Mini Tour Golf: Childhood memories on your iPad

If you think I missed yesterday’s blog, I accidentally posted two blogs on Wednesday. The Kitty Katcher review should have been Thursday’s blog. To make up for my mistake, I made today’s blog extra long.

Here’s the bottom line for those readers so busy they don’t have time to read. Delegate. Let your assistant read this and sum it for you. But since you don’t want him to enjoy himself on your dime here’s the bottom line on Mini Tour Golf: You can play with it, but you damn well better not catch your employees playing it, even during their bathroom breaks. You’re paying for those as well, damn it.

Mini Tour Golf

  • Is a great time waster
  • Lets you practice individual holes

To nitpick, however,

  • The reset area moves but the reset button doesn’t
  • The levels selector inexplicably freezes then thaws again
  • You can’t cheat

In addition, I explain the delicious appeal of kitsch and why kitsch remains cooler than ordinary cool even though the topic of kitsch is out of fashion; relish the joys of growing up in a family so cheap they tried to sneak the kids to church in the trunk of the car to save on the offertory, and describe in gruesome detail the second most painful event of childhood and how it relates to Mini Tour Golf.

I will spare you the most gruesome trauma of my childhood except to say it involves a bare seven-year-olds hand, the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and the motor belt and motor of an escalator.

The word kitsch is no longer kicked around with the frequency it once was, the sure sign that talking about kitsch was a passing fad even if true kitsch is immortal. And immortal it is—always there like a pink flamingo spinning its propellers in a garden filled with lilies growing from gasoline cans. People who speak of kitsch as though it were somehow tasteless and uncool miss the point of kitsch; the same way they probably watch a Jim Carey movie and announce to their friends, “That’s stupid.”

Of course it’s stupid. It’s Jim Carey.

And of course kitsch is tasteless. It’s kitsch. But it’s definitely not uncool. Kitsch is cooler than cool because it’s charm is an offense to current fashion and totally lost on the would-be cool. The real secret of kitsch is, it was just as cool in its day as current fashion is now, if only for a week or two. And current fashion will one day be as kitsch as pink flamingos, rhinestone glasses with gold lamé toreador pants and red satin pumps, boxing nuns and the Three Stooges.

The icon of kitsch, the citadel in the shining sun for seekers of kitsch, is the old miniature golf course. Not Putt Putt, that watered down cookie cutter miniature golf palace that once covered the urban landscape like kudzu. Yes, Putt Putt probably qualifies as kitsch now, but it pales in comparison to the miniature golf kingdoms made from plaster and molded concrete, letting Peter Pan and painted purple mushrooms bloom across an acre of land once considered too valueless to sell for real estate.

These magical kingdoms could feature giants with pickaxes, windmills, chipmunks that could catch your ball behind their chomping teeth, working drawbridges that could roll your ball back to the putting mat, fairies, tunnels that would send your ball onto a totally different playing field. You could play nine or eighteen holes and spend an afternoon in a wonderland that made Disneyland seem like a shameless corporate monument to mass culture.

I still remember the night my uncle Phil and I conned my grandparents and parents into taking us to the Peter Pan golf course next to Austin’s Zilker Park. It’s still there, just down the street from an ancient Tastee Freeze that refuses to close in spite of encroaching Taco Cabanas, McDonalds, Jack in the Boxes and KFC, formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken—the cholesterol saturated meals flavored with eleven secret herbs and spices (which turned out to be flour, salt and pepper).

The wonderful Tastee Freeze sticks out like a battered, purple thumb directly across Barton Springs Road from the new Long Performance Center, home of Austin Lyric Opera and every cultural pretension in the City. Carol and I have had season tickets to the opera since it opened, but nothing beats the joy of a chili dog and shake from the Tastee Freeze.

My dad hated to spend money more than anyone I knew, except my Grandad. They could pinch pennies so tightly the copper would squeeze out for them to sell as scrap and still convince shopkeepers to take the pennies. By their way of thinking, the best item on a restaurant menu was the cheapest thing on the menu, and the only thing better than the cheapest thing on the menu was eating bologna sandwiches at home. Who needs steak when you can buy hamburger? Who needs hamburger when it tastes identical to ground turkey which is half the price? Half the price again if you waited and bought the day-old meat that was only slightly off-color and wouldn’t start to smell bad for another two days? Just like the milk sold a day after its expiration date for three-quarters off and still drinkable for another three or four days.

Who needs ice cream when you can buy ice milk? Who needs color TV when the picture’s so much crisper in black and white? Why fill a tank with gas when you can add a dollar’s worth and buy more on the other side of town? And no hand-me-down was worthless when it could still be cut up and used for diapers until the current grandchild was potty trained.

So conning my parents and grandparents into Peter Pan Golf, which cost a quarter for nine holes in 1963 was quite an accomplishment. But it was the third of July and Zilker Park wouldn’t be nearly as crowded as the next day, and we could always throw a bag of bologna sandwiches and a case of store brand Cola bought on sale for six cents a can into the trunk and have a picnic.

They bought it. And we each played nine rounds of miniature golf, two on a club, each person playing every other hole with the person in the lead getting the odd last hole to bring the score closer.

