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By: Brian Neufeld, Contributor

Charity golf tournaments are typically a jovial affair with more laughs shared than stare downs. That is until a hole prize is on the line. Never will a casual golfer be nearer to PGA levels of pressure than when trying to win that $25 pro shop credit for being closest to the pin on hole 7. Larger tournaments might offer cars and vacations for a hole-in-one, but even a small prize with a creative game attached can take your golf tournament to the next level. Here are some of the most common hole prize games around, and a few more uncommon ones as well.

Closest to the pin/ Hole-in-one

The most common hole prize game in golf is closest to the pin. A sign on the green, called a proximity marker, will be left for golfers to record their names and the location of the closest shot. If anyone in the group beats the previous best, they record their name and move the marker to their shot location. Closest shot at the end of the tournament wins a prize, and often times the prize is exorbitant if a hole-in-one is made. If you’re looking to draw more people in with a large prize for an ace, consider hole-in-one insurance.

Longest Drive/ Straightest Drive

Another common hole prize idea is the longest drive game. Usually on a wide par-5, a proximity marker is placed in the fairway and moved when a golfer has bested the previous mark. Typically, the drive must stay in the fairway to be eligible. A good twist on this contest is the straightest drive. A lot of maintenance departments, with advanced notice, will paint a line in the middle of the fairway for a straight drive line. The proximity marker is then moved only when a shot is closer to the line than the previous best. Ties usually go to the longer shot in a straight drive contest.

Putting Contests

Often held on a putting green away from regulation play, putting contests are a great way to get every level of golfer involved in the action. While only a few golfers have a realistic chance of winning a long drive or closest to contests, anyone can make a miracle putt. The goal here is to create an extremely long and challenging, but makeable putt for your players to attempt. Smaller prizes can be given to anyone who makes the putt, or create a raffle with the successful putters.

The Gimmicks

The list of hole contest ideas is long and at times quite comical. From longest drive while sitting on a toilet to closest approach over the twenty-foot tall inflatable penguin, things can quickly turn from golf tournament to carnival game. My suggestion is less is more, and to try and keep things in the spirit of the game. Invite the head or assistant pro out for a “Beat the Pro” hole, or have golfers try teeing off with an opposite-handed club. These contests are easier to set up and keep things from getting too goofy on course.

Hole prize contests are an enjoyable, inexpensive way to spice up your next golf tournament. They create exciting moments for each group of golfers, and keep people coming back every year if executed properly. Make sure to inquire with your host course for their own unique hole contest ideas, and be sure to incorporate a few of these contests into your next outing.

About the Author: Brian Neufeld

Brian Neufeld’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in golf course management, specializing in agronomy. Brian uses his knowledge of the game and best practices in turf sustention to create informative pieces for’s readers.

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