Golf is one of the most sociable sports you can play. Though it can sometimes be great to play golf by yourself, you really can’t beat a day out on the course with your buddies.
But you might be wondering, is there a limit on how many people you can play with? Can you play golf with five players or more? In this article, we’ll take a look at the rules and expectations regarding golfing group sizes.
Number of Players In Groups – The Official Ruling
As stated by the R&A, one of the main global governing bodies of golf, there is no official ruling against golfing groups of more than four. There is also nothing in the USGA rules about restrictions on group sizes.
That said, due to the time implications of playing with five people, there is a general consensus that course administrators should exercise restraint when it comes to group size allowance.
An extra player can drastically slow down play, so if a course wishes to reduce the time it takes each group to play, they ought to restrict five-balls or even four-balls.
Thus, technically speaking, you could play with as many people as you like – but this is subject to each golf course’s individual policy.
Can You Play Golf With 5 Players?
Since there is no official ruling against groups of five or more players, it is possible to play golf as a group of five. However, due to the risk of slow play, a golf course is well within its rights to forbid five-balls. Larger golfing groups can easily result in bottlenecks, creating significant problems for the flow of the golf course.
The best thing to do is to ring up the golf course before booking and ask them if they allow five-balls. Some courses may always be open to it, while others will never allow it. The ruling of some courses may change on a daily basis, depending on how busy their bookings are.
If the course gives you the green light to play as a five-ball, then go nuts! It might be a bit wild, but playing as a larger group can be a lot of fun. Just be aware that your speed of play is likely to be very slow, so if a smaller group catches up to you, you should wave them through to prevent holding up their game.
A Golf Game for 5 Players – Wolf
If you’re not bothered about playing a standard, serious round of golf, playing as a five-ball can present opportunities to play some fun side games.
Most golf games, such as Scotch, require an even number of players for them to work. A brilliant exception to this rule is Wolf – a popular golfing side game that works for odd numbers, even numbers, and groups of varying ability.
How to Play Wolf
To play Wolf, you first need to establish a tee-off order. This will stay the same throughout the round, but rotates each hole, meaning that each player always plays behind the same player.
On the first hole, Player A will be teeing off first, thus making them the Wolf. On the second hole, Player B will tee off first, then C, then D, then E, with Player A now teeing off last. And so on. This means that players take it in turns to be the Wolf.
After teeing off, the Wolf will observe the other player’s tee shots. If one of the next players hits a good-looking tee shot, the Wolf can choose to team up with them for that hole. A teammate can only be chosen straight after their shot; once the next player plays their tee shot, the Wolf has effectively passed on the previous player. If the Wolf chooses NOT to team up with anyone, they become a ‘Lone Wolf’, meaning that they are playing against the other four players for that hole.
Once everyone has teed off, your group will be split into two opposing teams; either two against three, or one against four. You then play the hole as normal. If it’s a two versus three scenario, you add together the two BEST scores from the team of three and compare them to the total score of the Wolf and his partner. The lowest total earns a point for each member of the winning team.
If it’s a Lone Wolf scenario, there are double points on offer. In order for the Lone Wolf to win the points, he would have to shoot a lower score on that hole than the other four players. Since the teams change each hole, players must keep track of their own individual scores.
It might sound a little complicated, but Wolf is pretty simple once you get going with it. You can also throw in some light betting to spice things up.
Many courses across the world, including some in the US, will be happy for you to play as a five-ball – there’s nothing in the official rules against it. However, due to the slow play implications, and the risk of disturbing the flow of the course, many golfing authorities tend to restrict larger groups.
It’s best to call up the golf course ahead of booking in order to enquire about their group size policy. Note that it may change on a daily basis, depending on how busy they are.
Just because you’re playing as a five-ball, it doesn’t mean that you have to play slowly. If you can maintain a good pace around the course, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to play as a five-ball.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.