Explaining the Umbrella Game in Golf

"Umbrella" is the name of golf game or side bet played within a quartet of golfers who have paired off into 2-person teams. In the Umbrella Game, there are points at stake on each hole for achieving one of five goals. How many points depends on the hole being played, because in Umbrella the points match the hole number.

The key factors in Umbrella are these:

  • A 2-person team that accomplishes all of the five point-earners on the same hole is said to score the umbrella, and their points are doubled.
  • The point value of each of those five accomplishments per hole is the same as the hole number: 1 point per achievement on Hole 1; five per achievement on Hole 5; 12 per achievement on Hole 12, and so on.

Earning Points in Umbrella (and What Each Achievement is Worth)

Golfers A, B, C, and D form a group. Maybe they are buddies who always play together, maybe they are playing a tournament and are just randomly grouped together. But they decide to play the Umbrella bet over the top of the usual stroke play. So they pair off: A and B form one side, C and D the other.

On each hole, points are awarded for each of the following five achievements:

  • Low individual score among the four golfers;
  • The low, 2-ball total between the two sides;
  • One golfer in a team hitting the green in regulation;
  • The other golfer on your side hitting the green in regulation;
  • Either golfer on a team making birdie.
How much is each of those achievements worth? The point value matches the number of the hole you are playing. So on Hole 1, each of those five things is worth one point — a total of five points is at stake. But if one side sweeps all five, the points are doubled and they earn 10.

But by the 10th hole, the points look like this (since point values match the hole number):

  • 10 points for low individual score of the foursome
  • 10 points for your side having the low 2-ball total
  • 10 points if you hit the green in regulation
  • 10 points if your partner hits the green in regulation
  • 10 points if either scores a birdie
On the 10th hole, there are 50 total points at stake, and if one side sweeps all five achievements, that doubles to 100.

Obviously, the points going up as the round progresses means the pressure builds the closer you get to the end of the round.

Betting the Umbrella Game

It's all about earning those points. The two sides compare point totals at the end of the round and the difference is paid out. Just be careful not to get in over your head in terms of setting the value of each point.

By the time you reach No. 18, 90 points are available for that one hole (18 points per achievement). If you're playing one dollar per point, that's $90 at stake on a single hole — $180 if one side sweeps! That's much too rich for most us, by far. So choose the point value wisely.

Another option is for each of the four golfers in the group to chip into a pot at the beginning of the round. Then, at the end of the round, rather than paying off the difference in points, the side with the most points wins the pot.

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