Skins Golf Format Explained

VD February 02 2022

Skins in golf is also known as a skins game. In this format, four golfers play as a group called foursome. Each player plays and competes against the other three in the foursome. 

The lone golfer who manages to post the lowest score for each hole that they play gets awarded with a skin. However, if there is a tie between two players, there is no skin for anyone. The golfer who wins the most significant number of coats gets declared the winner of the game.

Many different kinds of skins games exist and the players choose the one that suits them best. However, there are a few basic common factors:

  • The money for each skin has to be decided in advance before the game starts
  • All four golfers put their money into a collective pot to form a pool which is used to determine the winner at the end of a round
  • There is no need for a particular bet that has to be placed on each hole
  • The player who wins the most shots in a round gets awarded with all the skins from that particular golf course
  • At times, only one golfer may take home the total amount won by all four members while other times, the money is divided equally between all four golfers
  • Usually, one golfer needs to win by two shots to take home skins
  • The team with the lowest score wins the game

Once the rules are decided upon, players can compete. Most of the time, there are different kinds of skins games available for play. They are as follows:

  • Best ball skins game: Here, each golfer plays his or her own ball throughout the round. The best score that any player shoots are kept as the governing score for the team. Each individual score is not used to calculate who wins the respective skins. 
  • Foursome skins game: This is a format where all golfers play as a group throughout the course. The lowest score carded by any golfer is used as the governing score.
  • Best ball skins game with handicap: This format consists of individual players as well as teams. All four golfers play together and their scores are combined to make team's total final score for each round. If there is a tie in scores, the golfer with the lower handicap wins.
  • Alternate shot skins game: This format is also known as Dutch Skins Game or best ball modified alternate shot. Here one golfer plays the entire round while the other three golfers go for shots in turn. 
  • Stableford skins game: This type of format is also known as a points game. The lowest score carded by the golfer is not considered to win the respective skins.
  • Better ball: Here one team of two golfers competes with another team of two golfers. Each foursome plays as a group and the winning team is decided on basis of the low gross score after 18 holes or best net scores for each round.
  • Best ball: Similar to the better ball format, this type of contest involves just one pair among four golfers who play as a team against the other three groups in which every golfer plays his own ball throughout the course. The best score wins for each hole among all four teams playing together.
  • Fourball skins game: type of contest consists of only one pair of players who play against another three pairs. Similar to other skin game formats, the lowest score carded by any golfer is considered as winning skin for the respective hole
  • Staggered fourball: Just like the fourball skins game, this format includes one pair who competes with another three pairs. However, here all four golfers don't start together. They start at different holes and wait until they finish their starting hole before moving on to the next tee box.
  • Scramble skins game: All four golfers in this contest play together but everyone has a different ball throughout the round. Everyone hits from the tee box then chooses their best shot out of every player's ball that was hit off the tee by all four golfers. This process continues until the ball is holed out.
  • Modified scramble: This format also uses four golfers but just like "scramble skins game" one golfer hits tee shot then chooses a ball that was hit by another three golfers. This process is repeated until the ball is holed out.
  • Seeded fourball skins game: Just like all other formats, this type of contest includes one pair who plays against another three pairs. However, here every foursome starts from different holes and wait until they finish their starting hole before moving on to the next tee box. In addition, each team's captain chooses a golfer with a better handicap to count his or her score as the final score for each respective hole among all four teams playing together.

How to Play a Golf Skins Game

In the entire round, each one of the golfers hits their ball. The scores after each hole are compared. Let us assume that one golfer had the lowest score among all four-member teams. They get awarded with skin. Similarly, golfers continue to play to the next hole until the round is finished. 

Now, let us assume that two players have a tie in scoring the lowest; then, in that case, none gets awarded with the skin. And they all continue towards the next hole. But this one skin is yet unclaimed. This means that this particular skin adds to the value of the skin of the next hole, which then upgrades to the worth of two skins. 

This is a general rule of thumb: the player can go on making the next hole worth three skins if there's yet another tie. There are a total of eighteen holes that players of the foursome ought to play. Consequently, there are eighteen skins to win.

Here are some steps:

First Step

The players should decide upon how many skins are up for grabs in every hole. Nonetheless, the number of skins is not written in stone; it can be anywhere between two and five skins per hole. However, this number must be equal among all four-member teams playing together.

Second Step

Every golfer hits their respective balls off the tee box assigned to them on that particular hole throughout the game. This rule remains unchanged even if there are ties.

