Golf (card game)

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Golf card game.jpg
A player's grid of cards, in six card golf
Alternative namesPolish Polka, Polish Poker, Turtle
TypeDraw and discard
CardsSingle deck of 52 or double deck of 104
Playing time10 minutes

Golf (also known as Polish Polka, Polish Poker, Turtle, Hara Kiri or Crazy Nines[1]) is a card game where players try to earn the lowest number of points (as in golf, the sport) over the course of nine deals (or "holes").[2]

The game has little in common with the solitaire game of the same name.


Two or three players use a standard 52-card deck. If played with four or more, a double-deck of 104 cards can be used.

Each player is dealt six cards face down from a shuffled deck. The remaining cards are placed face down to serve as the stock, from which the top card is taken and turned up to start the discard pile beside it. Players arrange their cards in two rows of three in front of them, and turn any two of these cards face up.[1] This arrangement is maintained throughout the game and players always have six cards in front of them.


The objective is for players to reduce the value of the cards in front of them by swapping them for lesser value cards and trying to get the lowest score. The highest score loses the game and the lowest score wins the game.

Beginning at the dealer's left, players take turns drawing single cards from either the stock or discard piles. The drawn card may either be swapped for one of that player's six cards, or discarded. If the card is swapped for one of the face-down cards, the card swapped in remains face up. If the card drawn is discarded, the player can then either flip a card or choose to make no move.

The round ends when a player has six face-up cards (sometimes the other players are given one final turn following this),[1] after which scoring happens as follows:[3][4]

  • Each Ace scores one point
  • Each Two scores minus two points
  • Each numeral card from 3 to 10 scores its face value
  • Each Jack or Queen scores 10 points
  • Each King scores zero points
  • A pair of equal cards in the same column scores zero points for the column regardless of the rank of those cards

During play, it is not legal for a player to pick up a card from the discard pile and return it to the discard pile without playing it, to allow another player to retrieve the card. A card picked up from the discard pile must be swapped with one of the current player's cards.

A full game is typically nine "holes" (hands), after the player with the lowest total score is designated the winner.[1] A longer game can be played to eighteen holes.[1]


There is a multitude of variants in multiplayer golf.[1] Some common ones include:

Single-pack golf[edit]

For two to four players. Rules are the same as in double-pack golf. Sometimes, jokers are not used.

Four-card golf[edit]

Suitable for 3-7 players, in four-card Golf each player receives four cards face down in a 2×2 grid and reveal two before play begins.[5] Play proceeds similar to six-card golf. The end of a round is initiated by a player who thinks they can win `knocking', after which other players get one final turn.


Golf can be played so that instead of ending the game automatically, a player must choose to "knock" instead of taking their turn. Remaining players then have one turn to draw a card to improve their hands and then scores are totaled and recorded on a running score sheet. This rule is more common for four-card golf.[1]

Nine-card golf[edit]

One or two packs are involved, depending on the number of players. One pack is adequate for 1-3 players, two or more packs are suggested for 4+ players.[6] To begin the game, each player is dealt nine cards, laying out the cards face down in a 3x3 grid. The method or pattern for how the players layout their 3x3 grid is arbitrary, as long as the cards remain face down.

The game is played as six-card golf. Once any grid contains only face-up cards, the game is immediately ended, there are no further turns, and all players must flip all their face-down cards to determine their scores. Scoring is the same as six-card golf, with players having to form a full three-of-a-kind column to have that column score zero.[1]

This process of game play continues for nine total games or until a player exceeds 50 points.[citation needed] Another option is to play to 100.

Optional rules of this version include:

  • Horizontal and diagonal lines of three also score zero[1]
  • Playing jokers in the game, which value -4 points[1]
  • Every pair of adjacent, row or column, equal cards scores zero[1]
  • If the player places four cards in a square pattern (i.e. 2x2 block) of the same face-point value, this results in some negative score, such as -25, for those four cards. This is difficult, but can be done.[7]
  • Instead of drawing a card, a player may choose to flip a card in their grid face up[citation needed]

Alternative scoring[edit]

There are many variants for point values of cards, including:

