The fact of the matter is that Holey Moley is America’s finest television program. Other shows are good, too, and this is not meant to take anything away from any of them, but the extreme mini-golf show that is now in its third season of mad science and primetime calamity is just operating at a higher level right now. It’s stupid to the point of brilliance, silly to the level of art. I do not think any show on television brings me such a consistent amount of pure, unfiltered joy. It’s just one hour every week of people getting blasted by cartoonish obstacles under the guise of a miniature golf competition. It’s upsetting that it took us this long to create something so simple and flawless. We should all think about this and feel bad.
The third season changed up a few things from the first two, including but not limited to:
- Adding new holes
- Having the hosts, Joe Tessitore and Rob Riggle, make fun of the contestants a little more, which is really fun
- Actually, those are the only real changes, because why would you tinker with such an efficient piece of machinery
Below, please find a ranking of the holes from season three, starting with the least chaotic and progressing to the most, complete with GIFs, analysis, and the unedited Wikipedia description of each hole. You may disagree with my order in places. That’s fine. Reasonable minds can differ on this. The important thing is that I had an excuse, as part of my real job, to make a slew of GIFs of people getting mangled by goofy obstacles. I do not take any of this for granted.
Here we go.
14. The Fishing Hole
Wikipedia Description: “Similar to Putter Ducky, in which contestants must putt past three oversized fish that swing from side to side. Afterwards, the players themselves must avoid the fish while being showered by a water cannon. If a player gets knocked into the water (by a fish), they receive a one-stroke penalty.”
Analysis: It says a lot about this show that the hole where three monstrous fish sway back and forth and wallop people into a pool comes in last on my list. And yet, here we are. Things only get weirder from here.
13. Agony of Defeat
Wikipedia Description: “Contestants must “ski jump” into the water; the player with the longest jump gets the better ball placement. The hole name is presumably a reference to the ‘agony of defeat’ clip of ski jumper Vinko Bogataj from the introduction to ABC’s long-running Wide World of Sports series.”
Analysis: This one is actually kind of disappointing. There’s no element of danger or menace or whimsy. They just launch into the water. All of which are, I know, silly complaints to make about a mini-golf show where any of this happens. But I have standards now. Expectations. There was a hole last season where contestants did a high-dive judged by Greg Louganis, a man in a gopher costume, and an increasingly unhinged Steve Guttenberg. We can do better than this.
12. Donut Hole
Wikipedia Description: “Contestants hit their ball down a ramp covered in ‘sprinkles,’ which act as walls that guide the ball down to the green. They must then jump through three swinging donuts to reach the green; if players fall into a multicolored ‘sprinkle’ foam square pit below, they incur a stroke penalty. This, Corn Hole, and The Pecker are the only holes in which the players do not get wet if they fail.”
Analysis: Do me a favor: Show this GIF to someone without telling them what it’s from. See if they can guess what else happens on the show. I sure bet they can’t!
11. The Pecker
Wikipedia Description: “Players must putt the ball down a strip of wood to the green, and a channel on the side of the wood strip gives a chance for a hole-in-one. They must then jump onto a bobbing woodpecker head and grab a red feather atop it; if they fail, it is a stroke penalty. This, Donut Hole, and Corn Hole are the only holes in which the players do not get wet if they fail.”
Analysis: This hole continues the show’s long and storied history of childish wordplay. There have also been holes named Uranus and Hole Number Two, and Tessitore and Riggle didn’t miss any opportunity to remind the viewers that those phrases have more than one meaning. I’m very proud of everyone involved here.
Wikipedia Description: “Similar to Uranus, players putt their ball up the launch ramp of a pinball machine. Once at the top, the ball falls into one of five channels that are themed after prior holes: Uranus, Dutch Courage (Windmill), Putt Bunyan, Putter Ducky, and The Tomb of Nefer-Tee-Tee; it is currently unknown what happens if the ball fails to reach any one of the five channels. The ball then ends on the green. After putting, each player must cross over a pool by jumping between two pinball flippers that rise up and down. Failing to do so incurs a stroke penalty.”
Analysis: I like that this hole kind of folds the universe of the show in half, with references to previous seasons and all of it. Mostly, though, I like that maybe one or two contestants have completed the hole without wiping the hell out. Those flippers are demonic. I adore them.
9. Corn Hole
Wikipedia Description: “Similar to Hole Number Two, in which players must putt the ball down a huge piece of corn, and then walking through the same piece of corn. The giant kernels on the corn pop after 3 seconds, and if they get popped off the course into a pool full of foam squares that are designed to resemble popcorn kernels, they receive a one-stroke penalty. The hole itself rests on a slope that is themed to look like a cornhole board. This, Donut Hole, and The Pecker are the only holes in which players do not get wet if they fail.”
Analysis: There is nothing wrong with any of this. America is a great and strong nation.
8. King Parthur’s Court
Wikipedia Description: “Contestants putt down a channel and over a ramp across the water to a sword, banking their balls off to the hole. After putting, each player mounts on a mechanical horse and jousts with Sir Puttsalot, who tries to knock them off the horse into the water below. If they fall, players incur a stroke penalty.”
