The 'Shootout' in Golf: 3 Different Versions

Do you know how to play the Shootout game? We should probably say "games," rather than "game," because there are several different formats golfers play or might encounter that go by the name Shootout. We explain three of them in this article.

First, there is the Shootout tournament, which starts with 19 golfers playing the first hole, continues with 18 playing the second, 17 playing the third, and so on. In other words, on each hole, one golfer — the high scorer — drops out. You can also play this version of Shootout with 10 golfers over just nine holes. In either case, the last golfer standing on the final hole is the winner.

Obviously, you can't just walk onto golf course with 19 golfers and head to the first tee. You'll need to coordinate playing this Shootout with the pro shop, well in advance, because they'll have to block out time for your large group. Many golf courses don't allow fivesomes, after all, much less 19-somes. You'll also be playing many tiebreakers (chip-offs are the most common method).

This version of Shootout also goes by the names Derby, Horse Race and Rumpsie-Dumpsie. See our article about Horse Race/Derby to read more about it.

The 4-Player Betting Game Called Shootout

This betting game called Shootout is for a group of four golfers, and it works on the same princple: On each hole, the high-scorer drops out. After three holes, the one golfer who remains is the winner of the first bet. Over 18 holes, the Shootout bet pays off six times (every three holes).

Here is an example of how this version of Shootout works:

  • On the first hole, Golfer A scores 4, B makes 6, C makes 5 and D makes 4. Golfer B's 6 is the high score, so B is out. (The golfer who drops out on each hole doesn't stop playing, they just aren't in contention for the Shootout wager anymore.)
  • On Hole No. 2, A makes 5, C makes 6 and D makes 5. Golfer C is eliminated.
  • On Hole 3, A makes 6 and D makes 4. A is eliminated, leaving Golfer D as the Shoot Out winner.
And on Hole 4, all four begin again in a new shootout. You can make each Shootout bet worth whatever your group agrees on — a dollar amount, a point value, a beer, bragging rights, whatever.

What about tie scores? Chip-offs are the easiest way to settle them. Just be sure you're not holding up play of any groups behind yours. You can also, after a few holes, match scorecards (count back) to break ties.

The Shootout Tournament Prize

You know about hole-in-one prizes at golf tournaments, right? In this version of Shootout, it is similar to a hole-in-one prize in that golfers attempt to pull off a difficult shot, and a golfer who holes the shot wins the prize.

The difference is that the opportunity to win the Shootout prize is usually limited to just four golfers — maybe the four golfers on the winning team, perhaps four golfers whose names are randomly drawn by tournament organizers.

Once the four participants are identified, tournament organizers take them to a hole (typically the 9th or 18th, the greens that are usually closest to the clubhouse) to try the shot. How hard the shot is depends on how big the prize is. Is the Shootout prize a $100 pro shop gift certificate? Then maybe each of the four attempts the same difficult putt. Is the Shootout prize a new car? Then they are probably facing something like a 225-yard approach shot. Holing the Shootout shot means winning the prize.

Whether a golf tournament offers a Shootout prize is entirely up to the organizers, and most don't. But this is something that is becoming more common.

More formats:

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