Betting on Golf: The Nassau

I recently got an email from a reader who wanted to know what a Nassau was, and whether he should let his buddies talk him into playing one.

The answer is 1) the Nassau is a type of bet and 2) it can be a lot of fun if you put some limits on the game

In fact, the the $2 Nassau is probably the most popular betting game in golf. It’s a two-sided bet: player against player, or team against team. Nassaus lend themselves to a variety of team play formats. Scramble, four ball and alternate shot matches are common. Teams also can decide to play with, or without handicaps.

The Nasssau gets its name from the Nassau Country Club on Long Island, where the format was invented in the early 1900s. The game also is known as “2-2-2”, and “Best Nines.”

With awards for winning each side (front nine, back nine) and for all 18, the Nassau is essentially three separate bets. In a basic $2 Nassau, the player or team winning all three events would win $6.

Scoring Nassaus is something akin to that of match play golf. When a player or team has the low score on a hole, they score one point. A tie is a “push. The team or player with the most points at the end of each nine wins that side. The two nines are totaled for the 18 hole award.

But if that’s all there was to a Nassau, it is unlikely that it would be so popular among golfers. The real fun of a Nassau begins with the “press.”

In most nassau formats, any time a team or individual is down by two or more points, they can “press” the bet. That means that an additional bet is placed for the remaining holes on the side. The original bet still stands, however. Players involved in a Nassau typically are obligated to accept a press.

Here’s an example of how it works: After six holes, Team A finds itself down by two points. They decide to press. Now, in addition to the original wager, a second bet has been placed for holes seven, eight and nine. If Team A wins two of the three, they still lose the original bet by one point. However, they break even because they won the press. If they lose two of the remaining holes, they end up paying off both wagers. In the best case scenario, they win all three remaining holes, and win both wagers.

In some Nassau formats, the press is automatic when a player or team is down by two.

One problem with Nassaus is that it can be difficult to keep track of the wagering. At the end of 18, it would not be unusual for players to have placed six or seven separate wagers. Nassaus also can become quite expensive—even with the initial $2 limit. A Nasssau that has been pressed, double pressed, and triple pressed can quickly add up.

Players usually avoid mass confusion and bank-breaking payouts by limiting the presses to no more than two per nine holes. Some matches also allow presses only on the last four holes of each nine.

If the number of presses is controlled, Nassaus can be a very friendly betting format. The players who are down (presumably the less skilled players—at least on that day) control the pace of the wagers. And because the bet is broken into two nines and a total, a bad nine won’t ruin the whole day.

For further reading check out this casino guide.

23 thoughts on “Betting on Golf: The Nassau”

  1. If I was playing against two golfers, their best ball against mine in a $5 nassau, how would the payout work if I was to lose all three bets?  Or vice versa?  Would I owe them both $15 if I lost or am I just liable for $15 total?

  2. What happens if a press bet is tied?  I feel that the press is a wash and whoever was winning the pre press won the single bet.  A guy at my club thinks the presser needs to win the press outright or he loses.  i.e. a tie goes to the pressed.

    I think this guy is a clown.

  3. It’s a rainy day and we begin play. The bet is a 20 dollar Nassau no automatic presses. After 6 holes of play, Golfer 1 is up by 3 holes. Golfer 2 presses and loses the press on the 7th hole. Golfer 2 then presses the press on the 8th hole and both bogey the hole. On the 9th hole Golfer 1 wins the hole and the press. Golfer 1 is 5 holes up on the overall but before playing the back nine rain forces the course to close.

    Question #1 Is the entire bet cancelled because the course closed?

    Question #2 If the front nine bet counts, then how much does Golfer# 2 owe Golfer # 1.

    Thanks for Your Help!

  4. BB – My feeling is that a Nassau is not a Nassau unless you have the opportunity to play both nines. A Nassau is a three-legged bet. You have to play both nines to give the team that was down in the first a chance to get their money back.

    So I would say that the entire bet is cancelled.

  5. Golf blogger – with regard to the rained out $20 nassau, you sound tentative when you say “my feeling” I was of the understanding that a nassau was 3 seperate bets or games. Once the front nine has been played and the presses are complete nothing can change the outcome, therefore it is a completed bet. I have been given contridicting opinions and would like to know either way what the gambling gods would do!

    Thanks BB

  6. I am searching for a computer program that will figure side bets by entering players’ scores. Do you have an idea where I might look?

  7. I would like to know what happens on a press is if there is a tie??

    I also had a game where I press for the last two holes and ended in a tie. It turned up the heat on the course.
    I felt a tie is a wash on the press, not the original match which I agree I lost. My opponent said I lost the press because I didn’t beat him.

    Does anyone have a ruling on this???

  8. Please help. If I lose a $2 nassau on the front nine by one hole and win the back nine by two holes do I win $2, $4 or is it a wash. Thanks.


  9. How do you call a bet that is a $1 nassau automatic press (you can make the scores up, but carry it out pretty far)  Thanks

  10. if i have a 2$ nassau w/automatic 2 down presses, i tie the first hole,win the next 4 holes, lose the next 3 holes and tie the 9th.  what is the result of the first nine bet?

  11. Thanks for your comment but i was in error when i explained it.  after 5 holes i was +4+2, I lost the next 3 holes,the 9th was a tie.

  12. Question.  I was playing a nassau of 2-4-4 with automatic presses.  On the back, we had the following scores.  How many presses did we lose?  Please send answer to my email address:
    Hole 10 – Push
    Hole 11 – Push
    Hole 12 – They win …
    Hole 13 – They win
    Hole 14 – We win
    Hole 15 – We win
    Hole 16 – They win
    Hole 17 – They win
    Hole 18 – They win

    How many presses did we lose?


  13. If a $2 nassau is played with three people, and two of the players tie on the front side; does the third player owe the other players anything or is it a wash?

  14. How would you handle the scoring for a match play tournament with 6 teams where the golfers got in 4 of the 5 matches that were supposed to be played and rain came after 2 holes of the last match. Would you wipe out the last match because only 2 holes were played or count it as a full match for the final standings?


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