Analysis: The thing I enjoy here is that zero percent of the falls are graceful or violent. People just get, like, nudged gently with a big foam lance and then they wobble off their fake horse into the water. It makes me laugh every time. I feel okay about it.
7. Turfing USA
Wikipedia Description: “Players must putt the ball up and through a wave that runs alongside a pool and onto the green on the other side, guided onto the green by a small wall. After that, they must stand on a mechanically-driven surfboard in the same pool they putt past and ride it to the other side, standing up to both the sudden jerky movement of the board and water cannons. If they fall in, they incur a stroke penalty.”
Analysis: The funniest part of this hole is that maybe 40-50 percent of the contestants don’t even get to the jets. They just fall right off the board immediately because they fail to judge the abrupt speed burst at the beginning when the board starts moving. It’s honestly delightful. And it’s even better when the thing in the GIF above happens, where they just barely recover in time to get blasted with a water cannon and sent flying. It makes me giggle a lot. I have a law degree.
6. The Distractor
Wikipedia Description: “Contestants must try to sink a 12-foot putt with a distraction.”
Analysis: So there’s no physical element to this hole, which is disappointing, but there’s a degree of anarchy here that tickles me. There could be anything behind that wall when it spins around. One day, maybe in season four, I want it to spin around and reveal, like, George Clooney and Helen Mirren whipping pies at each other’s faces. Try to make a putt with that going on, buddy.
5. Holey Matrimony
Wikipedia Description: “Each player puts down the aisle to the green-themed like a dance floor, complete with a disco ball in the center of a checkerboard pattern. After that, players run along a quickly moving treadmill “aisle” towards a spinning ring and cake over a pool. They must jump from the treadmill onto the ring and cake to reach the green. Falling into the water incurs a stroke penalty. To add to the theming, each player dresses up in a suit or a dress depending on gender; if two men are playing, both are dressed in suits, and if two women are playing, the women have a choice of a white suit or a dress.”
Analysis: I have no notes here. Just perfect in theory and execution. Congratulations all around.
4. Hole Number Two
Wikipedia Description: “Players must putt along a narrow ridge with muddy water on one side and a row of porta-potties on the other, before attempting a 2.5-second sprint across the ridge before the porta-potty doors open and knock them into the mud. If they fall into the mud, they receive a one-stroke penalty.”
Analysis: This hole has been around since the show began and has barely changed at all over the years. And why should it? There’s already no wasted energy or motion anywhere. People run past a row of portable toilets and then a collection of people dressed like monsters whip the doors open and send them flying into a pool of brown water. You tell me how any of that can be improved. And don’t say, “Have the contestants ride tricycles,” because I already thought of that one and realized how much effort would be wasted fishing the tiny bikes out of that murky pool. We don’t have that kind of time.
Wikipedia Description: “Both contestants race each other across the ribs of a dinosaur while over a tar (mud) pit; the ribs do not reach the end of the tar pit, so at one point all players will have to jump into the mud. The first player to reach and touch the bone finish line gets the better ball placement. After cleaning themselves off-camera, players putt up a ramp themed like a dinosaur spine and down a channel to the green; there is a small ridge that players must also try to navigate around for better putting positions off the ramp.”
Analysis: The thing that launches this hole into the top-three is the guaranteed failure rate. There’s no way to do this without getting a mud bath. Look at the distance between the last dino-bone and the wall at the end. You are 100 percent ending this hole dirty and wet, even if you do everything right. I appreciate whoever came up with this. I have this image in my head of them cackling like a supervillain over their blueprints as they make the distance at the end further and further. It’s diabolical.
2. Ho Ho Hole
Wikipedia Description: “A rethemed Christmas version of Polcano, with the totem pole replaced by a candy cane “North Pole”. The hole also has an added challenge of putting through fake snow, which hinders the ball from moving as quickly.”
Analysis: It brings me more joy than you can possibly imagine that they just straight-up took the Polcano hole from season two, painted the pole like a candy cane and added a sled, and made the whole endeavor Christmas-themed even though the show airs in the summer. It’s right on that line between lazy and genius, which is where I try to remain whenever possible. Good for them.
1. Double Dutch Courage En Fuego
Wikipedia Description: “Similar to Double Dutch Courage, in which contestants must hit through two large windmills that exhale flames (the flames do not impact the hole, though they do emit smoke which makes it harder to see the blades of the windmills). The large windmills have five large, quickly rotating blades that can knock the player off the putting surface and cause stroke penalties. The hole lies past the second large windmill, on a slope.”
Analysis: A few notes:
- It is adorable that this Wiki description attempts to justify the fire in any way, as though it wasn’t clear from Day One that the whole reason the fire was added was “because we had some money left over and wanted to have fire somewhere”
- I would watch a 20-minute compilation of people getting smacked completely out of frame by these windmill blades, and I get for-real disappointed — like, my entire body deflates a little — when someone makes it through successfully
- The lady in this GIF got wrecked by the second windmill, too, and I’ll post it at the bottom as a thank you for scrolling all the way through this list
What a beautiful television show. I hope it runs for 20 seasons and gets a celebrity edition. I want to see the Real Housewives try to run through these windmills. I do not ask for much.