How to Play the Nine Points Golf Game

Three golfers on the putting green
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Nine Points, also called 5-3-1, is the name of a golf format for a group of three golfers in which points are given based on the golfer's score on each hole. It's a fun game for golfers playing for bragging rights or money.

The Points at Stake in Nine Points

Each hole in a round of Nine Points has, as the name suggests, nine points at stake, but those points are divvied up among the three golfers in the group. Here's how the points allotment breaks down on each hole:

  • The golfer with the lowest score of the group gets five points.
  • The golfer with the middle score is awarded three points.
  • The golfer with the high score gets one point.

Add the points accumulated on each hole, and the winner is the one with the most points at the end of the round.  

The format is one of several that golfers have come up with over the years to provide some competition when there is an odd number of players and the group can't play partners.

When Scores Are Tied in Nine Points

Of course, on many holes, there will be ties for a low score or high score. This is how you divvy up the nine points in case of ties:

  • If one player has the low score and other two players tie, the low scorer earns five points and the other two get two points each.
  • If two players tie for low score, those two get four points each and the high scorer gets one point.
  • If all three players tie on a hole, they split the nine points equally—three points each.

Nine Points sometimes goes by the name of Nines. The point structure in Nine Points is similar to related games such as Split Sixes, also known as English. In that format, there are six points at stake and the breakdown is four points for the low score on a hole, two points for the middle score, and no points for the high score. A tie for low score in Split Sixes is worth three points per player, while a tie for high score results in one point for each of those golfers and four points for the low score. Each golfer gets two points in the event of a three-way tie.

Using Handicaps

Nine Points can be played with or without handicaps. If using handicaps, distribute the handicap allowances per hole as indicated on the scorecard. For example, a golfer with a 7 handicap would be entitled to subtract one stroke from his score on each of the seven most difficult holes as indicated on the scorecard.

Because the golfers are playing match play within the threesome, the handicaps should be figured off the low handicap in the group. The lowest handicapper plays scratch (with no handicap), while the others get the difference between the low handicap and their handicaps. For example, if Betsy's handicap is 8, Joe's is 15 and Bob's is 12, Betsy would play scratch, Joe would get seven handicap strokes and Bob would get four.