A good gaming session spoiled

Golf (1986)

Obviously, since I’m as near to 30 years old as makes no difference, the chances of me becoming any kind of pro sportsman these days are a bit remote, to say the least. That doesn’t mean I can’t drift off into some kind of fantasy world on occasion however, like we all do.

I’m talking about the kind of fantasy where I ask myself those kinds of questions that lead on into a fun, artificially constructed second life until somebody, usually the missus, notices that I’m starting off into space. I’ll be sat there, drooling and everything, all absentminded, and she’ll ask me what’s wrong. I’ll tell you what’s wrong shall I, I was just crowned Super Lazarus Sportsman Personality of the Year and you’ve put me right off my internal acceptance speech.

The question to myself then, trying to get to sleep at night – if I somehow had the luxury of choice, a genie’s blessing of all the physical and mental attributes necessary to make it big, and presuming I wasn’t suffering from the usual type of knee-knack that comes free with your 30th birthday cake, which professional sport would be the easiest to crack?

Of course, football tends to be the first one on everybody’s lips, or soccer for you brutes out there. But you must remember that it’s surely the most competitive sport in the world. After all, it’s the most widely played. That alone would certainly make it tough to even get noticed, let alone get paid in phone numbers every week while managing to stay on the rails, just about.

I suppose if you’re banging in 10 goals every game for Raggy Arse Rovers, you’ll eventually get spotted and elevated to greatness, but you must keep in mind that one sudden injury from a mental, vicious opponent could end it all. It’s that that point that you realise that you have no education, no physical ability anymore, and you’ve gambled a load of your cash away through boredom between training sessions and matches.

On top of that your shrieking WAG of a wife has left you, as you’re now poor and thus no longer desirable, but not before she’s written a tell-all story and sold it to the glossy mags, finishing you in all the right places. Finally, the majority of your assets, tied up in property, have all gone belly up. You’ll have to end up like Pele, volleying balls of tin foil into the hospital pedal bins at age 70 and still claiming them as career goals, in between advertising Viagra. Surely you’re better than that, right?

My own sport of choice is Grand Prix racing, and yes it is a sport, just like chess. But even I’ll recognise the uncomfortable fact that, even if I was some sort of Anglo-Teutonic hybrid of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, with Carlos Sainz’s hair and Francois Cevert’s eyes thrown in… well, I’d still probably cut it as a male model elsewhere.

But the enormous barrier to entry in motorsport is cost, and I’d have to spend a hell of a lot to even get noticed in karts. As you no doubt know by now, I’m notoriously tight and simply hate to spend money – I prefer my girlfriend does it instead. So I really can’t see how I’d make a name for myself on four wheels, or even two wheels.

Plus, you can take the injury concerns I outlined for football and apply them even more seriously to F1 or Moto GP or rally driving, where injuries can range from a tired bum to full decapitation, immolation or brainmelt. So that avenue is definitely out, and the Ferrari shareholders can sleep a little more soundly at night.

No, the more I think of it, the more I’m leaning towards golf. Now I absolutely stink at pitch and putt, and I must confess I’ve never even played a full round of golf. But my genie benefactor don’t know that, does he? And consider this – you can play golf to a good old age, which means that even if you’re winning tours in your fifties, you won’t arouse much suspicion. After all, if you elected to have the genie turn you into a champion 100m sprinter and you’re beating all the young Jamaicans, well, it’s a bit suspect isn’t it?

Well, I’d have thought Usain Bolt not just beating but thrashing consistently dirty competitors would have also raised eyebrows among his watchers and peers. But apparently he had a daily diet of chicken nuggets which was all very funny, so everything was all OK and not suspicious at all.

In golf, you barely have to be athletic to participate. Although it’s a bit rich me saying that, considering I once visited a driving range where the grand total of my efforts was hitting forty balls about fifty yards maximum each, and my shoulders and arms felt sore for aeons after. This was despite my monthly weight sessions at the time. Still, we can work around that, can’t we?

A good walk spoiled? I say there’s no such thing, although I’d probably have my caddy, who would be 19 years old, blonde and have a body shaped like a Z, chauffeuse me around the course in one of those nifty little golf carts. When it came time to actually playing, well, I just hope she knows what a wood is.

Seriously though, if I summon enough bottle to wear one of those ghastly jumpers long enough to get onto even some small regional tournament, it won’t be long until I blow away the competition and lick enough gusset to get an invite to the pro tour.

From there, it’ll just be a matter of out-swinging the other old boys until breaking back to the clubhouse for refreshments. And if I can bag the win without getting any holes-in-one, then better again – I won’t have to buy the drinks. You see? I do know a little bit about golf etiquette.

Still, this whole golf affair may just be a flight of fancy, but it’s still my second life, my day-to-day. Therefore I have to ask myself a question – do I feel lucky? No, sorry, not that question – I need to ask myself if I want to spend the rest of my life playing golf.

Well, I suppose the money for those at the top is astronomical. You won’t be sore for days afterwards, leaving aside my driving range escapades. I could knock that Rory McIlroy fella down a peg as well, have my name put front and centre on a video game after all this time, and even drape myself in the Irish flag while doing so. But I know what I’m really doing here is consigning myself to one hell of a boring sport.

It’s why the best golf simulation game to this day is Golf on NES. Even the title is blunt and perfunctory, and with no music and a hell of a lot of nothing happening, this game really does give a representation of life on the pro tour, or so I like to believe.

You’ve got one course of 18 holes, which is as regulation as it gets. Many of the holes actually reappeared in the excellent Wii Sports variant of golf. If you’re looking for fun though, you should probably just boot up Wii Sports for the millionth time, because really, all joking aside, you wouldn’t want to be caught dead playing Golf NES.

I hate to attack this game so much, as it was one of the first games poor Iwata-san ever programmed for Nintendo. And to its credit this game, being as early to the tee as it was, originated the power meter that you gotta time correctly for each swing. So if you’re playing a modern golf game today, and you mess up the stroke and your ball ends up in the drink, you can blame Iwata for it.

Do you know, in the 600 years of golf’s history, I think that power meter is the only innovation the sport has ever received. I suppose this lack of invention makes it easy for followers to keep track of the rules in real life. But why don’t they spice the game up a little? Make all of the competitors fight over a single club, or release even more crocodiles than usual onto the greens in an attempt to speed up play, that sort of thing.

Golf in real life, just like Golf NES, is far too stuffy. Tiger Woods knows what I mean – when he was cheating on his wife for a bit, which is obviously par for the course (little golf pun for you there) for professional sportsmen, the media absolutely hammered him. Everyone was out to get him. But when footballers and backgammoners stray, you barely hear a word.

Apparently you play as Mario in Golf NES, although there’s no Princess Toadstool in this one. There is however a quasi-sequel to this game called NES Open Tournament Golf, available on your Switch, which crucially features a short-skirted Peach and Daisy on the title screen. Oh dear, I knew it – I’m in the wrong game here.

1 June 2021

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