The Scotch Golf Game

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Scotch is a common four player golf game involving two team of two players competing directly. Scotch is a points-based team golf game. Each golfer plays their own golf ball as they normally would, and various points are awarded to different teams based on certain outcomes or situations at the end of each hole.

This article will attempt to explain the basic game of Scotch and describe some alternatives and variations of the game. 

However, the game of Scotch is as varied as the golfers that play it. We’ll attempt to define the generic version of the Scotch golf game, but you might have different rules or scoring quirks.

How To Play The Scotch Golf Game

Scotch is a team points game. Any number of events or situations could be used to award points to one team or another. 

Two teams consisting of two-players complete in this game, perfect for any foursome. Select teams by throwing balls, flipping coins, tossing tees, or however else you choose sides.

Let’s start by explaining how my regular playing partners score Scotch. This is a common formulation of the game. Each team is awarded points for specified accomplishments. We use these three items for the core game points:

  • Low Individual Score
  • Low Team Score
  • Closest to the Pin (Nearie)

One point is awarded to the team that wins each of these contests. The team with the most points at the end of the round wins. Points are assigned a monetary value, so the margin of victory determines the amount of money owed by the losing team.

Scotch Golf Game Scoring
Scoring Scotch Golf Game

Let Me Count The Ways To Play Scotch Golf

There are countless ways to customize a game of scotch. It’s a points game, and any number of achievements could be used to trigger points.

Generally, Scotch is a variation of High Ball-Low Ball or High-Low-Total. At least some of the available points should be based on individual or team scores. To add interest, you can use any other criteria to award additional points.

Birdie Bonuses are a good example. We normally award an extra point if you win the hole with a birdie. Meaning you make a gross birdie, and the other team can’t match it.

Other points could be added for longest drive, putts outside the flag stick, sand saves, or whatever else you can think of. The nearie or closest to the pin works best for us.

Extra Points can also be awarded for the full sweep. If a team wins all the available points for a hole, they are awarded an additional bonus point. 

Here are all five available points, including bonuses, that are up for grabs in my regular Scotch Game:

  • Low Individual = 1 Point
  • Low Team = 1 point
  • Nearie (Closest to the Pin) = 1 point
  • Birdie as Low individual = 1 point
  • Sweep (collect all the above) = 1 point

Here is a single hole score card to show you how the scoring would work:

Team 1 Team 2
Player A Player B Player X Player Y
Scores 3 6 5 5
Birdie ***
Neary ***
Total 9 10
Points 5 0

As you can see in this example, Team 1 receives all five points. One point for the low individual score, one point for the low team score, one point for the closest to the pin (nearie), one point for the birdie, plus one additional point for the sweep of all four previous points.

This format is common, but many variations exist. Feel free to try other point scoring scenarios and see how the game plays for you.

How To Score Ties In Scotch

What happens when there are ties in Scotch? Normally, ties are ignored, and zero points are awarded in a Scotch golf game. However, there are other options.

Half points could be awarded. It doesn’t alter the result compared to ignoring the points, but it might add stress to the scorekeeper.

If you enjoy wild swings in you golf matches, you can also carry over the points. With carry over points, tied achievements roll to the next hole. 

For examples, if the low individual score is tied on the first hole, that point is transferred to the next hole. Whichever team wins the low individual on that next hole is awarded two points. If the low score is tied again, low individual score on the next hole will be worth three points, and so on.

Escalating Points When Holes Are Pushed

Many players choose to include escalating points to add even more interest to a game of Scotch golf.

With this rule, whenever a hole ends with no points awarded to either team, the point totals increase. If the first hole ends in a tie (no points awarded) than every point on the subsequent holes will be worth two points. If another hole ends in a tie (no points awarded) the remaining points will be valued at three points.

As you can see, this rapidly increases the value of holes and can cause the game to become very expensive for the losing side. For this reason, limits are often placed on the number of escalations. Five is a common limit, but you can cap the points at three or ten or any other number. 

The choice is yours. Just be sure to clarify the rules before agreeing to the game.

Pressing Scotch Golf Games

The press can be deployed in a golf game of Scotch. If pressed, a brand new game is opened alongside the original game. Learn more about pressing in golf games.

Generally, the press is not used in Scotch games. Point escalation (as described above) will normally add enough opportunity for the trailing side to make a comeback. Pressing a game of Scotch also makes it very difficult for the scorekeeper to track all the different points and scenarios.

Be sure to decide how presses with your Scotch game will be handled before starting the round.

press the bet in golf
Pressing Scotch Games

Playing Scotch With Handicaps

Handicaps can (and often should) be used for Scotch, just as they are with most other golf games. Learn more about using golf handicaps.

In a golf game of Scotch, you can let the strokes “lie where they fall” or “play off” the lowest handicap player in the game. Most commonly, golfers choose to “play off” the low handicap index to reduce the number of holes in which strokes are in play.

Why Is This Game Called Scotch?

Scotch is most likely a nod to Scotland, the birthplace of golf. Otherwise, the name could be referring to the overwhelming desire to drink when you lose a lopsided Scotch match and owe your opponents WAY too much money.

There are many golf games that use the Scotch moniker, so you may have learned different rules. For example, Scotch Foursomes often refers to a modified version of alternate shot.

In any case, we give thanks and praise to our Scottish golfing forefathers. Their contributions to the game will always be remembered.


The name Scotch is used to describe many different golf game formats. It is most commonly played as a points game based (at least in part) on the High-Low-Total golf format. However, Scotch is always expanded to add other point categories and usually includes escalating and/or bonus points.

Scotch is a wild swinging, entertaining, and sometimes annoying game. There is always some extra gimmick included, so be careful when playing this game with your golfing buddies. Good luck!

David Shelly
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