And after my uncle Phil and I argued constantly over who was deliberately missing shots so we could play his hole longer and keep the other from their turn, and my sister Beth made the mistake of telling our cousin Debbie about her Beatles record, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (which she whined and cried and pleaded for for weeks until my Dad gave in so long as she promised not to tell anyone, especially her cousin Debbie) in front of my Uncle Clifford, who was the kind of Baptist who thought members of the Southern Baptist Convention like my Dad had sold out to the Antichrist Whore of Babylon Communists and Catholics—and who were suspiciously more sympathetic to rabid radicals like Martin Luther King than Jesus would want them to be.

Needless to say, Clifford was furious that Beth would expose Debbie to the heathen influence of the mop top Beatles. After all that (and the ball I drove out of the park and against the wall of the old Convention Center across the street just to prove to Phil I wasn’t too chicken to do it) my father shouted enough, collected the putters and balls and said we were not behaving like Christian children should behave.

Especially not his Christian children.

We walked back to the car with my Dad muttering things under his breath that I couldn’t hear and only now, as an adult, can imagine what they might really have been.

As he stormed across the street my Uncle told him that the Bible preaches “spare the rod and spoil the child” which immediately started an argument over scripture with my grandad, who was a circuit preacher himself. It may be good theology, my grandfather insisted, but it wasn’t in the Bible. My uncle Clifford, who knew just enough of the Bible to know we weren’t the same sort of good Christians he was, demanded that my Grandfather show him where it wasn’t in the Bible.

My father unlocked the passenger door to the car and told me to get the picnic blanket, making sure to lock it himself so that it would be locked when I closed it. Then he unlocked the trunk and nearly broke the key pulling it out of the lock. He immediately leaned in, grabbed the sandwich bag full of sandwiches out of the trunk in one hand, tucked the case of store brand sodas under his arm and slammed the trunk with his chin. All in the same motion.

“If I hear one more word out of either of you,” he said to Beth and me, “I’m going to tell your grandpa to get the switch when we get home.”

Now the switch was a carved down rose bush limb. And when I say carved, I mean, Grandfather cut the thickest branch from the bush that he could find, cut off the roses and left the thorns. He kept it above the closet door in the living room as a constant reminder of CAD (Certainly ASSured Destruction). When the “switch” was invoked all fun came to a halt because no one would dare call his bluff.

Grandfather stood there with his arms crossed, his Stetson titled over his eyes, tapping one foot. All teasing, bickering, playfulness and any other source of childish delight came to an instant halt.

Dad stormed off with the food, and I was about to follow when my Uncle Phil, who was only four years older than me, whispered, “Did you know that if you close the car door on your finger, it won’t hurt?”

I didn’t believe him for one minute, but he assured me, as Lucy perpetually assured Charlie Brown that she wouldn’t pull the football away, that when my finger was flat against the door well the door itself closed around it, not on it. It wouldn’t hurt a bit.

I argued for several moments but nothing I said could counter the force of Phil’s logic.

Finally my Dad turned around and yelled for us to get over to the picnic tables.

Phil told me this would be my last chance. If I didn’t slam the door on my finger right now, I would be a chicken for the rest of my life. And if I waited, I would get in trouble because we were already supposed to be at the picnic table.

So with my eyes squeezed shut I stuck one finger inside the door well and let Phil slam the door shut on my finger.

And it hurt. It hurt like things I can’t say in this blog because half my few readers will be so offended they will never read another entry, They would put the parental guidance locks on the site to make sure their children would never learn the words I would say to describe my pain.

I finally opened my eyes but all I could see was Peter Pan towering over me in the bright street light, and even he was mighty blurry. My uncle only said, “See, I told you it wouldn’t hurt. Only sissies feel pain when the door gets slammed on their finger.” Only he didn’t say sissies.

Needless to say, I was not about to admit that it hurt even though tears were streaming from my eyes, my jaw was clinched so tight I thought I had Tetanus and every bone, muscle and joint in my body was shaking.

Finally my dad came over to see what was keeping me this time. When he saw my finger smashed flat in the door of our 57 Oldsmobile with manual air conditioning which was powered down (that means the windows were rolled shut), he said. “What have you done now?”

I thought it was pretty obvious what I’d done now. I was standing there with my finger flattened inside the door and tears streaming down my face. But I couldn’t tell him because I was in too much pain to speak. All I could do was focus on the giant plaster Peter Pan and try to keep from passing out.

Besides, who would admit to his dad that he was dumb enough to let his uncle talk him into slamming the door on his own finger?

Finally Dad decided I’d been punished enough and reached into his pocket for the car keys. That’s when he realized he’d dropped them in the trunk when he was getting the sandwiches and soda.

The trunk which he slammed shut with his chin and which was also now locked. As, of course was the car door, which he made sure to lock personally before I closed it.

Truthfully, I don’t remember how they got the door open and my finger out of the door. I only remember that it was purple and I couldn’t bend it for days. And my dad wasn’t about to pay for an emergency room when my finger would heal well enough on its own after a few squirts of Bactine, some mercurochrome and a bandaid.

