You made it to the cabin Friday night just in time to take one slow lap of the lake in the family boat before you unload the clubs from your trunk in anticipation of tomorrow mornings round with the boys. The sun officially sets on the work week that was, as the four of you sit around the makeshift poker table discussing tomorrows round of Wolf. Saturday morning rolls around, the alarm murmurs as a few rays of sunshine cascade through the blinds. Tee time is two hours away and Sammy Slow Nuts can’t remember the rules to Wolf (for the record, I am usually Sammy Slow Nuts).
What is Wolf?
Wolf is a strategic golf game to play on the links generally best suited with 4 participants where each participant plays independently. The game can be played over the course of 9 or 18 holes and follows stroke-play/medal-play. If you don’t know what that means, it really doesn’t matter. Just count how many shots it takes you to put the ball in the hole.
The History of Wolf?
No idea. I like to believe it was started by John Daly circa 1991 after his PGA Championship win over a cocktail with the boys.
Before you Start
It is pretty straight forward. I am sure there are variations of the game rules but this is how we kill an afternoon on the links.
Select a score keeper for the game. Someone with deep back pockets who isn’t going to loose the score card. The responsible one.
You can implement a handicap for each player. We rarely implement this as we are all generally the same suckiness.
Choose someone to tee off first. Spin a tee, rock paper scissors or whatever means you generally settle a four way dispute.
Goal of the Game
Aside from getting the ball in the hole in the least amount of shots, the goal is to accumulated points. Points are good. Points are awarded on each hole to a player or partnership that has the outright lowest individual net score for the hole (best ball).The player with the most accumulative points over the round is deemed the winner.
How to Play
Once the order is decided you can tee off. The first person to tee off is the ‘Wolf’ for that hole. Each hole the players rotate the tee-off order (on the first hole 1,2,3,4 and on the second 2,3,4,1 and the fifth hole 1,2,3,4 again). Just make sure the each player becomes Wolf once every four holes and you maintain consistent order.
Player 1 (Wolf) tees off – hopefully it is tried and true right down the middle. Player 2 then makes their first stroke. At this point Player 1 (Wolf) must make a decision of either choosing Player 2 as a partner or not (sometimes called Pick or Pass). The decision must be made before Player 3 makes their first stroke as Player 1 can then not go back and choose Player 2. If Player 2 has been passed over, Player 3 must be chosen similarly before Player 4 makes their first stroke. If Player 3 has been passed over, Player 4 must be chosen before all the players leave the tee box vicinity. If Player 1 has chosen a partner, they will play as a partnership against the other two players. If Player 1 has not chosen a partner, Player 1 is a “lone wolf” against the other three players.
The outright lowest net stroke score on a hole wins points for that player and their partners if any. There are no points awarded in case of a tie, and no carryover to the next hole.
On the second hole, the order of play remains the same, however Player 2 becomes the first to tee off as the ‘Wolf’ and have opportunity to choose a partner from Player 3, 4, and 1, or be a lone wolf. This process of keeping the lineup while rotating the first starting player honors continues until all have had two opportunities at the wolf position (through the 8th hole) The player with the lowest number of points after the 8th hole is given honors and made the wolf for the 9th hole (still keep the lineup order). If there is a tie for lowest number of points, a random choice for the wolf is made (eg: spin a tee). If the game ends at 9 holes, the player with the most points is the winner. If playing for 18 holes, the rotation and lineup continues through the 17th hole and a similar process of choosing the wolf player for the 18th hole is made based on the lowest number of points through the 17th hole.
If the Lone Wolf beats all the other players (shoots the lowest NET score), he/she receives 4 points.
If the Wolf and their partner win the hole, they each receive 2 points.
If the non-Wolf partners win the hole, they each receive 3 point.
If another player beats the Lone Wolf on a hole, all players – except the Lone Wolf – receive 1 point.
No points awarded for tie.
If there is a very good player, be careful not to have every other player always choose them as a safety or insurance partner. Frequent choice of such a player can result in them accumulating so many points that no individual could catch them. However, if you are in the lead with that person, choosing them as a partner can keep them so close to you that they can’t “draw their sword” and be you enemy.
Watch the point total when coming toward the latter holes of your competition. Being in last place coming into the 9th or 18th can give an opportunity to lone wolf and lunge into first place. This requires examination as early as the 7th or 16th hole and preparing your strategy for alliance to be just close enough to last and not too far ahead.
Keep an eye on the strokes each player is getting. A player on a par-3 that is getting 2 strokes requires evaluation of choice. A lone wolf achieving a net birdie can be snuffed out by a player with a score of par/net 1
Keep an eye on how everyone is performing. When a group has a very good player, good tee shots by others may be passed up with the hope of having the star perform as your partner. If the good player is having an off day, re-evaluate since the handicaps will come into play.
Have fun with the concept. A partnership might be called a den of wolves, someone out in front can be called the leader of the pack. Try and talk another player into choosing a partner that might benefit you. Play up the building up of alliances, or abandonment of them. Enjoy.