What Does Nearie Mean In Golf?

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Golf has a language all its own. Nearie is one of those golf-specific words that many people wonder about. So, what does nearie mean?

Nearie is short for nearest to the pin and means the same as closest to the hole. It is used in some team golf games that utilize a point-based scoring system like Scotch.

Let’s explore the term in more detail and learn different ways to use nearies in your regular foursome.

Defining Nearies

The nearie is defined as the ball that finishes on the green and is the nearest to the pin or closest to the hole. 

For a golf shot to qualify as a nearie, the ball must be on the green in regulation. This means the first shot on a par 3, the second shot on a par 4, or the third shot on a par 5. 

Nearies are normally restricted to a single group of players and used as part of a points-based golf game like Scotch. However, nearies can be added as side action on almost any type of golf game.

nearie in golf
What Does Nearie Mean in Golf?

How To Earn Nearies

The name nearie comes from the phrase “nearest to the hole.” The first step to earning a nearie is hitting the green in regulation.

Greens In Regulation (GIR) is defined by at least part of the ball touching the putting surface after two shots fewer than par. For a par 3, that means one shot. For a par 4 it means two strokes. For a par 5, that means three strokes.

The other criteria for a nearie is that your ball finishes closer to the hole than any of your playing partners’ balls. 

Meeting these two simple criteria will earn you the nearie. Depending on the game you’re playing, the nearie might be worth a point for the overall game or have a set value as a side game.

Nearie Diagram
Nearie – On the Green & Closest

Adding Nearies To Your Golf Game Format

Almost any golf game can include nearies, either as a side game or for points within the regular game format.

Nearies As Side Action

Nearies can be declared as a side game within any normal match play, stroke play, or even stableford golf format. Simply declare nearies and define their value before the golf round starts. Then wish your golfing partners luck and keep track of the nearies on the scorecard. 

Nearies can be tracked for all 18 holes or a specific subset of the holes. For example, many golfers like to track nearies for only the par-3 holes. 

The award for earning a nearie can be set at any value. $1 or $2 nearies are common but $5 or $10 work just as well if you have the cash.

You could also set a reward for the most nearies in the round. Or maybe whichever player gets the most nearies must buy the rest of the group a drink at the 19th hole.

Formal In-Game Nearie Points

Some points-based golf games include nearies as a standard part of the contest. 

When nearies are included as a formal part of the game, they must be tracked consistently for each hole just as all the other points are tracked.

For example, Scotch often includes nearies as one of the many points calculated for each hole. We recently published an article explaining how the scotch golf game works.

Another game that uses nearies as a formal part of the game is Bingo Bango Bongo. In this game, the Bango point is awarded for the nearie.

Nearies and Handicaps

Since the nearie is defined only as closest to the pin and on the green in regulation, a golfer’s handicap cannot be used as a factor.

For this reason, nearies are very often won by the better players in a given group. It’s somewhat unfair to add a game of nearies to a game that includes a wide range of player abilities since not all players have an average handicap

Closest to the Pin Contests

Many golf events include closest to the pin contests on one or more of the par-3 holes. These contests include all the players in the entire field and are NOT normally referred to as nearies. Nearies are almost always restricted to players within the same playing group.


Nearies are awarded to players that hit the ball nearest to the pin in regulation. Nearies can be added as a side game to almost any regular round of golf.

Some golf games incorporate nearies as an official point in the game. Scotch and Bingo Bango Bongo are examples of nearies used as standard points in golf games.

Be careful agreeing to a game of nearies if you are not well matched with your playing partners. There is no way to level the game for various skill levels, so the better and more accurate player is likely to win most of the nearies.

However you decide to incorporate nearies in your foursome, you’ll enjoy the thrill of approaching greens and determining which player is closest. Celebrate accordingly!

David Shelly
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