However, some of us seem to hunger for that little extra challenge that playing a game within a game offers. It’s also another way to create interest when your round isn’t allowing you to pursue your personal best score. There have been plenty of times when I’ve enjoyed myself despite a so-so round owing to a friendly wager or two on the links.

Golf originated as a match play contest with the winner being the player that won the most holes. Along the way, different formats evolved — often for the purpose of bragging rights, but usually for the cha-ching. The Brits are known to gamble on most anything and perhaps they are the reason for the plethora of gambling games adapted to golf.

Probably my favorite gambling game is “Wolf”. Wolf is most commonly played in a foursome with handicaps, but I have played it heads-up and as a threesome. In the foursome/handicap format, each player rotates as the wolf. Essentially, the wolf dictates the game for a given hole. Because of this, and since there are two extra holes (18 divided by 4 leaves a remainder of 2) the person with the fewest points gets the wolf designation on the last two holes. The players decide on an order — shortest to tallest, oldest to youngest, alphabetical — whatever, it doesn’t matter, but this determines the order of play and who gets assigned as the wolf for what holes. I suppose you could even enter into bidding for position if there were particular holes that you wanted to be the wolf on. The bids could be put into the winnings. Chi Chi Rodriquez describes the game in his book “Chi Chi’s Golf Games you Gotta Play” and I couldn’t hope to do it better than he, so here’s what he says about starting the play:

“The player teeing off first on a hole is the wolf (my, what sharp teeth you have). As the wolf watches (my, what big eyes you have) the other players in the group tee off, he has the option to pick one of them as a partner on the hole (remember to keep track of who is stroking), the rub being that the wolf must choose the player immediately after his tee ball. No waiting to see how all the players fare off the box before choosing. If the wolf chooses to partner with the second player, he must announce his intentions before the third player tees off. If the wolf passes on number two, he can tab player three but only before the last player hits. The same goes for the third player. If the wolf decides none of the shots are to his liking, he may go the hole alone and play against the other three.

To win a hole, the wolf and his partner, or the wolf alone, must combine to make a better ball score lower than the opposing team. A tie is a wash. A higher score and the bet is won by the hunting team. A wolf playing alone receives double the bet if he wins and pays double to each of the other three players if he loses.

A brave variation of the game is to play Lone Wolf in which the first golfer on the tee announces he will play the hole solo immediately after his drive and without seeing any of the other tee shots. In Lone Wolf, the winnings are tripled, but so are losses, and again it’s triple to all other players in the group. For those truly wild animals who would keep Marlin Perkins safely above in his helicopter while Jim Fowler runs through the burning forest floor, the Lone Wolf may declare his intentions to go it alone before ever putting his tee in the ground. In this case, all bets are quadrupled. Happy hunting.”

Playing “Wolf” as a threesome is pretty daring and the bets should probably be altered. It doesn’t really matter if you are friends with your playing partners because by the time your match is over you likely will have made enemies of them anyway! I say this because in its simplest form, the wolf will select a partner — thereby putting the remaining player on his/her own. You see what I mean about making enemies.

So whether you are playing a simple Nassau; skins; bingo, bango, bongo or any of the other scores of gambling games – play responsibly and most of all have fun!

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: