Small-Time Golf: A walk-through for Beginners

by Craig Small

I received a comment on my most recent post from a new player with a question about the game. It brought me back to when I started playing APBA Golf and was wishing that I could have a more experienced player to walk me through the game. Now that I’m an experienced player I thought it would be a great idea to write up a guide for newbies.

I grabbed Phil Mickelson and Nick Faldo and the Metro D.C. course because I know that all three come with the game when purchased from APBA and I figured it would be good for new players to set up their game and follow along with me as I play a couple of holes. I also wanted to use Mickelson and Faldo as they are VERY different players and would be an excellent example of how players can achieve the same results through different means. I’ll play the first hole using basic rules and the second hole with master rules.

Here’s the set-up: Ryder Cup. The U.S. and Europe are all tied up with only one match left on the course to decide it all. Mickelson and Faldo head to the 17th tee all-square.

1. Look at the hole. Play smart.
We have a 437-yard par 4 with a strip of rough that cuts right through the landing zone in the fairway. Mickelson will be teeing off first. He’s a big hitter so with driver or 3-wood he’s probably going to hit it into the patch of deep rough. As his caddy, I’m recommending 5-wood. Phil takes my advice and prepares to tee off. His average W (wood) is a 4. A quick look at the 5-wood chart shows that a 4 would give him a 230-yard drive landing 10 yards to the right of the center line and rolling for 10 additional yards.

2. Hit the shot.
Incredibly, I roll an 11. Under Mickelson’s W column an 11 is a 1. A look at the 5-wood chart tells us that Phil has hit the ball 255 yards, 10 yards to the left of the centerline. His ball lands in the fairway (just barely) and he gets the full additional 10 yard roll. Total: 265 yards, 10 yards left.

Faldo’s average W is a 6 so I recommend he go with a 3-wood. He swings: 53. Faldo’s card shows that a 53 in the W column is a 9. We check the 3-wood chart and see that he’s hit the ball 225 yards, five yards to the left of the centerline. He’s in the fairway so he gets all of the additional 20-yard roll. Total: 245 yards, 5 yards left.

3. Second shot.
Faldo is away so he goes first. We are going after the #3 flag so we can calculate that he has 190 yards left to the flag. Faldo’s average I (iron) is a 6 and a quick look at the charts shows us that with a 4-iron a 6 would give him 185 yards with with 10 yards of roll on the green. That looks good to me. He shoots: 55. Faldo’s Iron column under 55 gives him a 6. Perfect.The 4-iron chart tells us that he’s hit a 185 yard shot, 5 yards (one square) to the left of the centerline with with an additional roll of 10 yards on the green. Fantastic shot! He is only one square away from the hole! To calculate the putting distance we roll 2 dice and add them together. Roll: a 6 and a 3. So Faldo is left with a 9-foot putt for birdie.

Mickelson is left with 170 yards to the pin. His average I is a 3 so let’s check the charts. A 3 on the 7-iron chart will give him a 170-yard shot with no roll. That sounds like exactly what we’re looking for. Roll: 63. Mickelson’s I column shows us that a 63 is a 31. Whoops! A miss-hit. A 31 on the 7-iron chart tells us that Phil has hit the ball 150 yards, 20 yards left. He just misses one bunker and lands in the rough. The 7-iron calls for a 5-yard roll but because he’s in the rough we’re going to stop the ball where it landed.

4. Third shot.
Phil is away so he goes first. He’s 20 yards away from the hole but he’s also 20 yards from the centerline which means that he has to add an additional 5 yards to his shot (5 yards for every 15 yards away from the centerline). So he’s facing a 25-yard pitch from the rough. We go to the 25-45 Yard Approach Chart and he shoots: 26! Phil’s A column in his card gives us a 12. Looking at the “Rough” column on the chart gives the result as 12ft-Dice. It’s possible that he’s holed the shot! Let’s roll: 10. 12 feet minus 10 feet leaves Phil with a 2-foot putt for par. Nice approach.

5. The putts.
Faldo is away so he goes first. He has a 9-foot putt for birdie to win the hole. The putting chart tells us that to hole a 7-9 foot putt he’ll need a 20 or under result on his card. We’ll be putting aggressively, of course. Roll:51. A 51 under Faldo’s P column gives the result of 27. He missed it! Checking the 7-9 foot putt column under 27 tells us that he has 2 feet remaining for par. Phil gives Faldo the nod to go ahead and finish up. Roll:31. Faldo’s P column gives us an 11 under 31. The par putt is good.

Phil putts his 2-footer: 65. A 65 is a 14 and the putt is good.

6. Results.
Mickelson: 4 shots (Par)
Faldo: 4 shots (Par)

Still all-square heading to 18! Can you feel the tension?

18th Hole (Master Rules)

1. Look at the hole. Play smart.
Since both players parred 17 Phil still has the honor on the tee. This is a 466-yard par 4. There are trees guarding both sides of the fairway but Phil is a heavy hitter and his landing zone looks fairly safe. The green is guarded by a lot of water so a short, easily controlled second shot would be nice. Phil’s feeling the excitement of the moment and reaches for his driver. Roll:23. Phils W column gives a result of 31. The longest possible drive result. Wow. Phil crushes it! Phil has hit a 305-yard tee-shot 10 yard left. His ball lands on the fairway with gives him an additional 45 yards of roll. The course book tells us that any shot landing on the 18th fairway rolls an additional 20 yards. Phil has scalded an incredible 370-yard drive.

