I am a terrible golfer. Granted, I’ve only ever been golfing one time and gave up halfway through, but rest assured, I was awful. Then mini-golf entered my life—a game that is fun, easy, and stress-free for the whole family. Its combination of fantastical contraptions and the indisputable athletic mettle that it requires is the perfect remedy for living through the coronavirus pandemic. There’s only one problem—how do you enjoy the wonders of mini-golf while remaining safely indoors?
Let me introduce you to Holey Moley, ABC’s mini-golf reality sports competition television show. My family and I have been watching this show all summer, and it has been my most reliable source of fascinating, albeit wacky, entertainment. The show recently finished airing its second season, dubbed Holey Moley II: The Sequel, and is essentially Wipeout meets American Ninja Warrior meets your basic mini-golf course. Holey Moley is truly one of the most absurd feats of television I’ve ever seen, and it is exactly the kind of weird that the world needs right now.
Holey Moley’s gameplay is rather simple, but that doesn’t stop the show from being absolutely insane. In each episode, eight contestants—all self-proclaimed mini-golf pros—are paired off and compete on the mini-golf obstacle course before them. That pool of eight is eliminated over time until two contestants remain to play for the final hole of the episode. The winner of each episode then receives “The Golden Putter” trophy, a “Holey Moley” green plaid jacket, and a spot in the season finale, where they’ll compete for a chance to win $250,000.
Stephen Curry, executive producer and resident golf pro, has made appearances across both seasons, assisting contestants out on the course and occasionally appearing as an animated cartoon character. Actor Rob Riggle and ESPN sportscaster Joe Tessitore serve as the commentating host duo, with Tessitore often attempting to stay on track while Riggle provides his comedic takes on the mini-golf action. The most wonderful thing about their narration is that Riggle and Tessitore are hosting a ridiculous competition with the utmost sincerity and respect for the game. They know it’s absurd, but they are fully committed to the bit.
A staple of the show is, of course, the supersized, themed mini-golf holes and the obstacles on the course. The second season had 18 holes, each one more outrageous than the last. At “Dragon’s Breath,” contestants wear fireproof armor while they try to putt the ball under a drawbridge. As they try to sink one in, they are literally set on fire by the fire-breathing “dragons.” It’s quite a spectacle: grown adults in knight-like armor, on fire, playing mini-golf.
Another beloved hole is modeled and named after the planet Uranus. Contestants must putt their ball around the ring of “Uranus” to the green on the other side. This inevitably leads to quips from Riggle like, “I’ve never seen this much pressure around Uranus,” and, “Did it get stuck in Uranus?” Through the tears of frankly childish laughter, you could be forgiven for forgetting that you are watching a show about mini-golf.
The chaos doesn’t stop there. Contestants zipline across pools of water to a totem pole, run through windmills over water, and cling onto giant rotating hot dogs just to achieve victory. And better yet, the contestants are as colorful and quirky as the courses. One episode from the second season, “It’s Apple Sauce Time!”, was named for James Aguilar, a contestant with a particular fondness for applesauce. To celebrate, Aguilar gets a gallon of it dumped on him at the end of a winning putt.
The show isn’t absent of celebrity appearances either. In a special romance-themed episode, host of The Bachelor Chris Harrison adds to the lovely commentary as single contestants compete for a date at one of the holes. Actor Jon Lovitz dresses up as a pirate for the hole “Putt the Plank.” The accomplished Olympic gold medalist diver Greg Louganis is a judge for the “Diving Range,” where contestants, who are not professional divers in the slightest, jump off a diving board doing a “dive” of their choice for a score to advance. This frankly bizarre collection of celebrities would seem out of place in any other show, but on Holey Moley, it just adds to the fun.
Holey Moley is truly the most otherworldly form of entertainment I have ever consumed. But maybe that’s the exact reason why Holey Moley is the perfect show for right now. Sports fans across the nation have been overjoyed as baseball and basketball have returned to our screens during these confusing and uncertain times. But while everyone else was suffering from a severe sports-drought, I was doing just fine. I’ve been getting my sports fix since my dad stumbled across the show in May.
However untraditional it may be, Holey Moley has been a way to bring sports back into my life and my family. Every week, the four of us sit down to watch this ridiculous show, and it has been a fantastic, and very unique, way to relieve stress. When the TV is normally on, it’s the local news reminding us that COVID-19 cases have gone up in our city, yet again, and for the fifth day in a row. But every so often, for just 40 minutes, the four of us can sit down on the couch and pretend that the most important thing in our lives is whether or not Mei Brennan, the young golfer from Salt Lake City, will get the hole in one on “Uranus” (spoiler alert: she did).
This past summer, it’s been very difficult to enjoy myself and my time with my family. The uncertainty of the fall semester, the finance troubles an ongoing pandemic brings, the health of the people I care for, and the complete uprooting of my very new life at college were all enough to keep me feeling so overwhelmed that I felt a little numb. When everything feels so difficult and more unsettling than it ever has been, just the simple act of letting yourself have fun for a bit can feel impossible. It was a struggle for me this summer and, honestly, continues to be.
As ludicrous as it sounds, Holey Moley, a show about mini-golf, helped bring something really positive into my life. I got to connect with my family in a way that I was unable to while away at school. I was able to indulge in the wacky wonderland of a mini-golf competition, finding the silly in all this serious, and good absurdity in a time where headlines seem outrageous in the worst ways possible. It’s hard to find things that are fun and take your mind off the stresses of the world around you. Laughing at and with Holey Moley achieved that for me.
I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to actually go mini-golfing. I don’t even remember the last time I did. But I know the last time I watched Holey Moley with my family and got to tune life out for a little while. It was last week: we watched an old recorded episode, laughed, and cheered, for just under an hour. I find a bit of solace in the fact that something so funny and brilliantly ridiculous can exist in a time that’s been marked by such darkness. And I find a bit of happiness in knowing that when everything seems like just a little too much, I can sit down with people I care about and watch a mini-golf reality sports competition show—fun, easy, and stress-free.