The Bear Golf Game (Also Called 'Chasing the Bear')

Have you ever heard of a golf game called The Bear? The Bear involves two bets, one that covers the front nine, and another that covers the back nine. The object of the game is to capture the bear — which is done by winning a hole — and to hold it at the end of the nine.

Before we get into the details of how The Bear works, note that this game has nothing to do with Jack Nicklaus (aka the Golden Bear), and that is also known by the names Chasing the Bear or Capture the Bear. And some people know this format better as The Rabbit.

How The Bear Works

Let's says we have a group of four golfers who decide to play The Bear. The Bear can be played as the sole game, or as a side game with any other format in which all four golfers in the group are playing their own golf balls as stroke play.

On the first tee, the bear is on the loose. Your goal is to capture the bear by winning a hole. In other words, the golfer who has the low score on a hole captures the bear.

And that golfer holds the bear until a different golfer wins a hole outright. That golfer when captures the bear. If no golfers win a hole outright, the bear stays with its previous owner. And the golfer who has the bear at the end of the front nine wins the front nine bet. Repeat on the back nine.

Example: On the first hole, Golfer A scores 5, B 6, C 4, and D 5. Nobody captures the bear because there was not one low scorer — A and D tied with 5s. On the second hole, A scores 4, B 6, C 3 and D 4. Golfer C wins the hole with a 3, and captures the bear. Golfer C now holds the bear until or unless someone else wins a hole outright to take it away. Say there are no outright winners until the sixth hole, when Golfer A wins the hole. A now has the bear. And if nobody takes it away by the end of the ninth hole, then A wins the front-nine bet because A was in possession of the bear when that nine ended.

Betting in 'Chasing the Bear'

Many groups just put a single value on the front nine and back nine, say $5 for each nine, and the golfer(s) who have the bear after the 9th and 18th holes win $5 each. (If nobody wins the front nine bet, you can discount that bet, or add it to the pot for the back nine.)

Some groups prefer to double the value of the original bet every time the bear changes hands. Let's say you start with a value of $1, and Golfer A wins the first hole. If Golfer B then wins the second hole to take the bear away, the bet is now worth $2. If Golfer C wins the fifth hole to capture the bear, it's now $4. If Golfer D wins the sixth hole, it's now worth $8. You get the picture: Double the value every time the bear changes hands.

By the way: Some groups like to have fun playing The Bear game by bringing an actual teddy bear to the course. Win a hole to capture the bear, and the teddy bear gets to ride on top of your golf bag until someone takes it away.

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