Desert Golfing is stripped back. Desert Golfing is rudimentary. It is also the most realistic golf game ever played. I’ve been playing golf games since PGA Tour on the Commodore Amiga and not once have I had a virtual experience that comes this close to replicating the glorious madness that is a full round of golf.
We’ve written about Desert Golfing before, but here’s a short primer. Desert Golfing is about as fundamentally basic as a video game can be. It is a simple mechanic repeated ad infinitum. Literally it goes on forever. A normal regulation round of golf is made up of 18 holes. Desert Golf doesn’t have those same limits. It does not stop. I actually don’t know if it will ever stop. I’m currently on the 74th hole. I have a friend on Twitter who has played over 1000. That friend retweeted a pic of someone playing the 3001st hole. Desert Golfing might never end.
But Desert Golfing’s true hook is its commitment to consequence. With a golf game — or any game for that matter — one expects a chance to replay. As players we are used to the idea of the ‘do-over’, the chance to improve our score, to erase past mistakes. Some would say that is the appeal of games. In video games there is nothing to regret. Only checkpoints. In video games there is no problem a past save file can’t fix.
Desert Golfing has consequences. There are no do-overs. In Desert Golfing you screw up and you carry the burdens of those screw ups till the minute you stop playing.
I’m on the 74th hole. It took me 208 shots to get to this point. At no point will I be able to take a single shot back. No matter how far I go. No matter how long I play, those 208 shots will be a part of me.
But back to real golf.
When I was a teenager I played a lot of golf. I was never very good at it. My brother, on the other hand, was very very good. When he was nine years old he shot a 79. If you’ve ever played golf you know how incredible that is. Most adults who play golf will never come close in their lifetime to achieving what he achieved when he was only nine years old. I always played in that shadow and I always wanted to improve because of it. I took golf seriously.
And here’s the reason why golf is the most infuriating sport known to man.
Golf is constantly giving you tiny glimpses of the player you could be. You could play like utter garbage for an entire round, but then — in one single moment of inspiration — you sink a 40 foot putt, or plant a 130 yard, 5-iron shot three feet from the hole. “If I could just do that every time,” you say to yourself, “then I could be truly great at this game.”
It’s those moments that keep you playing. If you are a golfer, those are the moments you live for. But, conversely, one incredible round of golf is always at risk of being sabotaged by one single solitary fuck up, and you must wear those consequences.
In golf you take nothing for granted. There’s many a time I’ve played brilliantly for an entire round. “I’ve finally made the breakthrough,” you say. “This is the round that will change everything.” You’re on your way to an all-time best round and then…
You hit a shanked drive into the rough.
You lose a ball in a water hazard.
You take five shots to get out of a bunker.
Any of these things could happen and all that work, those glorious two hours of golf you just played, becomes instantly meaningless. This is golf.
This, coincidentally, is also Desert Golfing.
In Desert Golfing I scored three holes in one. On the trot, one after the other. I followed this by taking 19 shots at some random hole.
At my best I feel like I can conquer the world. At my worst I want to break my iPhone in half.
But that feeling. That sublime feeling instantly countered with crushing defeat — that’s the most accurate replication of golf in a video game ever, and it simply wouldn’t work without Desert Golfing’s absolute insistence on consequence. There are no retries, there are no mulligans. These are the mistakes that you have made and you must embrace that suffering. You are weak, you are flawed. These flaws will always be a part of you.
Golf is constantly reminding you of that fact. Desert Golfing will never let you forget.