Phil has thrown down the gauntlet and Faldo has no choice but to hit driver. Roll:32. Not good. Faldo’s W column under 32 gives us a result of 28. He has hit a 235-yard shot that has unfortunately gone 35 yards to the right. His ball lands in a square that is 95% rough and 5% trees so we’ll give him the benefit of the rough. Because he is in the rough the 25 yard roll is cut in half (rounding up) to a 15. Total: 255 yards, 35 yards right.

2. Second shot.
Faldo is away and plays first. His ball is 2 squares in the rough so he must consult the Rough Lie Chart. Roll:32. His lie is a good one. He can hit using the rough column with no additional obstacles. Faldo is 210 yards from the flag but because he is 35 yards from the centerline he must add an additional 10 yards to his shot (5 yards for every 15 yards from the centerline). He is 220 yards from the pin. Faldo’s average W is a 6 so we consult the charts and see that on the 5-wood chart, a 6 from the rough column is a 215 yard shot with 10 yards of roll on the green. The shot will also drift 15 yards to the left of the centerline. That would be a very good result. There is a lot of danger (water) around this green but after seeing what Phil has left, Faldo really has no choice. He shoots: 51. A 51 in Faldo’s W column is a 7. Under the rough column in the 5-wood chart we see that he has hit a 215 yard shot that drifts 15 yards to the right of the centerline. He’s in the sand trap. Because he’s in the sand, he gets no roll.

Mickelson has a 95 yard approach left for birdie. He is on the same side of the center line as the pin so he can not aim at the flag. The flag is 5 yards to the left of the pin so Phil decides to work the ball 5 yards right to left. We go to the 75-100 Yard Approach Chart to see what he can do. He shoots: 52. The A column on Phil’s card gives as a result of 16. A very poor shot. The Approach Chart gives a result of -10 yards, 5 yards to the left. Now we add in his Work The Ball result. He rolls: 14. Phil is attempting to work the ball 5 yards from right to left. We check his left Shotmaking Rating and see that he has an “A” rating. We cross reference his 14 result with his A column on his card and get a result of 14. Now we check the Approach Chart under 14 with an “AShotmaking rating. The result is -5. Lucky for Phil. He worked the ball 5 yards to the left but his poor shot gives him a -5 result, meaning that he was unable to work the ball at all. So Phil is 10 yards short of the pin, 5 yards to the left. (Note: If Phil had been successful working the ball he would have been in the water.) Phil’s ball is 2 squares from the pin. We are on the green now so each square represents 10 feet. Phil is 20 feet from the pin minus one die roll. Roll: 4. 20-4=16. Phil has a 16 foot putt for birdie and the win.

3. Third shot.
Faldo is in the sand and needs a miracle. A quick look at his “SandMaster Rating shows that he has a 0 for a rating. That is no help. Faldo is 15 yards from the pin. He is also 15 yards from the centerline which means that he needs to add an additional 5 yards to his shot. Luckily, he is on the opposite side of the centerline as the pin so he can aim right at it. To aim for the pin Faldo moves his marker an additional 5 extra yards to line up with the flag. As this is only an extra 5 yards he will not have to add any additional yardage to his shot. So Faldo has a 20-yard sand shot. Let’s consult the Green-Side Sand Trap Chart. Roll: 23. Faldo rolls a 23 which gives him a good lie. He can shoot using the sand column on the approach chart with no additional struggle. Roll: 46. A 46 in Faldo’s approach column gives a result of 24. Under the sand column in the approach shot we see that he has hit a spectacular shot and has only 1 foot left for par.(Note: If Faldo had a Master Sand Rating of 1 or better he would have holed the shot!)

4. The putts.
Phil is away and will putt for the win. He has a 16-footer. Consulting the Putting Chart we see he needs a 13 or lower to make the putt. His Master Clutch Rating of 0 will be no help here. Roll: 24. A result of 20 means that he has come up 2 feet short. He is still away and will putt again. Roll:31. An 11 means the putt is good.

Faldo need to make a 1-footer to halve the hole and halve the Ryder Cup. Roll: 43. An 18 and the putt is good.

The U.S. and Europe will share the Ryder Cup. The previous Cup winner retains the Cup.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions. If I could give beginners any advice it would be this: Play with the basic rules until it feels too easy and then slowly work you way into the master rules. The master rules may seem a little complicated at first but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

Incidentally, I have finished the 2nd round of my tournament and will write it up very soon.

Talk soon!


  1. I have not purchased the newest version of the golf game but do have the computer version
    Does the computer version incorporate the master rules as you have indicated in your article above?

    • I don’t know anything about the computer game. Sorry. I need to feel the dice and cards in my hands. I’ve tried computer sports simulations in the past but I always come back to the board games. Maybe you could send an email to APBA.

  2. Thanks for the post Craig. I am looking forward to using your dialog as a teaching tool when I get home this evening. Thanks for the help and I will let you know how this helped. I am trying to do a 16 man tourney and I hope this brings a little clarity to my rookieness!

    • The reason I love working with Tom at the APBA Blog is that he’s doing it for the love of the games and he’s all about trying to get others into the games. There’s no attitude towards newer players, just encouragement. Please, don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I’d love to help.

      Good luck with your tournament. Keep me posted,

  3. Just bought the Golf game about a month ago and really enjoying it. Not sure I am doing everything correctly but this article helped me out.


  4. Thanks for the article…what a great game this really captures the decision making tempo and drama in a way that the computer game
    can not. It’s really worth learning the rules of this edition.

  5. I really have never played golf. I remember one of my friends playing this game years ago and it looked interesting. I have to acquaint myself with what clubs are used for what purpose. I think Your article was very helpful. I just received the game and I am looking forward to enjoying it.

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