How to Play the Defender Golf Game

Two golfers pretend sword fight, but the golf game Defender is about defending the hole with your score, not your sword.
Don't worry, the golf game called Defender does not involve sword-fighting. It's not that kind of defending that's going on. Patrick Strattner/Getty Images

Defender is a golf betting game or points game best suited for a group of three golfers, but it can also easily be played by a group of four golfers. On each hole, one golfer is designated as the "defender" of the hole - that golfer's job is to prevent one of the other golfers from winning the hole. The defender can do that by tying for low score or by winning the hole himself.

Defender can be played just for points and bragging rights; the golfers can agree that each point is worth a set amount and pay out the differences at the end of the round, or the golfers can pay into a pot at the start of the round and then pay out that pot to the winner (or the winner and runner-up).

Defender always starts with establishing the rotation of play: A-B-C-A-B-C and so on for 3-person groups; A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D and so on for 4-person groups. In a three-person group, the golfer who is the defender on Hole 1 will also defend on holes 4, 7, 10, 13 and 16, for example (every third hole).

Defender With 3-Person Teams

Defender works best with 3-person teams because there are 18 holes on a golf course, which means each golfer gets to defend six holes.

Here's how the points are doled out in a 3-person Defender game:

  • If the defender wins the hole, she wins 2 points.
  • If the defender ties the hole, she gets 1 point.
  • If the defender loses the hole, the other two golfers each win 1 point.

Defender With 4-Person Teams

You probably already see the issue with playing Defender in a group of four golfers: Each golfer gets only four opportunities to defend a hole, and there are two leftover holes (four golfers, four times each as the defender equals 16 holes).

Your group can deal with the two leftovers any way you like: Choose two holes randomly at the start of the round and don't include those in the game (play them, just don't include them in your Defender points). Throw out the 17th and 18th holes. Let the two golfers with the fewest points each defend one of the last two holes. Play 2-vs.-2 on the 17th and 18th. Whatever suits you.

The points for a 4-person Defender game:

  • If the defender wins the hole, he wins 3 points.
  • If the defender ties the hole, he wins 1.5 points.
  • If the defender loses the hole, the other three golfers win 1 point each.

A Few More Notes on Defender

If you want to put even more pressure on the golfer acting as the Defender, subtract points from their total when they lose a hole - one point in a 3-person game, a half-point in a 4-person game. (You can go higher than that, but then you risk the possibility of golfers finishing with negative points. Remember, if the golfers are of roughly equal ability, or your group is using net scores, then the defender is already the underdog on a hole because he is playing 1-vs.-2 or 1-vs.-3.)

Defender is similar to several other games, and golfers playing in a group of four might want to consider playing Wolf (aka Hog) instead. In Wolf, the golfer defending the hole has some options that don't exist in Defender.