Golf and gambling go together like Phil and Phlop shots, Arnie and Ice Tea and Tiger and winning. One of the new series here at Swing Juice will be a deeper dive into different gambling games that are played on courses all across America. Whether you’re a whale or you like to gamble a few dollars with your friends, everyone will be able to find something new here.
The Nassau originated at the Nassau Country Club of Glen Cove, Long Island. Nassau Country Club was a magnate for the super-rich during the prosperous times of the 19th century when men like Vanderbilt and Packard were making their fortunes. Private clubs would hold inter club matches in which the winners and losers as well as their scores were printed in the local papers. No golfer likes to see his or her name next to a losing score especially if they are roundly defeated by a large margin. The Nassau Captain, J B Coles Tappan, created a format to make it seem that a large defeat would not be presented as such. The Nassau was a gambling game where the front 9, back 9 and overall score were played as points. You get one point for winning the back, front and overall. So even if you were destroyed by 40 strokes the outcome would look like “Lost 3-0-0” in the mornings paper, therefore allowing rich titans of industry to save face.
Many private clubs exclusively play the Nassau as their gambling game. Growing up in Nassau county I was unaware that my hometown area was so influential in such a widely played game. To this day the Leave the Pin In podcast crew plays its own version of the Nassau called the “Three Dollar Throw Down”. Since we are not titans of industry we play for a dollar on the back, front and overall.
The classic Nassau is really three separate bets on three separate contests, which are played over the front nine, the back nine and the full 18 holes. The $2 or $5 Nassau is a standard, classic bet. With a $2 Nassau the most you would be able to lose would be $6 (not enough to make a big dent in most people’s wallet).
When playing a Nassau you can use match or stroke play, you can include handicaps or not. The way you play is completely up to you.
Pressing is when the Nassau becomes tricky and exciting. Pressing occurs when you know you have lost the first part of a bet and “Press” in order to recoup some money for a few holes. It works like this:
You’re down 15 strokes with 3 holes left on a $2 Nassau. You know you can’t win so you decide to press. You’ve accepted that you’ve lost the $2 but want to start a new bet on the last 3 holes. If you win those you’ll be back to even money but if you lose now you’ll lose another $2 and now owe $4. It is generally accepted that when you press you will do so for the same amount of the original bet, otherwise you may be labeled a hustler or a sandbagger.
Next time you’re playing, throw down the challenge for a Nassau with your friends. It doesn’t have to be for a lot of cash. Michael Jordan is famous for saying he’ll play you for any amount that makes you uncomfortable.
Rock this press shirt to let your opponent know that you may be down but you’re never out of the game.
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