Distribute one sheet of paper and a pen to each person.
By way of demonstration, ask each person to draw an imaginary golf course comprising three sets of tees, fairways, holes and a variety of hazards.
Allow several minutes for the creative process.
As per regular golf, each person aims to record as few ‘strokes’ as possible in their game.
To perform a stroke, an individual starts by placing the tip of their pen on the first tee, closes their eyes, and then drags the pen across the paper until they decide to stop.
The next stroke starts from the end of the ink line of the preceding stroke.
Play continues back and forth between two (or more) partners until the game is finished.
The person who records the least number of ‘strokes,’ wins.
Play next game on partner’s golf course, or continue play with any other person.
How To Play Narrative
This exercise starts with people on their own, moves them into pairs, and can then build to small groups of three or more people.
Hand out a sheet of paper, the larger the better, for each person. Then, using a sheet of paper in front of you to demonstrate, explain that you would like everyone to design their own golf course.
For those who, like me, don’t really play golf, describe all the common features of a typical golf course as you draw them on your paper.
For the standard A4 sheet of paper, I suggest designing a paper golf course with just three holes, but there’s no magic in this number. Just be sure to add tees, fairways, greens and holes with little flags poking out of them.
Design a few challenging hazards such as lakes, streams, and sand bunkers, in addition to local flora and fauna such as gum trees and a roaming kangaroo.
Other than those seriously creative types, five or so minutes is sufficient time for most people to design their very own championship standard (paper) golf course.
Now, how to play.
With pen or marker in hand, start by placing the tip of your pen on the first tee. Close your eyes, and then move or drag the pen across the paper (so that it marks a line,) stopping whenever you feel necessary (such as to avoid a water hole, or running off the paper). When finished, open your eyes, and record this as your first stroke.
To undertake your second stroke, reassessing the terrain, place your pen at the very end of the last ‘stroke,’ close your eyes and take another shot. Although each golf course designer may implement their own rules, the general idea is to avoid hitting or crossing your pen over any of the drawn obstacles.
Play continues until the end of a single stroke (ink line) lands directly in the middle of the first hole. Crossing over or skimming the edge of the hole doesn’t count, the pen must land right in the middle of it.
Oh, and golf balls do swing, so reasonable curves are okay – 90 degree angles are not.
Ordinarily, golfing partners will take turns at swinging on their way to a hole, or you may choose to allow one person at a time to finish a hole before the next player tees off.
When all players have completed all holes, add the total number of strokes (lines) taken, and the person with the lowest score wins.
If interested, play a second round, or swap to the golf course of one of your partners, or find anyone else who wants to play.
Practical Leadership Tips
Drawing a sample golf course on flip-chart paper or a whiteboard works well to help large groups to see your demonstration.
Depending on the size of the paper, the complexity of the course, and for purposes of keeping people engaged, limit your small groups to four or five people at the most.
Expect the inevitable arguments over exactly where the end of the pen’s ink finishes. Unless you have microscopic eyesight, this is not a perfect science. Generally speaking, if any white space can be seen between any obvious part of the ink line, this is the end.
Encourage people to preserve ample white space around their fairways and hazards, lest it become very difficult to play, ie to avoid contact with the pen.
You need a hard, flat surface on which to place your paper golf course, lest the pen may tear through it.
Each player can elect their own penalties for various infractions, eg one stroke penalty for running off the paper, two strokes for landing in a bunker, etc.
You could integrate Paper Golf as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships, not to mention, enjoy a fun time in small groups.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a playful game.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to accurately push a pen across the paper (to record a stroke) speaks to the benefits of being resilient, but this would be considered be a minor attribute of this fun game.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Paper Golf could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Large Scale: Use large sheets of paper (A3 or bigger) to create golf courses with many more holes, club-houses and other features.
Pen Flicking: With eyes open, each player will use one finger at the top of their pen to hold it upright (tip on paper) and gently push it forward so that the tip slides across the paper golf course leaving a diminishing trail of ink. This method will require many more ‘strokes,’ and sometimes, a conversation about exactly where the end of the ‘stroke’ is.
Take a look at Chicken Baseball for another zany variation of a traditional sport.
Take a look at Snowflake to explore a use for one’s paper golf course when the game is over.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Prepare your golf course in advance to show and describe to your group online. Then ask each person to grab paper and pen and create their own golf course. For most participants, they will be playing on their own course so suggest that they play several rounds to record their best score.
If possible, ask those who can recruit a buddy to play in pairs.
Create a model golf course (or download one from the Resources tab) and upload it to your group to print and play. Challenge participants to play the course and congratulate the person who records the lowest number of strokes.
Use a (free) screen mirroring software (such as Whiteboardfox) to permit individuals to create their own golf course. Divide into small breakout rooms of 2 or 3 people and challenge others to play your course. Define one continuous, non-stop line as one stroke (invite eyes closed if necessary.)
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Useful Framing Ideas
Some of the most expensive and beautiful golf courses in the world are often designed by big-name, champion golfers. Names like Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and so on. Today, you get to add your name to these greats…
Have you ever considered playing golf inside? Let me show you…
It is often said that vegetables you grow yourself taste better than those available at your supermarket. The same can be said of golf courses…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun ‘pen & paper’ game:
Do you like competitive games? Why, or why not?
When you heard that creativity was involved, what did you tell yourself?
How did your partners react to the design of your course?
After playing on your course, what would you design differently next time?
Can you think of a time in the past, if given the opportunity, you would have done something differently?
The inspiration for Paper Golf, and many more fun, passive games, was sourced from the following publication: