What is a Disc Golf Skins Match?

While browsing some disc golf videos online to watch, I came across a video titled, “Disc Golf Skins Match”. I was intrigued so I clicked through to see what a skins match in disc golf was supposed to be. As I was watching, it was obvious that this was very different from a typically disc golf tournament that you’ll usually find online. No only that, but the match, which was being played by a group of pros, didn’t carry the same intensity as a regular pro tournament. The commentators quickly brushed over the concept and rules of a skins match, so I decided to do some of my own research.

So, what is a disc golf skins match? Disc golf skins is a type of match play typically played with four players where each hole is referred to as a skin and each skin (hole) carries a prearranged dollar value. The winner of each hole wins that amount. If at least two player tie on a hole, the amount is carried forward to the next hole.

After watching that first disc golf skins match, I still had a few questions. Such as, what are all the rules? How are the scores being calculated? Why is it called skins?

Why is it Called Skins?

Like a lot of things in disc golf, terms and games variations are being borrowed from ball golf along the way and occasionally tweaked to fit different needs. In this case, skins did originate with ball golf and has since been applied to the game of disc golf. This version of play has been around for a while and became mostly popular in the 1980s. Though it has been traced back to being played in the 1950s.

There are a number of legends about where the term skins came from as it is used in golf. There doesn’t seem to be any general consensus on the actual origin of the term. I found sources citing Scottish stories and old dictionary definitions. In the Scottish tale, it is thought that skins was used as a term to refer to when another player lost a hole for money and was skinned alive. Not the most pleasant thought or explanation. Also, apparently an old version of the Oxford dictionary indicated that skins was a slang term for a dollar, although I couldn’t find this in any current dictionaries.

There is also an explanation given by the United States Golf Assoication (USGA) that provide a possible explanation.

As a format of golf gambling, ‘skins’ has been around for decades, but really only became popular after the creation of “The Skins Game” in the 1980s. In other parts of the country, ‘skins’ is also known as ‘cats,’ ‘scats,’ ‘skats,’ or ‘syndicates.’ Of these, ‘syndicates’ seems to be the oldest term, going back at least to the 1950s, and possibly earlier. It has been suggested that ‘skins,’ ‘scats,’ etc. are simply shortened, simplified versions of the term ‘syndicates.’

Given that the USGA has been around since 1894, their library appears to be the most authoritative source on the subject.

What Are the Rules of a Disc Golf Skins Match?

The concept of a skins match is simple. Each player plays a hole and the person with the lowest score wins the set amount that hole was valued at. But there are a few situation that could come up that need to be addressed.

If 2 players tie on a hole, that skin is pushed to the next hole. This continues until there is a single winner of a hole. For example, if each hole is valued at $1 and two players have the lowest score on that hole, the next hole is worth $2. This can continue on for as many holes as it takes until there is a single winner, at which point they will take the cumulative skins. If there is a tie on the final hole, the players will continue to play with sudden death rules until the skins are won by a single player.

Typically, in disc golf the players throw in the order of who is furthest from the basket after the tee throw. In a skins match, this is a bit different. Each player throws from the tee pad and then they throw in the order of who is furthest from the basket, unless of course there is an ace. However, this can change if a player gets taken out of contention for a skin.

For example, if player #2 makes a birdie on a par 3 and player #1 has already thrown their 2nd shot, they will not throw again even if they are further from the basket than player #3 and #4. Instead, players #3 and #4 will throw their 2nd shots to attempt to match the birdie made by player #2. When a player is taken out of contention for winning a skin, they do not need to finish out the hole. Instead, they concede the hole to the player with the better score. Similarly, if players #1 and #2 make birdies before the other players have thrown their 2nd shot, players #3 and #4 will not attempt their 2nd throw since the skin is already pushed.

Traditionally, players remove their disc from the basket before the next player putts, Not that it matters, but in skins the players leave their discs in the basket until the skin is won or pushed.

