For this blog post, I will be discussing the game of golf. Golf is a sport that involves using various clubs to hit the ball into a course of holes in as few strokes as possible.
The key aesthetic, as well as the primary source of fun and enjoyment for me personally, of golf is certainly challenge—game as obstacle course. This is created by way of several different mechanics. First and foremost, we acknowledge the concept of a course. Different courses mean different experiences, of various sizes and with various types of terrains and obstacles that are also often times influenced by the location of the course (for instance, a course by Half Moon Bay might have beautiful oceanfront holes, and a course in a more hilly area might have fairways with significant slopes). This mechanic by nature lends way to dynamics of feeling newness and freshness, along with creating varying levels of difficulty. Players are able to “apply” their skills in many different “contexts,” and each new context is a new challenge.
Even within a course, the mechanic of the hole evokes a similar dynamic of newness and diversity, as each hole is differentiated by its layout, length, terrain, and obstacles. Different terrains—fairways, roughs, putting greens, etc.—require different clubs. The player needs to employ different types of clubs to tackle different types of terrains. This means that players not only need to master an array of clubs and skills in order to be able to play the game in a “complete” sense, but the game dynamics also encourage strategy. The player needs to strategically choose clubs to play at different moments of the hole based on the terrain they are on, what is remaining of the hole, and the distance they can reach with each club. The latter also stresses the importance of precision, as a good player must be consistent.
Lastly, obstacles are yet another mechanic again that directly create challenge, and they help golf satisfy the definition of the “game as obstacle course” aesthetic quite literally. Some of the most exciting and challenging obstacles are physical hazards, including water and sand traps. These hazards require the player to play well—the player needs to play shots that avoid the hazards, and if the player does end up landing their ball inside a hazard, it is another challenge in itself to get out of the hazard.
These are just some of the mechanics of golf; others include the type of play (generally, stroke play), scoring (and the concepts of par), the concept of a handicap, etc. Overall, golf is a game of challenge, and it is oriented around courses, which are in turn defined by different holes, terrains, and obstacles and challenge players to truly master their ability to hit clubs. It is as if golf players work on developing a “toolkit” of skills, and each time they go play on the course, they are challenged to “apply” their toolkit of skills at an obstacle course. Golf is often labeled as a “lifetime sport”—these courses create an entirely new experience each time you play (even when playing the same course), and the difficulty of the course created by varying terrains and obstacles motivate the player to keep playing and improving.