PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

Golf Games Explained

How to play 'Wolf': A simple guide to one of golf's most fun strategic betting games



Golf Games Explained is exactly what it sounds like. You want to mix it up and try something new for once? Well, someone has to do the thankless work of playing different golf formats and telling you if it's worth it. You can thank me later.

We hate to make a sweeping generalization, but it feels safe to say that the majority of golfers out there stick to the standard four-ball (best ball) match play format when playing for money. Two vs. two, shots divvied up, perhaps some side action. You know the drill.

We're not saying there is anything wrong with that, mind you. It's a great way to keep the whole group involved, and it's easy to keep track of for whoever is keeping score. Every now and then, though, you've gotta spice it up when gambling on the course. One of the best "let's change it up today" golf games is Wolf.

If you're reading this, you likely have heard of Wolf before but have never played it and would like to learn more. Below, we'll explain the format, the number of players required to play and the different variations of Wolf that can turn your standard Saturday game into something a bit more fun and complex.

Number of players required: Wolf can be played with just three players, but the game works best with your standard foursome.

Best for: Groups looking to break from the norm. Golfers who don't like to rely on others. Golfers that do like to rely on others. People who enjoy strategy. Gamblers.

How to play: Your first order of business when playing Wolf is to pick an order on the first tee which will rotate throughout the round. There are no "honors" in Wolf. Each hole, one of the players in the foursome will be the "Wolf," and then you rotate down the line as the round continues. So on Hole No. 1, if the order is Player A, Player B, Player C and Player D, Player D is the Wolf on Hole No. 1, and Player A would automatically be the Wolf on Hole No. 2. Player B would be the Wolf on Hole No. 3, Player C the Wolf on Hole No. 4, and then the order would come back around to Player D being the Wolf on Hole No. 5. The Wolf goes last so they can see everyone's tee shots before they hit their's. 

As the Wolf, you can choose to go it alone (like a LONE Wolf, get it?) before or after you've hit your tee shot, OR, you can choose a playing partner for that specific hole. You can do this before anyone hits their tee shots, or you can wait to see Player A's tee shot. If it's good, you'll likely choose Player A to partner up with, which then sets up a one-hole match between Player A and D against Player B and C. If you do not choose Player A after their tee shot, once Player B hits their tee shot, Player A is no longer an option to partner with. You'd then have to choose Player B after they hit their tee shot. If you do not choose Player B, your only two options left once Player C hits are choosing Player C as your partner, or going at it alone. If you see Player C's tee shot and don't like it, you are now the lone Wolf, creating a pressure packed tee shot and a 1 vs 3 best-ball match between Player D (the wolf) vs. Players A, B and C. Again, as a reminder, you can choose to go it alone at any point on the tee box when you are the Wolf.

Now, how do you accumulate points and keep score? That's sort of up to you, particularly if you want to put a dollar amount on it or a point amount on each hole. This should be decided and agreed on on the first tee. Generally, choosing to be the lone Wolf and winning the hole comes with a larger point total because it's more difficult to win a hole in a 3 vs. 1 best-ball match. For example, if you choose to go it alone and win, you'd be awarded 2 points. If you choose to go it alone and lose, the other three players would be awarded 1 point each to your 0. If you choose a partner and play a 2 vs. 2 best-ball match, the winning side would also receive 1 point each while the losing side receives 0 each. The player with the most points after 18 holes would win the game of Wolf.

Variations: There are a number of variations on Wolf, many of them involving side action throughout the round. This is, again, up to the group. You can make side bets on who will win the hole, how many points each player might accumulate, etc. One thing a player can also do is deny partnering with the Wolf, thus making that player the lone Wolf on the hole. Something the Wolf can also do is blindly bet on themselves before a tee shot is even struck on a hole, which doubles the bet or point total, depending on what you agree on. In a three-man version of the game, the player who hits the second-best tee shot of the group is automatically the Wolf.