While golf may not be for everyone it has a lot of avid fans. My personal opinion is that it is boring to watch and somewhat fun to play even though I haven’t golfed much. With how popular the sport is I am not surprised that there have been quite a few board/card games created for the sport over the years. What I was a little surprised by was the fact that there has been well over a hundred different board/card games made based on the sport. I found this to be surprising since like a lot of sports golf doesn’t translate all that well to board games. Outside of making a dexterity game there is no way you can accurately simulate the sport in a board game. There are a few games that utilize a dexterity mechanic (Goofy Golf Machine) but most try to simulate the sport in other ways. Today I am looking at Fast Golf which was a card game from the 1970s that tried to turn the sport into a card game. Fast Golf is a fast and simple card game that is occasionally enjoyable but frustrating due to it high reliance on luck and lack of realism.
How to Play Fast Golf
- If there are four players the players will split into teams of two. Teammates will sit across from one another (so players of both teams will alternate turns). Teammates may not discuss strategy at any time.
- Place the gameboard in the middle of the table.
- Each player/team will choose a golf ball token and place it on the one space on the gameboard.
- Shuffle the cards and deal five cards to each player. The rest of the cards will form the draw pile. Players may look at their own cards but they shouldn’t show them to the other players.
- The player to the left of the dealer will start the game.
Playing the Game
Fast Golf will be played over nine holes. The objective of the game is to get the ball into the hole by playing as few cards as possible.
On a player’s turn they will play one of their cards. Depending on where their ball is currently located they may or may not move their ball marker forward the number of spaces printed on the card. For more information see the On The Fairway and On The Green sections below.
After a player has played their card they will draw a new card. Play will then pass to the next player.
The players will continue taking turns playing cards until they get their ball marker into the hole. A player must make the ball land exactly on the hole space in order to finish the hole. Once both players get their ball into the hole they will count up how many cards they played. This is the number of strokes the hole took. Both players will write down their score for the hole.
All of the cards that were played during the hole are shuffled with the cards that were never used. Players will keep the cards in their hand that they didn’t use. If the players ever run out of cards during a hole before they complete it, each player will write down their current total and all played/discarded cards will be reshuffled to form a new draw pile. The players will then continue playing the hole.
To set up the next hole both players move their marker to the space that indicates the current hole that the players are playing. The player that had less strokes on the last hole will start the next hole. If there is a tie the player who won the previous hole will start.
On The Fairway
When a player is on the fairway they must play a card that has the word “drive” on it if they have one in their hand. When they play a drive card they will move their ball marker forward the corresponding number of spaces.
If the player does not have a drive card they can play any other card but they will “whiff”. When a player whiffs they will play the card but not move their ball marker any spaces.
When the ball reaches the green the ball will continue moving forward spaces on the green until all of spaces on the drive card have been used. If the ball would move past the last space on the board the card can still be played but the ball will not move any spaces. If the ball lands on the hole space the player has completed the hole.
If a player plays a “lucky drive” card the ball will immediately move to the first space on the green no matter where the player is driving from.
On The Green
When a player’s ball is on the green they will shoot towards the hole.
They must play a “putt” card if they have one. They will then move their ball marker the corresponding number of spaces. If they don’t have a putt card they will play any other card which will count as a whiff and will not move the ball any spaces. The player is trying to play a putt card with a number equal to the number of spaces that the ball is away from the hole in order to finish the hole.
If a putt card would push the ball past the end of the board the card will be played as a whiff and the ball will not be moved. When a putt card would put the ball back on the fairway way though the ball will be moved, and the player will have to play a drive card on their next turn.
If a player plays a “lucky putt” card they will finish the hole no matter where they are putting from (this only applies if the ball is already on the green).
On the holes there are a number of hazards that you will have to deal with.
