If you’re tired of playing classic matches or stroke play tournaments, you should learn to play Skins game. Skins golf is a versatile and engaging format that suits golfers of any skill level, requiring only a handful of playing partners and an accurate handicap.

I’ll show you what makes skins fun and why the guys on the PGA Tour use this to practice under pressure.

How to play skins

Skins are a way to reward a golfer for having the lowest hole score among the group. If four players are in a group, and one makes a net birdie while all the others make a net par, that player wins the skin. Skins not won from the last hole are carried over.

image of 3 golfers - AEC Info

Let’s say Players A and B make a bogey, and Players C and D make a par. No players in the group would take the outright skin with the lowest score, so it got carried over to the next hole. If Player A can make a birdie on the next hole, and all other scores are higher, they get two skins.

The amount for each skin is calculated before the start of the round. Many golfers make it $1 a skin, but players like Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, or Gary Player may play for tens of thousands of dollars a skin. You can choose the amount you want, but most of the time, each player must pay that person the skins money.

How are skins calculated in golf?

The amount of each skin is determined before the game of skins starts. At the end of the hole, all golfers take their gross score, subtract their golf handicap and determine a net score. The player with the lowest score wins the skin.

Skins can become very pressure filled depending on the prize money and your level of expertise in the course. Even players with higher handicap indexes can compete with lower-handicap players to enjoy a game of skins.

If golfers tie a few holes in a row, you may find that the hole winner has four or five skins coming their way, resulting in a good amount of money.

How do you calculate handicap skins in golf?

Skins can be either gross or net, with handicap skins referring to the net version. When a group of golfers decides to play skins, they agree on a set amount for each skin, and every player contributes that amount to the pot. For example, if each golfer contributes $10 and there are 3 foursomes participating, with a total of four skins by the end of the game, each skin would be worth $30.

In a foursome, skins can be paid out on a per-hole basis. So, if one player wins 3 skins, the other three players owe that golfer $1 each. The specific monetary values are not crucial for a game of skins since there are no required minimums or maximums.

Some golfers even choose to play skins without assigning any monetary value, simply enjoying the game for the sake of friendly competition and fun.

What is the difference between net and gross skins?

The only difference between net skins and a gross skins game is using handicaps. Net skins are played with handicaps, and gross skins are played without handicaps. If you and your friends are at the same level of skill with not much range of talent, then gross skins are a fair way to play.

However, if you are a more experienced golfer with a two-handicap, it’s not fair to have a 20-handicap competing against you for a skin. Most games in golf allow for both gross and net competitions to keep things fair.

Note: If you don’t know your handicap or have questions about how they are calculated, AEC Info’s recent post on what is a  Good golf handicap will shed some light. 

If you enjoy playing skins, maybe try both gross and net for a round and see if that makes it fairer for the hole winner and the golfers playing well.

Why do golfers play better in skins?

One of the most interesting things about skins is how they can make golfers play better. Think about coming down the 18th hole with four skins on the line. Won’t you be a little more aggressive on that shot?  It’s time to Go big or go home!  See other Golf sayings here. 

image of 3 golfers with golf cart - AEC Info

Skins is a simple game, but even PGA Tour professionals use this during their practice rounds to stay focused and keep the pressure on. Like many Golf gambling game formats, the golf skins format favors the player with a great hole.

A round of casual golf can become quite a bit more intense when a skins game is brought into it. Some golfers thrive during competitive golf events, and starting a skins game could be the best way to see if you are such a golfer. You will see the thrill of competitive golf when you have a 10-foot putt that could win you 6 skins.

When you are still jonesing for more golf at home or with the family, grab your cards and start playing Golf the card game.

Skins game – Final thoughts

Learning how to play skins in golf is easy since it’s not a complex golf game. However, you can use a dedicated golf app to track your skins and make scoring easier for the person in charge.

If you are used to playing a conventional golf game, start with a low skins amount to get used to the idea, then gradually increase to something that feels right for your foursome.