Frenzy on the freeway, it’s a good Mario game spoiled

Mario Golf (1999)

There’s only one thing that golf fanatics like me are after, of course, and that’s the coveted green jacket you get for winning the Masters. So listen up, prole, here’s how you do it.

Right, first hole, par 4, the green is 350 yards away which is a few football pitches, and you’re not sure you could even walk that distance unassisted.

But no matter because you’ve got your caddy alongside you, who will helpfully double as a chauffeur to bring you around on one of those nifty golf carts. Your first job is to drive the ball as much as possible, which of course means using your driver. You might at this point attempt to grab your caddy by the ankles, walk him towards the first tee, wheelbarrow style, and use him as a club to strike the ball with. After all, he’s your driver, right?

Let me spare you the embarrassment; actually, the driver is the meatiest looking club in your bag, the one that’d do the most damage to any intruders or muggers if you had to fight back. I reckon you could easily kill someone instantly with a strong enough swing of the driver – and that’s the royal you, by the way. Hit it as hard as possible, hoping for that beautiful pinging sound, but you shouldn’t be altogether surprised if you royally shank it. Go too far over the top, and your ball might fall into one of those miniature deserts they call bunkers.

You really should see these bunkers for yourself – on a full size links course, I’ve seen bunkers so big that there was oil discovered beneath them, and no sooner had a few golf balls landed there than the US sent in their best boys to “liberate” it. For now, you’ll need to get a sandwich to sort you out. No sorry, that’s sand wedge, but help yourself to a ham sandwich if you’re feeling peckish, because you’re gonna need it to get through that desert.

You know, I don’t think there’s ever been a professional golfer who didn’t look like a berk trying to whack his or her ball out of the bunker, only to see it move ten whole feet, and their only reward is a veritable sandstorm down their throat. You’re better off just picking the thing up, suffering a few penalty strokes (oo er) and going again.

You’re closer to the green now, so time to get out the iron. Yes, you’ve probably creased your nice golf clothes bending down into the rough and peering for your ball. Oh no, sorry, wrong again – irons are shorter distance clubs, you might call them sawn off golf sticks. Use these to get you the last 80 or so yards you need. Or if you’re me, use these to unleash a daisy cutter that won’t trouble any of the current leaders, but might cause nuisance to the gophers, moles and other varmint homes on the way. Where’s Bill Murray when you need him?

Or Rodney Dangerfield, for that matter, because you could do with a laugh once you finally get to the green. Again, if you’ve only played those most cerebral pursuits of mini-golf and pitch and putt, then you’ll be used to greens that might represent a nice, neatly kept little lawn. But a putting green on a full size course is like a country estate, and if you’re playing in Florida you’ll probably run into at least one alligator, for God’s sake.

With any luck, he’ll eat your ball and spare your blushes, but if not, then you’ll have to get out a putter to finish the job. These tend to be fairly unwieldy little things, overcomplicated sticks for what should really be a simple job. I find myself wishing I could use Happy Gilmore’s hockey stick putter, if only it were tournament legal. Best of luck dealing with the silenced hush and pressure, as you try to coax it in from 30-40 yards.

Miss, and you almost certainly will, and you might get the yips, which means your hands don’t work anymore. No seriously, you will completely forget how to apply the correct level of strength and accuracy, and you’ll look for all the world like a patched-up scarecrow in a poncy jumper, trying to whack a tiny ball, your new worst enemy, into an increasingly smaller hole. It will erode your soul faster than your handicap, and guess what, you get to repeat this entire process 17 more times, with new challenges, new hazards, and presumably new alligators along the way.

You now know why they call golf a good walk spoiled. It can spoil anything, can golf, which is why I might draft a letter of complain to whoever the supreme golf authority is. The Queen, maybe? Do they let women play, nowadays? It’ll be strongly worded, I guarantee you that, and I’ll tell Her Majesty that any and all measures necessary should be taken to try and fix golf, and make it as fun as possible.

A different sort of royalty, a decorated hero of the Mushroom Kingdom, may have gotten there first. In Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64, Mario and his pals, and I suppose rivals like Wario, try to jazz up the world’s most boring sport as much as possible. There are no Blue Shells or Banana peels or anything like that here, unfortunately, but at least the Mario characters such as the wee Boos all look charming.

Strangely, and without warning, this game also features some other human characters to choose from. It’s always odd seeing other humans in a Mario game; it’s rather like seeing different species all intermingle, like what you might get on Deep Space Nine. You can also enjoy a spot of mini-golf here too, golfing through rings, golfing in the rain, basically enjoying golf in many ways that are simply not possible in real life. Nor is it possible to enjoy golf on any video game that isn’t Mario-related – you’d have to be some sort of prat to play Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

That’s a bit too close to the bone from Mario Golf though, isn’t it? A bit too real life, a few too many humans. I don’t think I’m really ready for that kind of competition yet – humans might realise I’m rubbish at golf and will psyche me out, Shooter McGavin style. You can tell I’ve only seen two golf movies, Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore, can’t you? After all, what else is there?

But I’m much more at home on the fairway against the Warios, Donkey Kongs and Yoshis of this world. At least if Mario is my doubles partner, I’d back him and his fireballs in a straight fight against that alligator. If alligator fights punctured the golfing action, similar to the fights in hockey, then that would be interesting. I’d actually watch a bit of it on telly, then. Until that day, play a bit of Mario Golf if you like, maybe even do a full 18-hole round. You’ll probably find yourself having some semblance of fun, before you inevitably realise that golf really is as wretched to play as it is to watch.

19 August 2022

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