For holes 6-9 the players will have to deal with a “dog leg”. In order to make it around the corner the players need to have their ball land exactly on the space with the number five on it before hitting the ball towards the hole. If the ball would move past the fifth space the ball is moved to the out of bounds area past the five space. To make up for hitting the ball out of bounds the player will have to play any card as a penalty card. The ball is then moved to space five. As they played two cards on their turn they will draw two cards instead of one at the end of their turn.
If a player plays a “lucky drive” card for holes 6-9 they will skip space five entirely and place the ball on the first space on the green.
When a ball lands in the water hazard the player will move it to the side of the water farther away from the hole. The player will have to play a card as a penalty. They will then draw two cards to replenish their hand.
When a ball lands in the sand trap the ball can only be moved out of the sand trap with the use of a “out of sand trap card”. If they don’t have one of those cards they will play any other card which will not move the ball out of the sand trap. After playing the out of the sand trap card the ball will be moved to the space before or after the sand trap and they will continue playing cards like normal.
End of Game
The game ends when all nine holes have been played. The players tally their strokes from all of the holes. The player who had less strokes will win the game. If there is a tie the tied players will play a sudden death round starting with hole five. The player who needs less strokes to complete the hole will break the tie. If there is still a tie move onto hole six and so on until the tie is broken.
My Thoughts on Fast Golf
As I am not a big fan of golf I can’t say that I had high expectations heading into Fast Golf. The idea of turning golf into a card game didn’t seem like a great idea and then there is the fact that we had already played Fast Football which was not a good game. Fast Golf has a lot of problems but I will say that I was a little surprised by some aspects of the game.
Fast Golf is for the most part a really basic card game. Like in golf the objective of the game is to get the ball in the hole. Instead of hitting the ball with a club this is basically distilled into a basic math game. In the game you will use cards of two different types that feature a number. Each hole begins with you playing drive cards in order to move the ball down the fairway. This mostly involves adding up the spaces to the green and trying to find a combination of cards in your hand that will get you to the green or even the hole without landing in one of the hazards. Once you get onto the green you then need to find a combination of putt cards that will get the ball in the hole.
If that sounds pretty simple it is. As long as you have basic math skills you should have no trouble playing the game. Basically the gameplay revolves around finding a combination of cards that add up to the number of spaces needed to reach the hole. For this reason you can basically explain the game to new players within just a couple minutes. With how basic the game is it also plays quickly. Unless a player gets really unlucky (more on this later) I would say that most holes can be completed in a couple minutes as long as players don’t waste a lot of time deciding which cards to play. With there being nine holes you can finish a game within around 20-30 minutes.
Fast Golf has a lot of problems but I had some fun with the game. The game is far from deep but it is still somewhat enjoyable. There is a sense of satisfaction being able to sink a long put or play the right combination of cards to limit the number of strokes for a hole. This is mostly due to the game’s simplicity as the game is so easy to play. This makes Fast Golf one of those games that you can play quickly without putting too much thought into what you are doing.
While you can have a little fun with the game there are too many problems to overcome. By far the biggest problem is the fact that the game relies almost entirely on luck. The strategy in the game is so basic that as long as you can do some basic math it is almost always obvious what card you should play. A lot of the time you don’t even have a choice. This is because the cards you draw will determine how well you will do in the game. Draw the right cards and you will finish holes quickly. Don’t draw the right cards and there is nothing you can do to help yourself. Most card games rely on a lot of luck but Fast Golf is even worse than most of them. Outside of making dumb decisions your fate will be solely dependent on what cards you draw.
The card draw luck mostly comes down to two factors. The first factor is drawing the right types of cards. When you are on the fairway you need drive cards and when you are on the green you need putt cards. If you are on one part of the hole but don’t have any of the necessary cards you can only play/discard cards hoping you can use the next card that you draw. At least when we played the game we would regularly get stuck with a whole hand of one type of card where it would take several turns just to get a card that we could play to advance the ball. Just having the right type of cards is not enough though. You need cards with the right numbers as well. If you don’t have the right numbers it will take a lot of turns to get the ball to the green. When on the green if you don’t have the right numbers you will end up hitting the ball back and forth until you draw the right number card.
