Nassau Golf: Rules, Strategies, and Fun on the Course

golfer marking down score on scorecard

Golf formats like the Nassau are popular among golfers of all skill levels. You may have heard of this game before but are wondering, what is a Nassau in golf?

These golf formats make the game more fun and allow us to wager against our buddies. Nassau is one of the most popular formats in golf. It’s a type of wager that adds an extra level of excitement and competition to the traditional game.

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or new to the sport, understanding the Nassau format can enhance your golf experience and make the game more enjoyable. We’ll outline what a Nassau in golf is, the history and origins of the game, its rules and scoring, and tips and strategies for success.

What is a Nassau in Golf?

A Nassau in golf is a popular betting format that consists of three separate wagers, each played over the front nine, back nine, and the entire 18 holes. The Nassau bet is essentially a series of match-play competitions, with players or teams competing to win the most holes in each segment.

The front nine, back nine, and full round are each worth a predetermined wager amount, making it possible to win, lose, or draw each bet independently. This format adds excitement to a round of golf by introducing friendly competition and breaking the game into smaller, more manageable sections.

The name “Nassau” comes from the Nassau Country Club in New York, where the game is said to have originated in the late 1800s.

Rules of Nassau

The rules of a Nassau are relatively simple.

  • Players compete in three separate matches: the front nine, the back nine, and the full 18 holes.
  • Each match is a standalone wager, and the player with the best scores in each one wins the bet. The wager carries over to the next match if there is a tie.
  • For instance, if no one wins the front nine outright, the bet carries over to the back nine. So, say you play for $5 on the front nine, $5 on the back nine, and $5 for the full 18 holes.
  • The five on the front nine are carried over to the back nine if no one wins the first nine holes, meaning the back nine is worth $10. The $5 bet for the full 18 holes doesn’t change unless the back nine is also a tie.
  • In that case, the wager for the full 18 holes is worth $15. So, the overall winner takes all when that happens.

Scoring the Nassau

scratch golfer - scorecard

In terms of scoring, the Nassau generally follows a matchplay format, where you record each player’s strokes for the hole, and the lowest score wins. The player who wins the most holes in each match wins the corresponding wager.

You can also use the Nassau for stroke and stableford play. The format can keep these games interesting and exciting because you have a side bet on the go during your round.

With stroke play, the golfer with the least shots wins the bet. But the separate wagers make it more interesting because each player in a threesome could technically win a bet apiece.

The player with the most points wins the wager when playing stableford. You count the points on the front nine for the first bet, the points on the back nine for the second one, and the overall points for the final wager.

The Nassau creates an exciting and competitive atmosphere that can add extra excitement to the game.

Pressing in Nassau

You can include the optional variation of pressing to up the stakes within a game of Nassau. A team or player two or more holes down in a nine-hole segment can call a press.

The press initiates a new wager of an equal amount to the initial bet, potentially increasing the bet from $2 for the nine holes to $4.

When a team is two holes behind after four holes on the front nine of a $2 Nassau and calls for a press, a $2 wager is added for the remaining five holes of the front nine. However, the opposing team has the option to decline the additional bet.

But the losing team has the chance to break even if the other team accepts the press. They can win the $2 from the five-hole bet but still lose the overall nine, canceling out the loss.

The team that calls the press can double their loss if they lose the five-hole bet and the overall nine holes. That means they’d have to pay the opposing team $4.

History of the Nassau

The origins of the Nassau format can be traced back to the Nassau Country Club in New York, where it is said to have originated in the late 1800s. The game quickly gained popularity among club members and soon spread to other golf clubs and tournaments.

Over the years, the Nassau format has undergone some slight variations and developments. However, the basic concept has remained the same: a three-match competition where players compete for individual wagers on the front nine, back nine, and full 18 holes.

Today, the Nassau format is widely used in golf tournaments and club events, at amateur and professional levels. It is particularly popular in casual and friendly games among friends and club members.

Because of the format’s flexibility, golfers of all skill levels can play the Nassau. And it adds an extra level of excitement and competition to the game.

Many golfers also prefer the Nassau format because it allows them to focus on specific parts of their game. For example, a player who struggles on the front nine but excels on the back nine can put more emphasis on the latter and potentially win the back nine wager.

Additionally, the Nassau format allows players to play a full 18-hole round while still having three opportunities to win something. That makes the game more compelling and challenging for many golfers.

How to Play a Nassau

golfer driving ball in front of playing partners

Playing a Nassau is relatively easy, but it does require a bit of planning and organization. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to play.

  1. Decide whether to play in a team format or an individual one – the 2 vs. 2 team format is best if you have a foursome, while an individual one is better if you have a threesome.
  2. Agree on the bets for the front nine, the back nine, and the full 18 holes – the bet can be any amount everyone agrees on.
  3. Decide if you’ll allow pressing.
  4. You can apply the Nassau format to any scoring system, but matchplay is the most common and is easy to follow. The team or individual who wins the hole after applying your handicaps scores a point.
  5. Tally the points after the front nine – the team or player with the most points wins.
  6. Tally each player’s points for the back nine – again, the most points win the bet.
  7. Tally the overall points for each player for the full 18 holes, with the most points winning that wager.
  8. Remember, payouts can change due to pressing.

Tips for Winning the Nassau

When it comes to winning a Nassau, there are several tips to keep in mind.

  1. Play conservatively on the front nine – That’ll give you a chance to make up ground on the back nine if you’re behind.
  2. Stay focused – Don’t get too caught up in the wagering aspect of the game and focus on playing your best.
  3. Know your strengths and weaknesses – Play to your strengths and capitalize on them in order to increase your chances of winning.
  4. Play within your abilities – Don’t try to be too aggressive, instead play at a level that you are comfortable with.
  5. Use the course to your advantage – Familiarize yourself with the course layout, including tee boxes and pin positions for each hole. This will give you a better understanding of the course and help you make strategic decisions.
  6. Be aware of your opponents – Observe your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, which will help you play accordingly.
  7. Use course management – By using course management you will be able to make better decisions on when to be aggressive and when to play it safe.
  8. Be patient – Winning the Nassau is a marathon, not a sprint, so be patient and wait for the opportunities to present themselves.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of winning the Nassau. Remember, the key to success is to stay focused, play within your abilities, and make strategic decisions based on the course and your opponents.


The Nassau is a popular and unique format of golf that adds an extra level of excitement and competition to the game. The format, which originated at the Nassau Country Club in New York, consists of three separate matches – the front nine, the back nine, and the full 18 holes – each with their own wager.

With its combination of stroke play and match play, the Nassau offers a fun and challenging way to play golf. Players of all skill levels can enjoy it.

Now that you know how to play the Nassau, you can challenge your buddies to a game during your next round. And our tips for winning the Nassau should give you an advantage when you take them on.

Happy golfing with the Nassau, and don’t forget to use pressing if you find yourself behind on the scores. It’s your chance to break even when losing is looking likely.

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with decades of experience playing this amazing sport. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn, improve and enjoy the game of golf.