How to Play the Snake Golf Game and Wager

A sign warning of snakes is seen during the practice round of Maybank Malaysian Open
Ian Walton/Getty Images

"Snake" is the name of a golf betting game that bites the member of your group who, at the end of the round, has the most-recent 3-putt.

The golfer who 3-putts last in Snake is the one who owes the other members of the group money.

(By the way, some golfers use "snakie" as a slang term for a 3-putt.)

Playing Snake

Snake is all about 3-putt avoidance - but if you do 3-putt, just make sure you aren't the last member of your group to do it.

The basics of Snake are simple:

  • The members of your group agree before the round how much the bet is worth.
  • The first golfer who 3-putts owns the Snake. He holds it until someone else 3-putts.
  • Once a different golfer 3-putts, the Snake passes to that golfer. And this passing of the Snake continues every time someone else 3-putts.
  • At the end of the round, the golfer left holding the Snake - the last golfer who 3-putted - owes each of the other three golfers the agreed-upon wager amount.

Reader Dr. Sean K. Kesterson of Brighton, Mich., told us how this wager adds to the atmosphere during his group's rounds:

"I carry an actual, huge rubber snake and we throw it at each other during the round, and it hangs off your bag or your golf cart somewhere. People look at others who are facing very long putts and make hissssssssssing sounds."

Two Ways to Wager on Snake

The simplest way to bet the Snake game is to agree before the round on a single, static bet amount. Let's say your group agrees the Snake bet is worth $1. That means at the end of the round, the loser - the golfer left holding the Snake - owes each of the other three golfers in the group $1 (the loser pays out $3 total in this example).

But there's another way to bet Snake that goes like this: The golfers agree on the starting bet amount, and then each time the Snake is passed that amount doubles. If the starting wager is 10 cents, then it doubles to 20 cents the first time the Snake is passed, to 40 cents the third time, to 80 cents the fourth time, and so on.

In the book, the authors use a dime wager to run the example farther: How much is an original dime bet worth if the Snake is passed eight times? In such a scenario, the golfer holding the Snake at the end winds up owing $12.80 to each of the other golfers in the group, losing $38.40 total! From a starting wager of just a dime.

Obviously, the second type of Snake wager is best left to high-rollers - especially if your group is made up of high-handicappers (who are likely to produce more than eight 3-putts among them during a round) - and/or low-handicappers. Even starting at just one penny, a doubling Snake wager adds up to $5.12 (or the loser paying out a total of $15.36) if the Snake is passed 10 times.