Here's how things go when I play the most addictive game so far of 2009, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10.
My ball is teed up. The game shows me a flyover of the rolling fairway and greens. I can see the hungry sand bunkers, the overhanging trees that want to grab my ball, and the thirsty ponds. I see how hard the wind is blowing, and in which direction. The wind can really screw the pooch.
My heart races in the tee box. I pull back my Xbox 360 thumbstick (that's my backswing), then push the thumbstick forward (the swing). If I don't pull off this swing exactly right, I'll end up in the sand, the trees, the rough, the water - somewhere not good.
This exercise of nerves and prowess occurs in every shot - the hard drive, the loopy iron, the wedge save, the killer putt.
Sometimes, when I go through this emotionally fulfilling yet wrenching process, I forget to breathe, and just after I strike the ball, I realize I need to gulp in air or spew out air.
This is what the best video games are all about: adrenaline and precision.
No, this game is just so good, so near perfect, it sucks me in. I have found myself, at 4 a.m., forcing myself to stop golfing so I can get four hours of sleep. In bed, I think of how I'll golf the next night.
I should mention PGA Tour 10 ditches previous problems with the putting system in 2008's Tiger 09. The putting now is back to awesomeness.
You can play as Tiger or other pro golfers. That's fine. But it's way more fun to start a character from scratch, dress him or her up however you like, then start your career in the PGA as a journeyman.
After a few rounds of good golfing, you can then buy supernatural attributes - or boost those supernatural abilities through practice shots - to make your golfer drive farther, pitch more accurately, and putt like a master.
You can play online tournaments daily and weekly, although you better be stellar. In my last online 18-hole game, I shot a dismal 14 under par, and came in a lousy 249th place for the day, way behind Hebbsy69, who shot a 25 under par.
But you don't have to be a great gamer or golfer to enjoy PGA Tour 10. You just have to be ready for the rush, the joy, the disappointment, the excitement, the anger, the anticipation; just like golf in real life, but better.