How to Play the Golf Game Named 'Rabbit'

(Erik Isakson/Getty Images)

"Rabbit" is a golf side bet that is a game for a group of three or a group of four golfers. In Rabbit, the object is to "catch the rabbit" — which a golfer does by winning a hole (having the low score of the group) — and to still have possession of the rabbit when the front nine ends. On the back nine, another rabbit is set loose, and the game starts over.

So the golfer who holds the rabbit after the ninth hole, plus the golfer who holds the rabbit after the 18th hole, wins the agreed-upon bet amount. In that basic form, Rabbit is also sometimes call The Bear or Chasing the Bear.

The game gets its Rabbit name from the term used to describe a pacesetter. Someone who runs out ahead of the field in a mile run, for example, is called the rabbit. They are out ahead of the pack, setting the pace.

The Details of Playing Rabbit

Here's how Rabbit works: When the round begins, the first player to singly have the low score on a hole captures the Rabbit. (In other words, if two players tie for low score, no one captures the Rabbit — a golfer must have the low score on a hole outright.)

If on a following hole someone other than the holder of the Rabbit is the low scorer, the Rabbit is set free. (To state it another way, when the holder of the Rabbit is beaten on a hole, the Rabbit gets out of its cage.) And then the Rabbit can be won back by the next player to singly achieve a low score on a hole. So before another player can capture the Rabbit, the Rabbit must first be set free.

As a side bet, this one pays the player who holds the Rabbit after the 9th hole, after which the game begins again. And the player who holds the Rabbit following the 18th hole also wins the bet amount. So Rabbit is played over the front nine, then played again over the back nine.

Exception: If the Rabbit is free following the ninth hole — nobody has it captured — then the game just continues on as it currently stands, and the person who holds the Rabbit after the 18th then wins both units of the bet.

If you want to make sure that the Rabbit bet always pays out in the end, then eliminate the step of setting the Rabbit free. In this version, when a different player achieves a low score, the Rabbit changes hands at that point.