Golf Games To Improve Your Performance

In this article we’ll cover some great games to play on the golf course. Medal rounds are useful, but try out the games below to spice up your rounds and to test your golfing skills.

These are mostly games I’ve created for players I work with. Just like other practice games, it is useful to keep track of your PB’s and see if you can beat them each time you play.

You can play all of these games by yourself and most can be turned into a game you can play against other players (possibly for a small wager).


1-Man Texas Scramble

Most golfers love a Texas Scramble, but have you ever Texas Scramble by yourself? The rules – hit two balls off the tee, select your best shot, then hit two balls into the green… Play this format the whole way round, you have two attempts at every shot and you can pick your best ball for your next shot. It is best to play stroke play (medal scoring) and to see how low you can go.

This game is great for when you are trying to take swing changes onto the golf course. A big problem with moving from the golf range to the course is the small amount of repetitions you’ll get over 9 or 18 holes. This format allows you to be a little freer with your swings and allows you double the reps in the same space of time.

Birdie Challenge

This is a great golf game if you struggle to play positive golf and shoot low scores – it has been a firm favourite of pros I work with.

The aim is simple, how many birdies can you make in 9 or 18 holes. You have one ball and each hole is an attempt to make birdie. As soon as you miss your birdie putt (or 120 yard wedge attempt) then pick up and move on. At the end of your round just tally up how many birdies you made.

If you are a 12 handicapper or above just tweak this to make it a ‘par challenge’ and if you are playing off a 24 handicap or above feel free to make this ‘bogey challenge’. Again, you score a point for each successful hole.

It is surprising how challenging it is to make more than a handful of birdies / pars, but this game is great for getting you in the mindset of hitting positive putts and not settling for your standard scores. Seem how many points you can make in your 9 or 18 holes, write down your score then see if you can beat it next time.

In Regulation

Boring golf is generally effective and leads to low scores. This game challenges you to be as boring (effective) as you can. You have one ball and you score points for hitting fairways and greens in regulation. Your aim is to see how many points you can score in 9 or 18 holes:

  • Fairway hit = 1 point
  • Green hit (in regulation) = 2 points

A perfect round of regulation golf will secure you 54 points. Try out this game, it might surprise you what you actually score. It will also challenge you to think differently about what clubs and targets you select for each shot.


Next up we have a game that is quite the opposite of the above – this game is brutal, but great for developing your short game and scrambling skills. You have to shoot the lowest score you can without hitting a single fairway or green in regulation.

You can still try to hit a great drive off the tee and great shots into the green. However, if you do hit the fairway or green you have to throw/roll your ball off into the closest section of rough for your next shot. If you miss the fairway or green play the ball as it lies.

This golf game is all about hitting great recovery shots, developing great short game and developing your decision making skills.

A pro I work with can frequently shoot +2 to +5 playing this game and legend has it that Phil Mickelson could shoot level par. If you are playing this game with friends then you can throw each others golf ball off into the rough to add a little more spice into the game.

Play stroke-play scoring, but I would focus on the process of learning to scramble rather than your final score. You might need a strong drink if you decide to tally up your score card at the end.

McIlroy’s 9-Hole Charge

Rory McIlroy is one of the most fun golfers to watch when he is on form, he is a birdie machine. Here is the scenario for this golf game – you have 9 holes left of your competition and you are 3 shots behind the leader in the clubhouse.

You need to shoot -3 to your handicap to tie and -4 for the next 9 holes to win. See what you can do.

This scenario-based practice is so useful. Junior golfers naturally play these games and vividly picture themselves having a putt to win The Open. But, as we grow up we often miss out on this type of practice and lose the benefits it brings.

Try out Rory’s 9-hole charge next time you head out for a swift 9 holes.

Q-School Prep

You may have not heard of Q School before, but this the main route professional players take to try and get on the European Tour. It is arguably the toughest test in golf. You pay your own fee (~£1,500) you then play 252 holes of golf over three stages that run during September and October (72 – 72 – 108 hole events).

The number of players left in the field are cut every 36 holes, meaning you have to be in the top half or you head home and loose your entry fee. Around 1,000 players enter, only the top 25 players receive a European Tour card at the end.

The first two stages are all about playing steady golf and not letting mind games get the better of you. Here is the 18 hole version of Q-School which is great preparation for playing big events. You are playing stroke play and writing down your net score for every hole.

The cut line is level to your handicap, there is a cut on the following holes:

  • After the 3rd hole
  • After the 6th hole
  • After the 9th hole
  • After the 12th hole
  • After the 15th hole
  • After the 18th hole

If you reach any of these holes and your net score is +1 or above you lose. Your aim is to play the entire 18 holes passing each check point level to your handicap or better.

I know this sounds strange, but if you fancy a new challenge try playing it. For some reason this golf game pushes you into playing negative golf – you’ll make tight, horrible swings, you’ll leave 4-foot putts short of the hole. It is great simulation practice.

Your aim is to use your knowledge of golf psychology to battle through the mind games and get back to playing positive golf.

Golf games summary

Playing these golf games will keep practice on the course interesting, but more importantly challenge you to become a better player. These golf games have been developed to help the golfers I work with. From my experience, players tend to fall in love with one or two of these games, but I can rarely predict which games will be their favourite, so head out and try each game at least once.

Once you have your favourites, play them, enjoy them and adapt them as you see fit. As you progress, come back from time to time and try different golf games. Each game will challenge you in a different way and continue to challenge you during practice.

I hope you have fun playing these games and sharing them with others.

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Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

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