How to Play the Murphy Golf Game

In golf, "Murphy" is the name of a side bet that can be invoked by a golfer who is chipping to the green. When a group of golfers agrees to play Murphys, any golfer who declares a "Murphy" is betting that he can get up and down (get her ball into the hole in two or fewer strokes) when chipping from off the green.

The golfer who calls the Murphy can win the bet (your group remembered to set the value of the bet before the round started, right?) by either holing out the chip shot, or, by chipping the ball onto the green and then sinking the first putt.

Invoking the Murphy

Let's say your golf ball is sitting a few feet off the green, you have a good lie, you like the pin position. This is a shot you are very confident you can get up-and-down. So you call a Murphy. You invoke the Murphy bet.

Most groups who play the Murphy bet give the other golfers in the group the option to accept or decline the bet. Maybe one or more of your buddies thinks you have a great shot at getting that ball up-and-down, too, and doesn't want your bet. They can decline to accept the bet, then.

If any of the golfers in your group accept, then the bet applies. You play out the hole, and if you successfully got up-and-down then any golfers who accepted the Murphy bet now owe you. If you failed to get the ball into the hole in two strokes or less, then you owe each of the golfers who accepted the bet.

The Murphy bet can also be played, however, as an automatic bet: When a golfer who is chipping calls a Murphy, the bet is automatically in effect for all golfers in the group. (This version of Murphys makes it very much like the game called chippies.) It is more common, though, for golfers in the group to have the option to accept or decline the bet.

What Your Group Has to Agree on to Play Murphys

Most groups that use the Murphy bet are friends who've played golf together for years. They know each others' games, and they know the rules for and amounts of the bets they like to play.

But for groups that want to add the Murphy bet, or if you join up with other golfers you haven't played with or wagered with before, make sure everyone is clear on the rules.

As with other golf bets, the rules of the Murphy bet are whatever your group agrees they are. So before teeing off a game of Murphys, be sure to:

  • Agree on how much each Murphy bet is worth;
  • Agree on whether Murphys are optional (the other golfers can decline if you invoke) or automatic;
  • And make sure everyone agrees on the area from which a Murphy can be declared. A Murphy can never be declared for a ball on the putting green. Some groups allow Murphys from the fringe, others rule out the fringe. Do you want to set distance limits — a ball must be one, two, three yards, or whatever, off the green? If the bet is automatic, agree on the details. If the bet is optional, then setting parameters isn't very important since golfers can choose to decline the Murphy.

Who Is the Murphy Bet Named After?

Who put the Murphy in the Murphy bet? Is it named after a real Murphy?

The most common explanation for the name of this game is that it is named after PGA Tour winner and golf broadcaster Bob Murphy. Murphy played on the PGA Tour from the late 1960s into the 1980s; he was a member of the 1975 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He won five times on the PGA Tour and, in the 1990s, 11 times on the Champions Tour. He began working on American golf television broadcasts telecasts in the mid-1980s, staying on the air until 2009.

And Murphy was one of those golfers who other golfers call "a master of the short game," or "a short-game whiz." He was great at shots around the green, in other words, to the point that we've seen Murphy used as an example in the chipping sections of some golf instructional books.

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