Board GamesReviews

Famous Games: Famous Fairways

The names Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones and others come to mind when you think of great golfers.  Walking around the peaceful course, listening to the chirping of birds, feeling the warm sun on your back makes golf seem so relaxing.  Then you remember the bunkers, the water hazards, the ruff, and all the other things course designers add just to make that much more fun.  I have never played a few 18 holes; just the par three courses I have tried have proven to me that golf is no walk in the park.  Even mini-golf courses can be a challenge!

Famous Fairways in a intermediate level game in the Famous Games line. The Famous Game lines offer “pocket” or mini games. The entire game is played with only few cards, minimal rules, and in under thirty minutes. For more information on all the Famous Games, How to Play tutorials, designer Rob’s blog and more check out the website at:

Set-Up / Components

As with the other games in the Famous Games series there are eleven cards. Two cards for rules and set up and 9 used for game play. Players will need 9 pennies, 9 dimes, and 1 quarter for keeping track of various parts of the game. One of the 9 cards played during the game is the clubs card and the other cards are the course cards.  The nine pennies are used by one player, and the dimes by another.  Once again I really like the graphic design of the cards, the colors, and pictures create a set out of the six games. I also like how the cards are put together to form a hole.

Players will use the cards to form one hole at a time, for a total of 9 holes by the end of the game.  You can play more or less holes if you wish.  Most 9-hole golf courses have two Par 3s, five Par 4s, and two Par 5s.  They can be in any order. Players can create a scorecard to show their course layout.   The length of the hold depends on its Par.  For example, a Par 3 will be three cards long.  At the end of the cards, place the quarter to represent the cup.  Each player should place a coin at the start of the card line.  The goal is to get to the end with the fewest moves possible.

After setting up the first hole, and determining the course, players flip a coin to see who will go first.  This player starts the first hole.  On subsequent holes, the player who scored highest on the previous holes goes first.  Within the hole, the player who is furthest from the cup goes first.

Game Play

After determining the start player, that player chooses a club from the clubs card by placing a coin on the club.  They then move their coin that many spaces. Each club offers a range of distances and player can land wherever in the range they wish.  For example, if the choose the wedge range 3-4 they can move 3 or 4 spaces.  Woods are only available for Par 4s and 5s.  The 6-9 woods can only be used on a Par 5.

The next player goes but must choose a different club; coins cannot share the same spot.  Players also cannot share the same spot on the hole.  Remember the player furthest from the hole plays next, even if this means one player may take two turns in a row.

Players will want to avoid hazards and land on the white spaces.  The other spaces are hazards.  There are three types of hazards: bunkers, rough, and water.

When a player lands in a bunker, you ball moves no more than 4 spaces, regardless of club.  If a player is able to make it to the cup, it will hang on the lip and a player needs to pay a coin to tap it in a finish the hole.  This counts as a one-stroke penalty.  If a player lands in the rough, a player must use the club’s minimum distance.  If a player lands in the water before taking a shot, they must pay a coin next to the club card, to fish the ball out of the water.  This counts as a one-stroke penalty.

But hazards aren’t the only troubles facing players.  Sometimes the only available club may force a player into an occupied space.  This is called a whiffed shot, and the player places their ball under their opponent’s and gives them the next shot.  Also, players will find that they will start running out of clubs before reaching the hole.  If this happens, players get a gimmie.  They place their coin and the cup and another coin next to the club card.  Players will also overshoot and land a space or two beyond the cup.  As with the gimmie, players place a coin next to the club card and put their coin in the hole.  Once all players have made it to the cup, the hole is complete.

Scoring a Hole

After each hole, count up the number of coins on or beside the club card.  For every point above par, draw a square around the number for every point above par.  For every point, below par draw a circle.  Players then take back their coins, shuffle the cards and lay out the next hole.  The player who spent the fewest coins on the previous hole gets to choose the new starting player.  Continue playing until all holes are played.  The lowest score wins.

My Thoughts

As with the other cards in the Famous Games Line, Famous Fairways offers stunning graphics.  I really like the simple silhouette of the golfers on each hole card.  The cards are also a nice quality and as they aren’t shuffled are held too much they should stand up to some use.  Of course if you are the person who likes to shelve your cards they will not fit back into the holder.

The game is so small and very portable.  You will need to use score pad and some coins or gems to play.  It’s a great game to carry in a purse or coast pocket and bring out when you have a few free moments to play.

Famous Fairways is easy to learn and a quick game to play.  The online tutorial is very helpful.  It is a great resource if you don’t want to learn from the instructions that came with the game.  The added graphics really make it easier to see and understand, so I highly recommend using it.  Check out the tutorial here:  Even without the tutorial, the rules are simple, making the game accessible to everyone, a big plus for all the Famous Games.

I know there are a lot of people out there who really enjoy golf and Famous Fairways would be a perfect gift for that person.  You many not want to or be able to play a real round of golf with your father, but you can always play one with Famous Fairways.  You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this great little game.

Famous Fairways offers more strategic play then you may think.  Since players are using the same bag of clubs choosing the right club is very important.  You must decide what is best for you and what you should not leave for your opponent.  The hazards, as in real life, can really impede your strategy as well.  But, as in real life, it may not always be the worst thing to lay up in a hazard.

Being a mini-game, it isn’t the deepest game.  It is a quick, light, strategic game that can be enjoyed by lovers of golf and anyone who appreciates the simple design.  It is one of my favorites of the series.

Quick Stats

Designer: Rob Bartel
Artist: Rob Bartel
Publishers: Famous Games Company
Players: 2
Game Length: 30 minutes
Ages: 13 and up

Thank you for the review copies!


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