How to Calculate a Skins Match in Disc Golf

Lets take a closer look at a specific match and how the results panned out so you can get a feel of what to expect from a disc golf skins match. There was a recent skin match played at the De La Vega Disc Golf Course, which was the 2019 “Meet the Pros” Disc Golf Skins Match. The match was played on all 24 holes, so a very long round. The “Meet the Pros” skins match started back in 2007 with some big names in the sport such as Ken Climo and Nate Doss, but in the 2019 match, it was played by Eagle McMahon, Ricky Wysocki, Paul McBeth, and Nate Sexton.

A total of $2,000 was put in the pot that was up for grabs. However, each of the 24 holes was given a skin value of $50, with each of the four players starting with two skins. This is a nice consolation prize, since if a player ends up not winning any of the skins, they still end up with $100 for their time coming out. The hosts of the match also had another $400 to arbitrarily assign to some of the holes throughout the course.

HoleValueEagle McMahonRicky WysockiPaul McBethNate SextonResult
1 $  50.00 N/A2N/AN/A1 Skin to Ricky
2 $  50.00 N/A33N/APush
3 $  50.00 N/AN/AN/A22 Skins to Nate
4 $  50.00 N/A2N/A2Push
5 $  50.00 N/A22N/APush
6 $  50.00 N/A2N/AN/A3 Skins to Ricky
7 $  50.00 3N/A3N/APush
8 $  50.00 N/A2N/AN/A2 Skins to Ricky
9 $  50.00 N/A2N/A2Push
10 $  50.00 N/A2N/A2Push
11 $  50.00 N/A22N/APush
12 $  50.00 N/A2N/A2Push
13 $  50.00 2N/AN/A2Push
14 $  50.00 N/AN/AN/A26 Skins to Nate
15 $  50.00 N/A33N/APush
16 $  50.00 2N/AN/A2Push
17 $  50.00 33N/AN/APush
18 $  50.00 N/AN/A22Push
19 $  50.00 N/A2N/AN/A5 Skins to Ricky
20 $  50.00 N/AN/A22Push
21 $  50.00 22N/AN/APush
22 $  50.00 N/AN/A2N/A3 Skins to Paul
23 $  50.00 22N/AN/APush
24 $  50.00 N/A2N/AN/A2 Skins to Ricky

Because there were additional skins awarded on select hole, some of the players ended up with more along the way. Here were the results of the skins match:

Eagle McMahon2 Skins $     100.00
Nate Sexton12 Skins $     600.00
Ricky Wysocki20 Skins $  1,000.00
Paul McBeth6 Skins $     300.00

Should You Play Skins?

This is a great game variation when you’re just wanting to change things up from the regular game. While players typically play skins with four players, you could always do more or less. And you don’t always have to play for money, but it doesn’t make it a bit more exciting when there’s some cash on the line. Instead of putting up cash for each hole, you can simply make each skin worth 1 point.

What’s fun about disc golf skins for me is it forces me to play with a completely different strategy. Because it only takes two players to tie to push a skin to the next hole, I’ll go for much more risky drives and putts. As I do this, I find my confidence during regular rounds going up because I realize what I’m capable of when I just go for it.

Related Questions

What is disc golf match play? Two players play against one another to win holes. A hole is won by the player with the lowest score on that hole. If the players tie on a hole, no points are awarded.

What is disc golf best throw play? Two players are on a team and both throw from the tee box. The best lie is selected by the team and both players throw from that lie. This continues until the hole is complete.

What is disc golf worst throw play? Two players are on a team and both throw from the tee box. The worst lie is selected by the opposing team and both players throw from that lie. This continues until the hole is complete.

What is disc golf alternative throw play? Two players are on a team and take turns throwing from each other’s lie.

Scott Heywood

I'm Scott Heywood, the guy behind Disc Golf Report Report. I've been playing disc golf over the last several years and have become obsessed with it. At least a few times a week you'll find me out on a course playing, but when I'm not, I'm writing about the sport here on Disc Golf Report.

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