The game Hammer gives individual or team players in match play the ability to double a bet at any time. Some say that sounds like a “Press”?  Not exactly, a Press is a civilized bet where you can double the amount of the wager at the beginning of any hole.  There are usually restrictions about how often you can Press during a round, automatic presses, if you can decline a press, etc.

Hammer, on the other hand, is a wild betting game not for the faint of heart. Bets can double anytime and many times. The stakes can escalate rapidly! 

A quick look at a dictionary will help clarify:

As verbs the difference between Hammer and Press is that hammer is to strike repeatedly with a hammer, some other implement, the fist, etc. while press is (ambitransitive) to exert weight or force against, to act upon with force or weight.

The key phrase here is “strike repeatedly”!   It’s not uncommon to play Hammer while still allowing Presses, but how crazy do we need to get!

Here is how to organize a game of Hammer in match play:

  1. Use a random method to decide which player/team tees off first.
  2. If you are playing two person teams, decide how a team wins. Play one ball or both? One ball with the high ball as a tie breaker? etc..
  3. Determine if you wish to compete on a gross or net basis. If competitors are all low handicappers, its fine to go gross. If not, it is most fair to compete with net scores.
  4. Agree on an established $$ bet to start each hole. (don’t forget, this can get crazy!)
  5. Discuss any limitations on declaring a “Hammer”.
  6. Agree on if a Hammer can be refused by forfeiting the original bet.
  7. Once one competitor declares a Hammer the power to Hammer shifts to the other side. There are no consecutive Hammers by a player/team.
  8. Each hole starts fresh with the same bet and either side being able to call a Hammer at any time. You may choose to use carryovers for halved holes.


Here are the basics of Hammer (buckle up):

As soon as play starts on a hole, any player can “Hammer” the other player/team, which doubles the bet for that hole.  This will usually happen when the opponent has a poor shot and put themselves at risk.

The “Hammered” opponent can accept the challenge and play the hole out for double the amount of bet, or forfeit the initial bet on the hole.  This decision must be made immediately.

Hammers can be thrown at any time during the hole.  On the tee box, in the fairway, on the green, and even if the opponent has already holed out.

There is no consecutive hammering allowed by one side. Once an individual/team uses the hammer, they must wait until the other side hammers back before they have the right to declare a hammer again.

Here is an example for an individual match:

Rick and Dave agree to play Hammer for $1 per hole.  Dave drives into the deep rough so Rick immediately calls “Hammer” which increases the bet on the hole to $2. Rick cannot Hammer again on this hole unless Dave Hammers back.  Let’s say they are both on the green with Rick looking at a 2ft putt for bogie and Dave looking at a 20ft downhill putt for Par.  After Dave blows his putt 4ft past the hole, Rick might want to Hammer back increasing the value of winning the hole to $4.  If he does, and both Rick and Dave make their bogie putts the hole is halved.  If Dave misses the comeback, Rick wins $4 and they proceed to the next hole where a new $1 bet begins.  Either player can go first to call a new Hammer.


You can eliminate the ability to forfeit to the original bet and force the higher bet.

To keep the money from getting out of control, you can agree to play Hammer for points and then award a fixed amount in a Nassau format for earning the most points on the front, back and for the total.  This is for the more civilized among you.

Some play “Air Hammers” by applying a rule that Hammers can only be called while the ball is in the air or in motion on a putt. 

People put their own spin on Hammer, just like every side bet game.  Great Games for Golfers goal is  to give you a good place to develop your own creative games.

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