How to Play the Low Ball-High Ball Golf Game (and Variations)

Group of four golfers teeing off on a hole
Low Ball-High Ball is a golf game for a group of four golfers. Hero Images/Getty Images

Low Ball-High Ball is a golf game for a group of four playing against one another on two-person teams. The two sides compare their respective (net score) lows balls, and their respective high balls, and earn one point each for the better low and high balls on each hole.

We'll give an example, plus offer a few variations (including an expanded version called High-Low-Total) and how to bet it below.

But first note that this game is sometimes spelled Lo Ball-Hi Ball. And also, you might see the terms reversed in the name (High Ball-Low Ball).

Example of Low Ball-High Ball Scoring

Team 1 is made up of Golfers A and B; Team 2 is made up of Golfers C and D.

  • On the first hole, Golfer A makes a 4 and B makes a 7; Golfer C makes a 5 and Golfer D makes a 6.
  • Team 1's low ball is A's 4; Team 2's low ball is C's 5. So Golfer A wins the low ball point for Team 1.
  • Team 1's high ball is B's 7; Team 2's high ball is D's 6. So Golfer D wins the high ball point for Team 2.

In this example, our two teams split the points on the first hole because Team 1 had the better low ball and Team 2 had the better high ball.

Obviously, on every hole, golfers are trying to execute their shots and post the best score possible. It's important in Low Ball-High Ball to minimize the high scores. You want to avoid blow-up holes, otherwise you're just giving up the high-ball point without a fight. So when a golfer finds herself in trouble—and after checking what kind of shape her opponents are in on the hole—it might be even more important to avoid trying the hero shot. Just play out of trouble and try to minimize the damage to keep yourself in the hole.

What About Ties?

Of course, there will be holes throughout the round on which the two teams' low balls are the same score, and the two teams' high balls are the same score. What then? You have several options:

  • Split the point (award half-points for ties);
  • Carry over that point to the following hole;
  • Ignore ties and require an outright win to earn the point. If neither side wins the point, that point is not awarded.

How you choose to handle ties is up to your group. Just make sure everyone is in agreement before the round begins.

Low Ball-High Ball Variations (Including High-Low-Total)

  • Birdies Worth Double: If the score that wins the point for a side is under par, it earns more than one point in this variation. A winning score of birdie earns two points, a winning score of eagle wins three points. (Most golfers who play Low Ball-High Ball stick with awarding one point for each winning score.)
  • High-Low-Total: Think of High-Low-Total as an expanded version. It works the same (one point for the low ball, 1 point for the high ball) except that it also awards one point for the total team score on each hole. So for Team 1, if Golfer A makes a 5 and Golfer B makes a 6, the team score is 11. Compare that to Team 2's total score and award an additional point per hole.

Betting Low Ball-High Ball (or High-Low-Total)

You can play Low Ball-High Ball for bragging rights only, but if you want to play for money there are two options:

  1. Bet on the outcome of the match. Say the teams wager $10. At the end of the round, the team with the fewest points owes the winning team that $10.
  2. Or assign a value to each point, and pay out the difference in points at the end of the match. If Team 1 earns 22 points and Team 2 earns 14, then Team 2 owes Team 1 $8.