How to Play the 'Nicklauses' Bet (or Side Game) in Golf

Jack Nicklaus of the USA tees off on the 18th hole during the U.S Masters at Augusta National, 1986, in Georgia
The Nicklauses golf bet rewards long, straight drives - something its namesake Jack Nicklaus (shown on the 18th tee at Augusta National in 1986) was famous for. Brian Morgan/Getty Images

"Nicklauses" is the name of a side bet among a group of golfers. The Nicklaus bet comes in two varieties, but in each one you must have the longest drive on a hole to win the bet.

Golfers should decide before the round the amount of the bet (how much each "Nicklaus" is worth). Note that if you don't want to play for money, you can play Nicklauses for points and bragging rights. Or, rather than making each Nicklaus point worth a set amount of money, the golfers in your group can pay into a pot at the start of the round with the overall winner getting the money at the end.

Version I of the Nicklauses Bet

In this version, Nicklauses are automatically won by the golfer who hits the longest drive on each hole (excluding the par-3s, obviously). Two conditions often employed by groups playing this version of Nicklauses are:

  • Long drives must be in the fairway to win the bet.
  • If no drives find the fairway, the value of the "Nicklaus" carries over to the next hole and is added to that hole's pot.

Version II of Nicklauses

This version makes it a little harder to win the bet. In Version II, a golfer wins the Nicklaus by:

  • having the long drive on a hole;
  • and then making par or better on the hole.

This version of Nicklauses is often included in the betting games called Dots or Garbage. (You should also compare this version to Arnies and Hogies, two similar golf bets.)

The Inspiration for Nicklauses

Obviously, this bet is named after the golfer whose powerful drives so impressed when he first came onto the golf scene, Jack Nicklaus.

Some have argued that Nicklaus was - relative to his peers - one of the longest hitters in golf history. The beauty of Jack's drives, however, is that he combined length with accuracy, which is why the Nicklauses bet often includes the proviso that the winning drive on a given hole must be in the fairway. (Whether your group observes that condition is up to you.)

Alternate Names for the Nicklauses Bet

Of course, Jack Nicklaus was a competitive golfer a long time ago, and younger bombers have come and gone. Younger golfers might know this bet by a different name.

"Tigers," after Tiger Woods, "Dalys" after John Daly, and "Bubbas," after Bubba Watson, are three alternate names sometimes used.

Back to Golf Glossary index