Card Golf is a matching-type game that can be played with two or more players. A general rule of thumb is to add a deck for every 4 Players at the table, so 2-3 Players will use one deck, 4-7 will use two decks, 8-11 will use three, and so on. This playing guide will cover the most popular version, 6-card Golf.
How to Play Six-Card Golf?
6 Card Golf is played utilizing the Joker Variant Anglo-American 54-card deck. This guide will assume there are three Players at the table, though as stated above more may be added at the discretion of the Players.
Instructions are provided below on 4, 8, and 9-card Golf as well in the Variants section. The majority of this guide provides directions for how to Play Six-Card Golf.
The game utilizes match play, where a single “game” is instead made up of multiple rounds. The aim is to have the lowest score in each round, and therefore having the lowest overall score at the end of play.
As the name suggests, not only do the lowest scores win, but the traditional game of Card Golf utilizes 9 “holes” or “rounds”. The game may also be extended “on the back nine”, allowing for an additional 9 rounds of Play for a total of 18.
This is in reference to the traditional “Front nine” and “Back nine” holes on a golf course, for a total of 18.
To begin the game, a Dealer should be randomly chosen, who will then shuffle the deck and deal out six cards, face down, to each Player in the following arrangement:
With two rows of three cards, all face down.
- Once each Player has their face-down zones set up, the Dealer may begin the game by placing the remaining cards in the deck, now known as the stock, in the center of the Play Area.
- The Game officially begins when the Dealer draws the top card of the stock and places it, face-up immediately to the right of the stock, creating the discard pile.
- The Player to the immediate clockwise of the Dealer, often called the “eldest hand” will then start the first move of the game.
The Eldest Hand will draw one card from the stock, or the top card of the discard pile. When drawing from the stock, the Eldest hand may either replace one of their face-down cards with the drawn card, then place that face-down card into the discard pile face-up, or they may discard that very card which they drew from the stock.
When drawing from the discard pile, a Player must replace a card in their rows. A card that was drawn from the discard pile may not be discarded the same turn it was drawn.
Players may also replace cards in their rows that are already face-up, with either cards drawn from the discard pile, or from the stock.
If a Player draws a card from the stock but discards it without placing it in any of their rows, then they may instead turn over one face-down card in their zones after the discard.
Each Player takes one turn at a time, and play continues this way until one Player has no remaining face-down cards in their rows. This signals the end of the round. The other Players at the table will be able to take one more turn, and at the end of their turn will turn up any remaining face-downs in their rows.
The Player with the lowest score at the end of all 9, or 18, rounds is the overall winner.
Each card is associated with a particular score, which will be explained in further detail below.
The key to achieving a low score in Card Golf is through matching. The two rows could also be seen as three vertical columns of two cards. In these columns, cards with the same rank (Ace, 2-10, J, Q, K) or “matching” give no penalty points.
For example, if the left column in a player’s six cards has both a King of Spades and a King of Diamonds, then neither of those cards gives penalty points.
The optimal score for a round is 0, where all three columns contain matching cards. Each column is independent, and each column can be matched with three different cards. The left column could be two kings, the middle column two 6s, and the right column 2 4s, and the Player would still receive 0 points for the round.
Scores should be tallied after each round, and the overall lowest score after the total number of rounds is the winner.
Golf Card Game Rules
- The lowest score is best, with unmatched cards awarding penalty points to Players.
- Players may only reveal one card at a time, and may only reveal if they discard the card drawn from the stock.
- Players must place cards replaced in their rows into the discard pile.
- The round ends when a Player has overturned all of their cards, after which the other Players will get the chance to take one more turn. After this turn is up, they must reveal all remaining cards.
- A “game” of Card Golf is made up of 9, or 18, total rounds.
Scoring & Points
A scoresheet for a game of Card Golf might look something like this:
Points should be recorded in the scorecards, reminiscent of a scoresheet for a regular game of Golf.
Individual cards have their own values, with unmatched cards giving the Player in possession of them penalty points.
Penalty points are assigned according to the following:
At the end of 9, or 18 rounds, the Player with the overall lowest score total wins.
The following is a possible layout at the start of a Golf card game:
4♦, 5♠, K♣
J♥, 8♣, 10♥
The Player does not see any of these cards, and so does not know until they flip these cards up. However, assuming Player 1 replaces the J♥ with a 4♣ by luck, they will have a matched column.
With the top card still being hidden though, Player 1 would have to draw and then discard, then decide to flip their 4♦ in order to know they have a completed match.
Strategy & Tips
- Players should try to reveal their cards, rather than replace them. Without revealing your cards, there’s no way of knowing if you should replace a card or keep it.
- Players should try to work one column at a time, if possible. A guaranteed column of matching cards is better than no matching cards at all.
- Being the first to reveal all 6 cards is a great advantage, as it allows you to decide when the game ends.
- You can replace cards that are already face-up, if you want to stall the game out and get a few more turns before you end in order to further improve your chances of matching.
- The best possible score in a round is 0, but the winner of the overall game is the person with the lowest overall score. It’s better to score 5 points every round than it is to score 10 points for 7 rounds and then 0 points for 2 rounds. Card Golf is a game of averages.
Four Card Golf is played in the same manner as regular, 6 Card Golf. The game’s modification comes from its shorter Play, with rounds lasting less time than individual rounds of the 6-card variation. The most significant rule change in 4-card Golf is that matches may be made horizontally in rows, or vertically in columns.
Players may also knock, rather than replacing a card if they so desire. Knocking, a rule derived from many betting matching games, simply “passes” a Player’s turn.
Eight Card Golf is almost the same as Six Card Golf, with the key change being an additional two columns, making 2 rows of 4 and 4 columns of 2. Generally, due to the number of cards expected to be on the board during a game, two decks are used rather than just one.
Furthermore, each Player on their first turn may flip up and reveal any two cards of their rows before taking their turn normally.
Nine Card Golf, like Eight the 8-card variant, uses two decks combined into a single deck. Rather than 2 rows, the game is organized in the following way:
With 3 rows of 3 and 3 columns of 3 in a square formation.
Like in Eight Card Golf, Players are allowed to turn over any 2 cards in their rows at the start of their first turn, and then take their turn normally by drawing and replacing or discarding and turning over a third card.
The Rules of Nine Card Golf are essentially the same as Six Card Golf, except matches are not made from two cards. Instead, cards must match in columns or rows of 3. Cards may not be matched diagonally, only horizontally and vertically.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many decks of cards are needed for Golf?
The game can be played using one or two decks, depending on the number of Players. Some versions such as Eight and Nine Card Golf, should always use two decks even if there are only two Players in the game. In Six Card Golf, additional decks should be used for every 4 Players in a game.
How many people can play Golf?
Card Golf, generally, can have from 2-8 Players, regardless of the variation played. The more Players added though, the more decks that will be needed to play properly.
What is a Joker worth in Card Golf?
An unmatched Joker cannot exist in Six Card Golf, as the Joker can always be the wild card and match with the other card in its column. However, in the nine-card variant, it is possible to have an unmatched Joker. If this does happen, a Player should award themselves 10 penalty points, the same as a face-card.
Why is the Card Game called Golf?
The name of the game derives from the similarities to the sport.
- There are 9 or 18 rounds of Card Golf, just like the 9 or 18 holes of Golf.
- Card Golf utilizes a scorecard that is reminiscent of a scoresheet from traditional Golf, and it also utilizes a penalty points system, where the lower score is better, just like in the traditional game.
You can read more about Golf with Power Cards on Pagat