This reliance on luck makes Fast Golf a pretty poor representation of the sport. If you are a halfway decent golfer it should only take you three to seven or eight strokes to finish a hole depending on the length and skill required for the hole. In our game we regularly would have holes where it would take ten or more strokes to finish. This was mostly due to not having the right type of cards. Sometimes we would have to waste three or four turns just to draw a card that we could use. We then wouldn’t get the right numbers which would exacerbate the problem. While this was going on we were imagining how bad our golfer would look in real life. Our golfers had to be some of the worst golfers in the world or maybe they were drunk? While this was kind of funny it was really frustrating as well. It felt like we had no impact on our fate and it ultimately didn’t really feel like a game. The reliance on luck goes so far that it basically ruins the game.
It ultimately feels like the game was never fully playtested. This is exemplified by the fact that there is a potential fatal error in the game. In the game the only way to get out of the sand trap is to play a sand trap card. It turns out that there are only two sand trap cards in the game. This creates a serious problem if you land in the sand trap. For this reason I would avoid the sand trap if at all possible which is usually pretty easy to do. If you land in the sand trap though you better hope that you already have one of the cards or you might have to play a bunch of cards before you are able to draw one. If the other player just so happens to have both cards it will be impossible for you to ever get out of the sand trap. While unlikely I think there is a serious problem if the game can potentially be broken by one player holding two specific cards.
For this reason I wish there was a little more variety in the type of cards. The game basically only has two types of cards (outside of the two sand trap cards). I really think the game could have benefited from more types of cards. I don’t know why the game didn’t divide the cards into three types. The drive cards could have been used for long distances and the putts could have been used for shorter distances on the green. Then a third new category could have been added for chip shots that could have been used on the fairway, green, and even the sand trap. This probably would have lowered the reliance on luck as there wouldn’t be so many times when you wouldn’t have the right type of card. Otherwise the game should have given you an opportunity to use putt cards on the fairway and vice versa with some way to alter them if they are played in the wrong situations. Having only two types of cards is too rigid and creates problems for the game.
Probably the best way to fix the game would have been to increase the hand size. For the first hole or two five cards seems like enough as you should be able to finish the holes pretty quickly. As you progress through the game though you quickly start to realize that five cards is not enough. Unless you get a good variety of cards you likely will hit a point where you don’t have the cards needed to complete a hole. By increasing the hand size it would have reduced some of the luck as you could then have more cards to choose from.If you increase the hand size too far you will encounter problems but I see no reason why the hand size couldn’t have been increased to seven or eight cards.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about the game’s components. I would say that the components are pretty subpar. The game only comes with one course which is just a small cardboard gameboard with each hole only adding one space to the previous hole. I don’t know why the game couldn’t have included a couple different boards for different holes/courses. I give the game a little credit for the playing pieces as they look like mini golf balls even if it is hard to tell which piece belongs to each player. As for the cards they are pretty basic. I found the artwork to be pretty bland as they aren’t much to look at. The components do their job but that is about it.
Should You Buy Fast Golf?
I didn’t have high expectations for Fast Golf and for the most part it is what I expected. On the positive side it is quick and easy to play. You don’t have to put too much thought into the game and the idea of playing the right set of cards to get your ball into the hole is somewhat fun. The problem is that fun doesn’t last long mostly due to the game’s reliance on luck. While the game has a little strategy it is so obvious and most of the time you don’t even have a choice. This means that the game relies almost entirely on luck. You draw the right cards and you will have a good chance of winning the game. If you don’t draw the right cards though the game becomes frustrating as you have to keep drawing cards as your score gets worse and worse. The game feels like it was never fully playtested. While I think there are some potential house rules that could improve the game, I don’t think they would be enough to overcome the game’s faults.
For most people I wouldn’t recommend Fast Golf as it has too many problems. If you are a big fan of golf though and you think the mechanics sound interesting enough it may be worth checking out the game if you can get a good deal on it.