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.