How to Play the Golf Game Called Garbage or Dots

Four golfers walk off putting green together

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The golf game most commonly called Dots or Garbage is a popular game played by a group of golfers. The game is essentially a collection of side bets, the specifics of which are entirely up to the group, that can be played concurrently with just about any type of scoring format in which all members of the group are playing their own golf ball. Dots/Garbage can also be played for sides in a 2-vs.-2 team format.

In addition to Dots and Garbage, the format also has multiple other names. Among the most common are the Dot Game, Junk and Trash.

But whatever golfers call it, Dots/Garbage can be a fun game full of friendly wagering.

Playing Garbage/Dots: Choose the Side Bets, Count Points

If you want to play Garbage/Dots within your group, the first thing you have to do is agree on all the side bets that you'll be tracking. For each one of the side bets, a golfer who achieves one is awarded with a point. (Or, when negative achievements are included, has a point subtracted.)

Some examples of the positive achievements commonly included in Garbage are the hole in one, eagle, birdie, long drive on a hole, closest to the pin, hitting fairways with one's drive, greens in regulation (or "greenies"), making a chip-in (or "chippies") and getting up-and-down from a bunker (or "sandies").

When a golfer in the group achieves one of those things, he or she gets a point. And the golfers in the group decide what accomplishments are worth a point, and how many of them. Some groups limit the number to something small and manageable, other groups—especially those that have played together for a long time—pile on many, many side bets and wind up with very complicated scorekeepings.

Some groups also like to include negative "achievements" that result in deducting points, others prefer to stick with only positive achievements and positive points. But if negatives are included, the most common are penalizing a golfer a point when he or she 3-putts, 4-putts, makes a double bogey and worse, hits into a bunker, or hits into the water.

Variations and Payouts in Garbage/Dots

There are a seemingly endless variety of ways to play Dots/Garbage, and many groups add in double points, triple points and more for more elaborate bets (just to make something up, for example, making a birdie one hole after you hit a par-5 green in two might earn you triple points). The variations are up to the members of the group.

So, like we said, to play Garbage/Dots you first must decide which achievements are going to be worth points, and how much each of those achievements is worth.

One you've done that, go play a round of golf. Each golfer keeps track throughout the round of his positive and negative achievements/points. At the end of the round, each golfer tallies up his points and then the group members tally up the differences and pay out the bets. (Obviously, among the things the group members have to agree on before beginning play is the monetary value of the points, assuming the group is wagering money.)

A couple things to keep in mind about Dots/Garbage/Junk/Trash: The more side bets (or achievements) you include, the more difficult the bookkeeping becomes. Also, the higher the point values you use, the bigger the wins and losses can be at the end of the round. Make sure if you are playing for money (each point worth X amount) that you play for affordable amounts.