If you’d like to spice up your regular group with something a little different, you should try playing Wolf – a fun golf game of strategy and shifting allegiances.
Wolf is best played with four players, though you can play with three as we’ll discuss below, and it can be played over 9 or 18 holes.
Wolf is played for points. You can ascribe a monetary value to the points if you wish, or maybe just make the loser buy the drinks after the round – whatever works best for you and your friends.
You start by deciding on the order of play at random – maybe throw some balls in the air and the order is dictated by the distance each player’s ball lands from the thrower.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s say that our players will play in the following order: Tom, Dick, Harry and then Sally.
The order of play rotates with each hole, so on the second tee the playing order will be Dick, Harry, Sally, Tom. On the third hole it will be Harry, Sally, Tom, Dick. And on the forth tee it will be Sally, Tom, Dick, Harry.
This rotation continues through the first 16 holes.
The first player to play on each hole is the Wolf – so everyone gets to be the Wolf four times in the first 16 holes.
On the last two holes, the player with the least number of points so far is the Wolf.
The Wolf must decide, as the tee shots are played, whether to team up with another player or to play alone – the Lone Wolf.
The partnerships decided here only last for this one hole.
If the Wolf wishes to team up with another player, he must do so immediately after that player tees off, before the next player’s tee shot.
If the Wolf chooses a partner, then it’s two against two on that hole, playing in a normal “four ball better ball” format. The best score, after handicap adjustment, on that hole wins the hole for that player and his partner.
If the Wolf chooses not to take a partner, he will play the hole alone, the Lone Wolf versus the other three players.
If it’s one against three (Lone Wolf), and the Wolf gets the best net score on that hole, he wins the hole. If any of the other three players get the best net score, then that team win the hole.
Scores are awarded on the completion of each hole as follows:
If it’s two against two on that hole (the Wolf chose a partner), the players on the winning team each get one point.
If it’s one against three (Lone Wolf), then the stakes are doubled. If the Wolf wins the hole alone, he gets six points. If anyone on the three player team beats the Lone Wolf, then all three get two points.
If there is no winning side, the hole is halved, then no points are awarded.
So, with our group, Tom is Wolf on the first tee.
Tom tees off and it’s not a bad shot.
Dick then tees off and it’s in the left rough, and Tom (the Wolf) decides not choose Dick as a partner.
Harry tees of and hits a good shot. Tom thinks that he and Harry will have a good chance of winning the hole, so he chooses Harry as a partner.
Sally tees of and the group complete the hole. Tom and Harry vs. Dick and Sally.
Sally gets the best net score with a birdie, and so Sally and Dick win the hole, since their pair has the better ball, and each of them is awarded one point.
On the next hole, it’s Dick’s turn to be the Wolf.
Dick tees off and hits it in the rough.
Harry hits it in a fairway bunker, and Dick passes on him as a partner.
Sally hits a good shot, but Dick thinks that Tom’s might be better, so he passes again.
Tom slices the ball into the woods, oh dear, not much hope from there.
Remember that Dick can’t go back and choose Sally – once Tom teed off he lost that option. He decides that his best chance is to play alone, as Lone Wolf, against a team comprising the other three players.
Sally gets the best score, yet again, and the team of Sally, Tom and Harry win the hole – since their team has the better ball. All three get two points each – it turned out to be a bad play by Dick.
The Wolf decides that his tee shot was so good that he has a good chance of beating the other three players on his own, so he declares himself Lone Wolf before seeing any of the others’ tee shots.
In this case, the stakes are tripled. If the Wolf wins the hole, he gets nine points. If anyone on the three player team beats the Wolf, then all three get three points each.
The Wolf decides that he’s playing really well, or maybe he just needs some points fast, and makes the bold (insane?) move of declaring himself Lone Wolf before he even hits his own tee shot.
Here, the stakes are quadrupled. If the Wolf wins the hole, he gets twelve points. If anyone on the three player team beats the Wolf, then all three get four points each.
If you’re feeling confident, you’ll probably chose to go Lone Wolf more often, especially on par 3s and par 5s.
Remember to check who’s receiving strokes on each hole, you might want to pick them rather than the better player.
If one player in the group is having a great day, it’s obviously a good idea to pick them as your partner when it’s your turn to be Wolf. However, if everyone keeps doing this then that player is likely to accumulate a lot of points.
You might decide to pick your partner in a strategic attempt to deprive your main rival of points, rather than to maximise your own score. If you hit a bad tee shot, for example, you may wish to pick the current leader as a partner just to make him share your loss.
If things aren’t going well at the end of the round, you might decide on a kamikaze attempt to gain some quick points by going Rabid Wolf. If things look like they might be going this way earlier in the round, then you might decide to pick your last partner with a view to evening out the scores at the top and improving your chances.
And if you’re playing so that the loser buys the drinks, your focus, if you’re not likely to win, might be on restricting the score of another player so that they fall behind you.
Enjoy the psychology of the game and try to influence other players’ choices in your favour – a bit of friendly trash-talk and a few mind games can be a lot of fun.
Three Player Wolf
If there are only three players in your group, you can still play a variation on Wolf.
In this case, it is always one against two.
The playing order is set and rotates as above, each player being the Wolf six times.
The Wolf can choose a partner, immediately after that player’s tee shot as before, and his pair will play against the single remaining player. Or he can decide to play as Lone Wolf.
If the pair wins, they get one point each; and if the single player wins, he gets two points.