How to Play the 'Pick Up Sticks' Golf Game

"Pick Up Sticks" is the name of a golf game in which the winner of a hole loses a club — the golfer cannot use that club the remainder of the match. As the match progresses, the golfers involved lose more and more clubs, forcing them to get creative in using the clubs they have remaining.

Pick Up Sticks is also known by the name Bag Raid. It is a match play format, best played by two golfers, one vs. one.

An example of how Pick Up Sticks works:

  • On Hole 1, Golfer B wins the hole against Golfer A. As the loser of the hole, Golfer A gets to (figuratively) remove one golf club from Golfer B's bag. Maybe Golfer B is a tremendous driver, so Golfer A might choose to take B's driver out of play. B cannot use the club that A chooses for the rest of round.
  • Let's say on Hole 2 both golfers score 4s. There is no winner or loser of this hole, so no clubs are affected.
  • On Hole 3, Golfer A wins and B loses the hole. So now B gets to take one of A's clubs out of play. If B chooses, say, A's 8-iron, then A cannot use the 8-iron the rest of the round.
And so on. Each time a hole is won, the loser of that hole gets to pick up one of his opponent's sticks, to remove that club from play. If there are lots of halved holes, then the two golfers might only lose a handful of clubs each. But if most holes are won and lost, then the golfers could end the round with only six or seven clubs (or even fewer) still in play.

Any club can be chosen for removal, but most players of Pick Up Sticks give immunity to the putter. If you want to make the putter vulnerable, though, that's up to you and your opponent to decide before teeing off. If you decide that the putter can be removed, then it is likely to be the first club to go.

Any strategy to Pick Up Sticks? Yes: Get rid of the clubs that your opponent is best with, and/or the clubs you know to be her favorites. If your opponent's favorite club is the 6-iron, you know she uses it as often as she can and has great confidence in it, then get rid of it the first time you lose a hole. Otherwise, most golfers in Pick Up Sticks get rid of the driver and short irons first.

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