever the Fishie is worth. If your group has set the value of a Fishie at $1, then a golfer who earns a Fishie wins $1 from each of the other golfers in the group on that hole.

Fishies is rarely played by itself. It is usually combined with several other similar types of golf bets (such as barkies, scuffies, chippies and the like) and played as a points game. In that scenario, each time a golfer earns a fishie, Arnie, pinnie or whatever, he gets a point. At the end of the round, the point totals are compared and the differences paid out based on the value you've set for each point.

But wait: If you win a Fishie by making par after hitting into water, doesn't that mean that for the vast majority of groups Fishies will never pay off? Yes, which is why there are other ways to play the game for mid- and high-handicappers and other higher-scoring golfers.

If your group is using handicaps, you can stipulate that making a net par after hitting into water pays off. If you aren't using handicaps, you can set bogey as the target score. Or even double bogey. It's up to you and your group. If the members of your group frequently hit into water, then you are probably higher-scoring golfers, and in that case should set the target score higher to have any chance of the Fishies bet actually paying off.

Then, if, say, you are using double bogey as the target score to win the Fishies bet, you can make the bet pay out double for anyone who wins it with a natural bogey, triple for anyone who wins it with a natural par.

Also note that a golf ball is considered "in water" only if it is actually, well, in water. It can't just be inside the penalty area but on dry ground, in other words.

(There is another golf game called Fish; Fish and Fishies are different games.)

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