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What are 'Skins' and a 'Skins Game'?

Definition of the golf format called 'skins game'

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1996 Match Play

The professional Skins Game debuted in 1983 and was discontinued after 2009. The one above - 1996 - featured (from left) Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, John Daly and Fred Couples.

Craig Jones/Getty Images

"Skins" are what a "skins game" is played for. A skins game pits players in a type of match play in which each individual hole has a set value (usually in money or points). The player who wins the hole is said to win the "skin," and whatever that skin is worth.

Skins games are a popular gambling format among recreational golfers, but also are sometimes played at the highest levels of golf.

Skins games are often more dramatic than standard match play because holes are not halved. When players tie on a given hole, the value of that hole is carried over and added to the value of the following hole. The more ties, the greater the value of the skin and the bigger the eventual payoff. For example, a friendly skins game might be played for $1 per hole. If three holes in a row are played without a winner, then the fourth hole is worth $4 ($1 for its own value, plus a dollar for each hole that carries over).

In golf, the Skins Game is reference to a former "silly season" event played by four professional golfers (usually PGA Tour players) each year from 1983 through 2009. This event was a made-for-TV tournament that drew huge ratings for its 1983 debut for two reasons: The skins format had never been used in a televised golf event before; and the four golfers who took part in that first Skins Game were Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Over the years, the quality of the 4-person field was diluted (especially after Tiger Woods stopped playing), TV ratings dropped, and the event was discontinued after 2009. There remain, however, several other skins games in which touring pros participate.

See Also:
What is the origin of the term 'skins,' as in Skins Game?

Return to Golf Glossary index

Also Known As: Cats, scats, skats, syndicates (all uncommon)

Examples: "Let's play a skins game - how much should each hole be worth?"

"Time to settle up: Bob won seven skins, Bill won five, Biff won four and Brent only won two."

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