Third Step

This is the most important step in playing a skin game format. The lowest score carded by any one of the golfers is considered as winning skin for that hole. Hence, it takes on additional worth when combined with other holes' skins. This mark becomes the starting point for subsequent cuts.

Fourth Step

The golfer who gets awarded with such the highest cumulative score (the sum of every team member's individual low scores) keeps getting to add greater value to his or her next consecutive hole's total score. Thus, if there is another tie in this particular hole; then he/she has to keep adding value to his second consecutive and next hole's total score and so forth and so forth until the round ends.

On the flip side though, if a golfer is not able to tie with his or her teammate's score then they keep getting to drop their individual next consecutive hole's score by a particular margin. In that case, a player named as "skip" skips his or her turn before hitting since he/she has already gotten one skin for that specific day's gameplay. This rule remains unchanged even if there is more than one skip player in the given foursome.

Fifth Step

The lowest cumulative point total out of all four-member teams playing together wins the game and gets awarded with an equal split of skins allocated across all eighteen holes.  

Even though this format may sound similar to stroke play, it is different since the golfer has to keep playing every hole until the round ends. If there are ties, missing strokes can become a thing of concern for players; this means that they cannot keep replaying the same game, nor does stroke play allow them to do so. 

Finally, let us look at an example: both team members score four each on their first hole then what happens? The player who gets awarded with skin keeps adding to his or her next consecutive hole's total score. So in this case, he/she adds one more skin to their team's worth accumulated thus far. The other teammate returns back to zero skins. This cycle continues throughout all eighteen holes being played even though there are instances where nobody wins a skin.

How to Win Skins Golf

The golfer with the most significant number of skins gets to be the winner of the round and the game. So if there are two winners, then both stand to win the entire jackpot. If there are three winners, only one will get the jackpot, which is generally equivalent to half of what each player gets when they have all eighteen holes.

How to Handicap Skins

This format is just like other golf game formats. This implies that one can play it either gross or net. In net skins, the playing field is leveled by introducing handicap modifications. 

You can compare the handicaps of all the players in the foursome and take their differences. This would give the lowest handicap of the group. The difference would then show the number of holes that stroke over the best handicap golfer. Scorecard will help one to find out the holes with strokes.

Let us try to understand it with an example. Let's assume there is a competition between a 12-handicap golfer and a 4-handicap one. The handicap difference between the two is 8. This implies that with a stroke index of 1 through 8, the 12-handicap golfer will have one stroke on the holes. 

In case of a tie in such holes, the 12-handicap golfer is liable to win them and subsequently the skins associated with them.

For example, if there are two skins on the 8th hole and it ends in a tie between both players; then the 12-handicap golfer is most likely to win since he has one stroke more at his or her disposal.

Although this method of skin handicapping is not used very often nowadays, many old-time expert players still prefer it.

Variations of Skins Golf

  • No Carry-over: Many times, holes end in a tie. In such instances, one of the versions of the skins game allows one to call for no carry-overs. This means that the skins should remain unclaimed, and they must not be transferred to the next hole.
  • Varying values for skins: Another version of the skins game allows each hole to be assigned a value. This means more value can be set to skins in the back-9 in some games. For example, holes 1-9 have 10 points per skin, whereas 20 points per skin to holes 10-18. The one with the most points would then be the winner.
  • Tied holes: In the event that there is a tie on certain holes, one can either assign an equal amount of skins to each or just forgo any distribution entirely.
  • Losing skin payoffs: This version is different from the original one since the losing player does not lose a skin but rather pays his or her opponent 2x what the skin is worth.
  • Tiebreaker: A three-hole playoff or a sudden death round can be played to determine the winner in case of a draw. 

Scoring Skins

In the event that there are two golfers playing, each golfer gets all 18 holes as an individual "hole." In this instance, each hole is worth one skin.  The golfer who is winning gets to keep the skins when he or she wins them, but the opponent follows suit. The losing player pays his or her competitor what each skin is worth in actual currency.  Typically consider it a good idea to make all payouts in even money matches, so for example 6 skins would be worth $30.00 and 4 skins would be worth $20.00, etc.

A three-hole playoff or sudden death round can also determine the winner in case of a draw. Typically this is not considered as good as even money payouts as it tends to create multiple winners on each occasion as opposed to one single winner.


At instances, when golfers want to play their balls but at the same time compete with other players of the foursome, skins are used. This makes the game more interesting as it brings a twist to the usual mode of the lowest-scorer winner. By allowing the application of handicaps, skins golfing becomes a level playing field where anyone can win. This makes it a suitable format for different kinds of players with varying abilities and talents on the course.