How to Play Golf Solitaire

Why this solitaire game (“patience” if you live on the British side of the Pond) is called Golf is a bit of a mystery, at least in the first version outlined below. Any connection to Tiger Woods would appear to be so obscure as to be invisible!

Deal five rows of seven cards each, face upwards, with the cards overlapping to form seven piles spread downwards. Then deal another card to form the start of the wastepile.

You can play any card that is exposed (i.e. at the foot of any of the seven columns). When a card is played it makes the next card playable. However, all you can do with these cards is play them, as there is no building or moving of cards to empty columns in this game.

You can play any card to the wastepile as long as it is next to it in number, regardless of suit. For example, if the card is the seven of hearts you can play any six or any eight on to it. You can reverse the sequence at any stage, so that the cards played could go: seven, eight, nine, eight, nine, ten, jack, ten, nine, and so on.

However, you cannot play a card of the same denomination, and you cannot go “round the corner”, so the only card you can play on an ace is a two. Also, a king stops the sequence, as you are not allowed to play a queen on to it.

The object of the game is to play all the cards from the tableau on to the wastepile, or as many as you can manage. When no cards are available for play, turn over the next card in your hand to start a new sequence. At the start of the game you will have 16 such cards.

It is important to plan your moves in this game, because you need to ensure that your play sequences will be as fruitful as possible. If you have a choice of cards to play, which of them will give you a better chance of further play? Are there any awkward cards that are blocking a potential sequence, and which you should aim to shift early on?

You also need to work out what you are going to do with your kings, as you can only move them, and release the cards they are blocking, by playing a queen and then starting again with a card from your hand. If you have played all your queens, and there is still a king in the tableau, you cannot win.

As mentioned above, this game and the sport of golf look to be miles apart. However, if you play the game not as solitaire but as a competition between two or more players, a resemblance starts to emerge.

If all the players have a pack each and play the game independently, they can regard each round as a “hole”. At the end of each game, if nobody has succeeded, a certain number of cards will be left over in the tableau. These are therefore “bogey shots” that count against the player in question. However, if somebody manages to clear the tableau, with cards left in their hand, these can count in their favour, with one spare card being a birdie, two being an eagle, and so on.

The game can therefore be played either as “match play” (with “holes” being won, lost or halved) or “stroke play” with scores above and below par being carried forward to the next hole). If one wanted to take the competition to an extreme, the packs could be prepared in advance to be identical, so that the players would start with the element of chance having been removed, although they would have to be prevented from seeing how the other players were doing.

However, solitaire is supposed to be played to kill time when you are on your own, so the challenge in your round of Golf should ideally be against yourself!