- 2-3 players (4 or more can play with more than one deck of cards)
- A standard deck of 52 card (two decks are used with more than 4 players)
- A sheet of paper to record the score
- Aces are 1 point
- 2s are -2 points
- 3-10s are face value
- Jacks and Queens are 10 points
- Kings are zero points
Try to create the lowest combination of six cards at the table each round.
The dealer gives six cards face down to each player, then places the rest of the deck in a stack in the center of the table, flipping the top card over to begin a discard pile.
Without looking, the players should arrange their cards into two rows of three, then select any two cards to flip over. The player to the left of the dealer goes first and can either draw from the stock pile or take the top card from the discard pile and swap it for one of the cards in their layout (face up or face down).
If the player draws from the pile, they can immediately discard it, at which point they can flip over another card in their own layout. If they draw from the discard pile, they must swap it for one of their cards. If a player swaps out one of their face down cards, they place it face up in the discard pile.
Play continues in a clockwise direction around the table until one player has all six of their cards face up. Each other player gets one more turn to draw and discard before everyone’s cards are turned face up.
Each player tallies the score of their cards (see above) and the person with the lowest score wins the round. The cards are collected and reshuffled. Typically, 9 rounds are played just as you would play 9 holes of golf, but a full 18 can be played just as easily.
After all the rounds have been played, the player with the lowest score wins.
As an example, let’s say you have already flipped over two of your six cards and have the 3 of spades and the Queen of hearts. The top card in the discard pile is the 9 of clubs. If you decide to pick up the 9 of clubs, you could swap it with any card. You could also draw from the top of the stock pile and either swap it for one of your cards or discard it immediately and flip over another one of your four face down cards.
If we fast forward to the end of the round, let’s say you have the 3 of spades, Queen of hearts, 9 of clubs, 2 of spades, King of diamonds, and the Ace of hearts. Your hand would be a total of 31 points (3+10+9-2+10+1).
Golf Variations and Alternate Rules
- Alternate Scoring: Jacks can be played as 11 and Queens as 12. You can also play that if someone has a pair adjacent to each other (i.e. two 3s next to each other), they score as zero. If Jokers are used, they can count either as +15 alone or -5 as an adjacent pair. Other cards can be picked as high scoring cards (i.e. the Queen of spades is 20 points). Just be sure to agree on a scoring scheme before playing!
- Wild Cards: A card value (usually Jokers, Jacks, or even more specifically, one-eyed Jacks) can be deemed wild and used as any other card to form pairs that score as zero.
- Knocking: Instead of the round ending when one player has all their cards face up, a player knocks instead of taking their normal turn. The other players still have one final turn before all cards are turned up and the scores tallied. By knocking, a player usually indicates that they think they have the lowest hand at the table. If they end up having a higher hand than another player, this can incur a penalty such as adding 10 points. Alternatively, if the player who knocks does have the lowest hand, they could incur a benefit such as subtracting 10 points from their hand.
- 9-card Golf: Best suited for 2-3 players with one deck or more if two decks are used. All the rules are the same as 6-card golf, except that each player gets nine cards and arranges them in a 3×3 grid. Two cards are flipped initially and play continues until one person has all face up cards. A scoring modification is that if someone has three of a kind in a row, column, or diagonal in their grid, the three of a kind is scored as zero. You can also assign a negative point value if someone has four of a kind in a 2×2 block within their layout.
- 4-Card Golf: 4-card golf is better suited for 2-8 players (4 is best) or more than 8 players if more than one deck of cards is used. The setup is similar except each player receives four cards rather than six and arrange them in a 2×2 grid. Each player is then allowed to look at the two cards closest to them, but leaves them face down. On a players turn, they can draw from the stock pile or the discard pile. If they select from the stock pile, they can discard it immediately, but are not allowed to turn over a card in their own layout. If they draw from the discard pile, they must replace one of their own cards. You can leave it face up if you choose since the other players know the card’s value but it is not required. If a player chooses to replace one of the cards in their layout that they did not look at, they may not look at it before choosing to switch it out. Play ends when one player knocks, giving the other players one final turn before the cards are flipped over and scores are tallied.
Golf Tips & Strategy
- The foremost strategy in golf is to try and substitute higher value cards in your layout for lower value cards either from the stock or discard pile
- In 6-card golf, it is advantageous to flip your layout to see what is in your hand so you can make informed substitutions, but remember that once all of your cards are face up, the round is over (if you are not playing knocks)
- In 4-card golf, there is a higher element of chance and risk since the round only ends once someone knocks. It is smart to grab low scoring cards when they appear in the discard pile or if you draw them for the stock and replace the unknown cards in your layout. This helps ensure your hand is the lowest possible without knowing what cards are initially in your hand
Can I move the cards in my layout once they’re all face up?
No. You can strategically swap out specific cards while playing to make sure pairs are adjacent to each other, but you can’t move your cards around to make a more favorable score at the end of the round.
Do you have to play nine full rounds?
Not at all. If you want, you and the other players can agree that if someone reaches a certain point value before you play nine rounds, the game ends.