And the plaster Peter Pan? I silently shudder whenever I drive by, almost forty years later. He still looms over me in my dreams, the dreams of inadequacy when I wake up naked during the finals of a class I never attended and look out the window to see that plaster Peter Pan with his stupid grin.

And that’s why miniature golf will always hold such fond memories for me.

Which is a good thing, because today is Game Day Friday and I only have about five paragraphs of stuff to say about today’s game “Mini Tour Golf.”

Kitsch in Spades

The real appeal of Mini Tour Golf is the ability to play a number of holes with increasingly bizarre hazards to interfere with your ball. The layout of the holes is basic Putt Putt and the pars are the same, but the hazards consistently escalate. With a steady hand and a good sense of angles and speeds you can nail most holes in one or two shots. But once a shot goes wrong, your score can escalate, especially on the Beaver Tail where both my Carol and I shot in the high fifties (for that hole) our first times around.

The game itself is dirt cheap ($2) and pure fluff. It can be challenging and it actually requires some thought and strategy. Not enough to ruin the fun, but just enough to keep you interested.

Two play modes: quick and piss time away

Truthfully, this game is really suited for iPhone. It’s the kind of game you’d like to flip out of your pocket (or fancy iPhone case with belt clip and fold over lid with the satin lining that polishes the case using the motion of your legs when you’re walking) when you’re standing in line waiting for the woman ahead of you to count out every last coupon and then argue when the cashier points out they all expired in 1965.

But the HD graphics are worth the sacrifice in portability. You’ll just have to be satisfied lugging your iPad into Starbucks and hope that same woman didn’t beat you there with the coupons for lattes she printed off the web last November.

What makes Mini Tour Golf perfect is the fact that you can play each hole individually, or shoot your way through all 18 holes. This means you can kill boredom for half a minute or actually spend a couple of hours with it while you’re waiting for you plane to finally take off and you’ve been on the runway six hours already and read all the way through that book you downloaded thinking you would read it on the way and back because actual time in the air is supposed to be 45 minutes.

You can practice your weakest hole

Or in my case, the weakest six holes. Mini Tour Golf also lets you replay a hole as many times as you want, which you may want to do with the Beaver Tail on Level 13. That Beaver Tail is insidious, which may be why it’s on Level 13. If you time it just right, it’s a hole in one. One second off and its 56 above par.

The Beaver Tail is particularly unlucky for naive young golfers.

The hazards start out simple enough, but things start getting sticky on Level 4. Literally. The developers covered Level 4 with spider webs that catch your ball. The hazards increase in complexity until the final hole where you have to deal with sand traps, water hazards, fans that blow your ball off course and tunnels that may take your ball away from the hole.

Each hazard you master only
leaves you vulnerable to a more difficult challenge.

When you’re not having to dodge flying saucers, you may be forced to make a decision to go for the hole in one by putting through a windmill, or playing for par by putting around it.

Decisions, decisions. Hole in one or play for par?

The best part is, you don’t even need to keep a scorecard. If you’re playing all the way through, Mini Tour Golf keeps the score card for you, making sure to circle holes you bring in under par.

The game’s convenient score card.

I’ve only noticed a couple of wrinkles in the game.

The touch area that takes you back to the menu seems to move

As I understand the help files, should you really screw the pooch on a hole (or the beaver) you can click the “i” button in the bottom right corner of the screen to reset the hole or return to the main menu to choose a different hole.

Unfortunately the touch area seems to shift while the button icon doesn’t. You may have to tap in several approximate places to invoke the reset. I’m not the only one who noticed this, a couple of reviewers in the App Store have mentioned it too.

The Levels selector may or may not cooperate

For some reason I can’t understand, every once in a while the Levels selector simply refuses to move past Level 1. The first time this happened, I rebooted, hard rebooted, reinstalled the game, then deleted the Christmas version of Mini Tour Golf (which is a real disappointment) before deleting Mini Tour Golf a second time. Then I hard rebooted, re-reinstalled Mini Tour Golf and it still didn’t work.

Later that afternoon it was working again. It just has to be in the mood, I guess.

You can’t cheat

If you’re playing all 18 holes, the game tracks the score for you. You can’t cheat. You can’t kick a ball out of the sand trap, change a 3 to a 2 or leave a digit out of 11.

If you’ve been reading my blog you know I believe in every solitaire gamer’s constitutional right to cheat. Now the developers will say the game allows users to post their scores online using Open Feint and it wouldn’t be fair to let players cheat.

Fine, just let me cheat when I turn Open Feint off (which is always, because even if I scored a perfect 18 on Mini Tour Golf I wouldn’t want the whole world to know I spend that much time practicing).

I read Goldfinger three times. I’ve seen the movie a dozen times. If there’s one thing I learned from 007, cheating at golf is good for God and country.

Think about that.

Jenny Manytoes rates Many Tour Goif

Jenny Manytoes makes biscuits over Mini Tour Golf in spite of it’s flaws. Anything this kitsch deserves at least one bump in the ratings, and if anyone knows kitsch, it’s cats with diamond chokers and rhinestone butterfly glasses.


The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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