It started with a refrigerator.
That's really the best way I can lead this off. I feel like, as far as "things that make me laugh" goes, one way to get me chuckling is to just have a very large number of something that you're not generally supposed to have a lot of. A pile of identical cars. A closet full of glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs. Several hundred copies of Bee Movie. Or perhaps, as one eBay seller once listed, a refrigerator full of cartridges of Jurassic Park for the Super NES. I think that was what stuck at the back of my mind before I started collecting golf sims.
I've always been at least slightly interested in digitized golf; many days of my childhood were spent watching my dad play Links 386 Pro after he got home from work. "It's in the rough." "That's on the beach." "Was that a tree?" Admittedly, when the time came to play the game myself, I was quite awful at it. I didn't mind. Most of the fun of playing Links, to me, was watching our underpowered 386 slowly draw the golf course every time the ball went someplace new. Back to front, every slope, every incline, slowly extruding towards the camera until it resembled a real location. I was a strange kid, back then; I'd waste so much of my computer time watching Fractint render another Mandelbrot set. I'm amazed I didn't get more into math, rather than it being borderline traumatizing to me. But I digress.
Apart from occasionally trying out demos of games like Front Page Sports: Golf and Links LS whenever a magazine cover disc happened to include them, I didn't really pursue an interest in golf games through most of my gaming career. The few opportunities I got to try out real golf (whether at makeshift driving ranges or the miniature variety), I was quite awful at it and didn't feel it worth practicing. So it kind of went by the wayside until the mid-2010s, when I was fast approaching my thirties and finally had some Spendin' Money in my pocket. Retro Game Trader informed me of a little bin they keep behind the counter, full of "free with purchase" games that they couldn't sell.
The contents of the bin were pretty dire. Game Boy Color licensed garbage (at least two Mary-Kate and Ashley games), a Garfield game for the DS, I think there was a Sudoku thing in there. But sitting alongside all of that was VR Golf '97 for the PlayStation. Granted, the jewelcase was pretty beat up, and the disc definitely needed some love, but I looked at this thing and thought, "Score." I didn't even care if it worked. It was strange - I was normally so stingy with my retro purchases. Why'd I pick this thing up? Because it cost me nothing.
The next time I found anything of note was at a Goodwill store. Stuffed into the music CDs - a common location among shelf-stockers unwilling to differentiate between Things In Jewelcases (I did once find a copy of Runaway Bride on VCD in there) - was a copy of Tiger Woods PGA Tour '99, for the PlayStation. I have no idea what triggered this memory, but I suddenly recalled reading a magazine article about a Tiger Woods game getting recalled, and I immediately whipped out my phone to look it up. Sure enough, this was the game that got recalled, and the reason for the recall was that some employee at EA Sports had been instructed to create a dummy file to fill up the disc, and instead of generating 51 MB of garbage data, said employee snipped off 51 MB worth of an episode of South Park and used that instead, naming it ZZDUMMY.DAT.
Product recalls being what they are, I figured the chances of this being one of the copies that got pulled from shelves were probably not in my favor, but Goodwill only wanted two bucks for it, so I shrugged and threw it in my shopping basket, alongside what I'm sure were a few random packs of cards and a Nerf gun or two. (My tastes are not sophisticated, but they are also not expensive.) Tiger was the first thing I pulled out of my bag and checked, as soon as I got home. I threw that disc into my computer's disc drive, opened an Explorer window and a copy of VLC Media Player, and dragged the suspiciously large dummy file from the former to the latter.
I was greeted by images of construction paper children, and Jesus, and Santa. This was absolutely South Park. I don't even like South Park, and I was still sitting there celebrating this thing on my screen. I think on a random lark, I did go see what copies of this game were selling for on eBay, but in 2014 or so it would have been something like $25 for one confirmed to have the dummy file on the disc. I didn't care. What was $23 to me? A couple of value meals. Having this thing on my shelf was cooler.
When this nonsense truly began, though, was in 2017 at Portland Retro Game Expo. I have no idea what possessed me to do it - outside of my habit of counting the copies of Top Gun for NES at every vendor booth - but I just kept buying the cheap golf games every time I'd see one. I bought golf games for consoles I didn't even own at the time (like Super Famicom). I accepted copies of golf games that their sellers just couldn't give away. (One booth, I recall, had something around 6 or 7 copies of Golf for NES. I took one.)
Taking a photograph of my haul that night was when I realized, damn, I somehow accumulated a lot of golf games. It'd be a pain to sort these all into their respective console libraries, I'd told myself, and then that damned Jurassic Park fridge came back into my mind. Yeah, it would be pretty funny to have all these nicely organized libraries, and then a shelf is just nothing but golf. I don't even really like real golf all that much, and here I am dedicating an entire shelf to it.
Now, by 2023, I've got just shy of 100 golf games. The collection got big enough that a single shelf was not enough to hold all of them. I'm on the cusp of introducing even a third shelf, and displacing all of the books and knick-knacks from it to make room for my fourth copy of Pebble Beach Golf Links (because the Super Famicom, Sega Genesis, and 3DO versions don't have Craig "The Walrus" Stadler in them, and I'll never get to Study His Shot otherwise).
Either way - here's to a hundred golf games more, and a suitably absurd way to display them all. -ww
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