Kirby’s Dream Course

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Kirby’s Dream Course (1995)

I know you all have me down as a sporting God, given my prowess at football, cricket, hurling, curling and karting. Unfortunately, if we want to get into specifics, I’m actually an expert at football hooliganism, eating sandwiches and having drinks during the cricket breaks, threatening pensioners with hurleys, curling my lip in snobbish arrogance when I put one over the lower classes, and karting dozens of cans of beer around the supermarket before buying them for a pittance.

All well and good so far, but we haven’t gotten to the big cheese jolly boy’s club that is golf. A good walk spoiled? Maybe for regular people, but for me it becomes a whole day, week, epoch down the tubes. I have never been so angry at anything in my whole life than I have been at golf.

Taking inspiration from Happy Gilmore, and probably more than a few others like him, I was able to launch my pitchers and putters farther than I could hit the bloody ball with them. I’m told I once almost took out the groundsman with a flung sand wedge. You had to watch your heads when Burkey took to the course; I wasn’t shouting “Fore!” to warn people of beautifully struck balls, put it that way.

Actually, truth be told, I’ve never played a full round of golf on a regulation size course. Do you honestly think they’d have me? Pitch and putt and crazy golf are about my limit, and since I can’t pitch a golf ball off the ground without smacking my shins first, what makes you think I could properly use a driver? Hit the thing 350 yards? Are you mad?! Well maybe I was, because I went to a driving range once, optimistic and upbeat that I was going to succeed at this most manly endeavour.

I confidently strode to the enclosed cubicle and took one of about 900 balls from my full-to-bursting bucket. My eyes narrowed to slits and my heartbeat slowed right down as I sharply exhaled, focusing fully on the task at hand. A sudden hush enveloped the driving range, almost as if the mildewy dusk was beginning to swallow the noise around me.

All eyes were on me, and the range was at my mercy. No problem. With a commanding grip of my rented driver in one hand, I heroically placed the first lucky ball down onto the tee and adjusted my gait. Like all of the other great pros, I took some practice swings, but did I really need them?

I knew, almost from the moment I gripped the driver and even cast a momentary look at the balls I would be striking, I knew that each one I blessed with my club would run the pantheon between pace, power and placement, and in the best cases all three. Therefore I had nothing to worry about, as I finally stepped into position, arched my shoulders, pulled my rippling arms back and followed through.

In truth, I already knew what was going to happen next. But I was still fairly surprised when I smashed the ball full force, only for it to rebound off the ceiling and brain damage three or four players alongside me.

I just had to thank God that, while the other players who escaped injury may have heard me seemingly hit a ball three times in one stroke, they couldn’t actually see what I’d done and they hopefully didn’t notice that I’d just smashed four light bulbs either.

The next ball I hit did thankfully cross the threshold, but only just; I hammered the damn thing with all my might (which is considerable, please believe me), expecting to hear that wonderful dull ‘thunk’ sound that true golfers live for, the one that tells you that you haven’t just shanked the thing in front of everybody and made yourself look a right pilchard.

Shanked it I did, and a pilchard I looked, as Ball #2 sorted of miserably dribbled over the edge. Not destined to hit any of the targets hundreds of yards away and certainly not set to trouble the sleep of any budding pros alongside me. I need hardly tell you that Ball #3, #4, #5, #6 and #8 suffered the same fate – I accidentally dropped #7 off the edge before I could hit it, managing to make it go a yard further than my previous efforts.

For just that fleeting few seconds before I started though, I thought that this would finally be the turning point where I could pick up a golf club and hit a ball without either it going haywire, my temper going haywire, or my playing partner going haywire. Alas, it’s like the Talking Heads song – same as it ever was.

When my massive bucket ran out of balls, I was unique among the rest of the players in that I was relieved, lucky to have gotten out of there with my life and at least most of my brains left intact. As for the other players, now left dead or dying in various contorted states, I can only say that they knew the risks when I took the driver in my hand and they came within 100 metres of me. Golf is a dangerous game, didn’t you know? I could only go home defeated and deflated once again, knowing that the gentlemanly game was forever going to elude me.

But my silly knack for optimism was once again renewed when I heard of Kirby’s Dream Course, a Kirby golf game for the Super Nintendo due and to be re-released for the SNES Classic, featuring the little pink blob himself as your golf ball. And no visible golf clubs to throw into the skies either! In my language, golf means face-smashingly difficult – but Kirby means easy, so surely I could get to grips with this one. Surely I could plough on through this game and end up with a scorecard that wouldn’t resemble basketball scores. How hard could it really be?

Need I even ask? Of course I found this game about as easy to deal with as wearing those silly golf jumpers. At least when I get onto the pitch and putt course or play crazy golf against the missus, maybe one out of every twenty strokes of mine is a peach – it’s those rare, fleeting diamonds in the rough (little golf pun for you there) that root the golfing addiction in your head and keep you coming back for more, just to see can you recapture that magic more consistently.

But I can’t say I ever once felt in control of Kirby’s Dream Course, nor did I consistently know what to do. More to the point however, I know I’m not alone in this. This is not a well made game. It has a steep difficulty curve, which is fine, but just when you think you have it sussed, the rules change and suddenly you’re left looking foolish.

The best is when you run out of strokes, which happens depressingly quickly, and then Kirby gets tired and calls it a day. It’s Game Over, you have wasted your time and money, and you will never be seen on this particular course again. Which, come to think of it, probably makes it the most realistic golfing simulator of all time, at least as far as I’m concerned.

But have you stopped to consider that sitting down and playing golf on your Super Nintendo is a bit, shall we say, depressing? A work colleague once told me of their college days spent playing 8-player Tiger Woods PGA for PlayStation 2 with seven pals, who may or may not have been wearing golf jumpers. They’d sit and wait patiently for their turn to take the controller and hit the ball, and I’m not saying whether they did or didn’t practice their golf swings in between turns.

Just the image of this made me take up a hard drug habit that very night, so that I could redress the equilibrium and bring some fun back to my life. Look, the Golf game on Wii Sports ensured that you will never have to touch another golf game ever again, unless a fantastic motion-controlled sequel should emerge for the Switch.

Until then, I think I’d genuinely have more fun going out there slicing balls and throwing my golf sticks at low-flying seagulls than I would playing some stuffy golf game catered for “enthusiasts”, let alone a spiteful, short-lived dash of colour with Kirby bolted onto the front. But the SNES cartridge represents a bigger target than a golf ball. If I whacked this thing with a Callaway driver, surely even I would be able to get it further than three feet?

03 April 2018

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