  • Jokers are added to the deck and score -5,[1] or some other negative number.
  • Jokers are +15 individually, or minus 5 as a pair.
  • Queens score 12, 13 or 20 points each.
  • Queen of spades scores 40 points, other Queens 10 each, and Eights are zero points.
  • One-eyed jacks are wild and automatically form a pair with an adjacent card (or complete a triplet in 9-card golf).
  • Jacks score zero, Queens 12, Kings 13.
  • Jacks are worth 20 points each and when a Jack is discarded, the following player loses a turn.
  • Twos are plus 2 instead of minus 2 (usually played in games without jokers).
  • Four of a kind wins all nine game automatically (usually played in 4-card golf).
  • A player who has a 9 card straight scores -12. This hand is considered a "hole in 1". If player does not obtain correct number of cards for a straight, then all points are added as usual.
  • A player may "shoot the moon" by getting the maximum 60 points. He or she gets 0 points for the round, and all other players get 60 points.
  • When playing 8-card, 4x2, four kings on one side = -16 points.
  • In "Cutthroat Golf" the kings are worth 15 points and if drawn from the deck can be traded for any other players up card. The card they receive must then be placed in their hand.

In some versions, making a pair or triple of cards of equal rank (sometimes vertically, sometimes horizontally and sometimes diagonally) reduces those cards' scores to zero.[1]


Variants known as Cambio, Pablo or Cactus include "power cards". When a power card is drawn from the stock, it can either be used for its normal value or discarded to activate its power. (If a power card is drawn from the discards, it must be played as its number.)[1] A simple version of the game played in Malaysia has the following power cards:[1]

  • A Jack allows a player to look at one of their own cards (without their opponent seeing it)
  • A Queen allows a player to look at one of their opponent's cards (again without their opponent seeing)
  • A King allows a player to swap one of their own cards with that of their opponent
  • A joker allows a player to shuffle their opponent's cards around so that they no longer know what is where

John McLeod of speculates that these variants are Spanish in origin, as the game is recorded as being played by students in Spain, and many of its variant names are Spanish words (cambio meaning "exchange").[1] The game had a commercial release as Cabo in 2010[1] and is similar to the 1996 Mensa Select winner Rat-a-Tat Cat.


"Powers" is an escalated version of Cambio where every card is given some sort of additional ability. The game can only end after knocking, and all cards stay face down unless a power dictates one should be turned up. You start the game with 6 cards, and can look at any two of them, with the rest staying hidden until you swap them or look at them with a power.

On your turn, you take the top card, and put it into your deck without looking at the card with which you want to swap it, and discard. Or, you can discard the card you have drawn straight away, and instead use the power of the card instead.

The abilities are as follows:

The Powers
Card Type Power
Red King Scores -1
Black King Cancels knock if turned over from the opponent's hand or drawn from the pile
Queen Nothing (Dud)
Jack Peek at one of your cards
10 Peek at one of your opponent's cards
9 Can swap any card in your opponent's deck for the 9
8 Take the next two cards from the draw pile and put either one (or the 8 if you choose) into your deck
7 Swap a row/column with another one in your opponent's set (disorienting them)
6 Swap any one of your cards of for one of your opponent's
5 Shield (Kept off to the side face-up, and used to block an opponents attacks)
4 Turn one of your opponent's cards face up/Turn one of your cards face down
3 Completely shuffle your opponent's 6 cards
2 Can use any combination (without repeats) of two powers from 3 - Black King
Ace Add one card to your opponent's set/remove one card from your set

The Black King is the only card which can have its power applied when in a player's set.

Knocker's penalties and bonuses[edit]

Some play Golf and its variations such that that a player who knocks (turns over all cards first) but doesn't end with the lowest score is penalized:

  • Knocker adds a penalty of 10 or 20 points, or...
  • Knocker's score for the hand is doubled with 5 points added, or...
  • The knocker takes a score equal to the highest scoring player for that hand, or...
  • Knocker adds twice the number of people playing.

If the knocker's score is lowest, some play with a bonus:

  • Knocker scores zero instead of a positive score, or...
  • Knocker's score is reduced by the number of people playing.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Rules of Card Games: Golf". 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  2. ^ Parlett, David (2004), The A–Z of card games (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, pp. 169f, ISBN 978-0-19-860870-7
  3. ^ Six Card Golf, Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  4. ^ Six Card Golf, Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Golf" (p.51) in Card & Dice Games by N.A.C. Bathe, Robert Frederick Ltd, 2004.ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  6. ^ "9 Cards of Golf - Rules | Golf". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  7. ^ Kiley, Oliver. "9 Cards of Golf - Rules". 9 Cards of Golf. Retrieved 25 February 2021.

External links[edit]