Among our crosswords and other puzzles, we’ll be featuring logic challenges from Puzzle Communication Nikoli, a cult-favorite puzzle publication from Japan. A PDF of the puzzle, as well as the solution, can be downloaded below.

You wouldn’t know it from looking at their rule books, but sports are fundamentally simple. Baseball: throw, hit, run. Basketball: bounce, pass, shoot. Soccer: score, but no hands. And then there’s golf: swing until ball goes in hole. But rethinking those basic forms into, say, a puzzle? Not so simple.

The puzzle maker who goes by the handle Alkaline Factory, often sees inspiration in sport; he was the creator of Slalom, based on the skiing event and featured here not long ago. One of the newest puzzles to go from user creation to mainstay in Puzzle Communication Nikoli, Japan’s hugely influential puzzle publication, followed a similar course. Well, not a downhill course. A golf course.

Enter Herugolf, a typically grid- and number-based Nikoli puzzle, but one that manages to capture significant features and subtlties of the game of golf. It involves balls and holes, but also out-of-bounds, water hazards, and a general feature of golf: that, more often than not, each shot is shorter than the one before it. It works so well that some of the puzzle grids even begin to resemble golf courses, and occasionally one can even “chip in” a shot.

The puzzle was originally named Pro Golfer Maru (with maru meaning “circle”), an allusion to a creation of famous Japanese cartoonist Fujiko A. Fujio: Pro Golfer Saru (with saru meaning “monkey”). But when the puzzle gained popularity and was considered for promotion as a regular Nikoli puzzle, it needed a new, original name. Like some other puzzles, a pun presented itself: Heru means “decreasing” in Japanese, but, according to Nikoli president and puzzle creator Yoshinao Anpuku, it is also how a native Japanese speaker might pronounce “hell.” We don’t find it quite so scary, but sometimes it is a challenge!

Herugolf plays like a simplified, miniaturized version of the sport. Your goal is to sink each ball to complete a round.

  1. Each circle is a golf ball and each “H” is a hole. Your goal is to “hit” each ball one or more times so that it reaches a hole.
  2. Each hit or “stroke” is represented by an arrow, with the tip in the cell where it stops. Arrows cannot cross cells that contain other balls, holes, or arrows.
  3. The first stroke of each ball must cross as many cells as the number in the ball, vertically or horizontally. Each successive stroke must be one cell shorter, and may change direction.
  4. A ball cannot leave the grid, or it will be considered out of bounds. A ball cannot stop in a gray area, which represents a water hazard.
  5. When the ball reaches a hole, it has been sunk and stops there. All balls must reach holes to complete the round.

Stumped? Download the solutions!