Gaming Flashback: Video Golf Games
Author :        Date : 22-Aug-09

This past Friday I caught a quick 9 after work and I can only put it one way – I got my monies worth.  I personally do not consider golf to be a social activity, but I have never met so many people during a round in my life.  I sprayed shot after shot into everyone’s fairway except for my own. It got so bad that yelling "FORE" and my resulting apology to my new ‘friends’ became a natural part of my post-shot routine.  To add insult to injury, I could not even dull my frustration nor offer my new buds a compensatory beverage – the Beer Girl had the night off!

By the end of the round, I was dead tired (I probably hit that ball 8,000 yards on a 3,625 yard back 9 course) and felt humiliated beyond description.  This 8 Handicap player had just carded a 63 – with no penalties!  This was not the way I wanted to start off my weekend at all.

The best way to heighten my sagging spirit – get a video game!  Call me a glutton for punishment, but I picked up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 for the Xbox 360 on my way home.  I fired it up and all was once again right with the world.  A ‘two’ could actually be a score for a hole, rather than just a multiplier for my eventual score on the real links.  This brought back fond memories of the various video golf games I had experienced in my past.  The following is a trip down down memory lane of some my favorite and most memorable video golf games

Birdie King (1982 – Arcade)

Now I do admit that this arcade classic was basically my introduction to the video gaming golf world.  A roller-ball type of control was used, which was about as responsive to the touch as one of my dates in High School (then again, maybe the problem was me all along).  I do remember absolutely hating that circling buzzard – it would knock my perfect drive into oblivion and then consume more of my hard earned quarters without any remorse as I stupidly chose to continue my round.

Golf (1984 – NES)

This was the first golf video game for a console that I truly enjoyed – I was actually a person (Mario wannabe) rather than just some white block on the screen.  For whatever reason, this was important to me.  The introduction of the ‘swing meter’ was also a welcomed addition.  I grant you that this is as basic as it gets when it comes to the early golf games – but it was fun!  I could change clubs and saw my linkster in action.  I still had to figure out and estimate the yardage and the like – a small price to pay for a rewarding experience back then.

Big Event Golf (1986 – Arcade)

Big Event Golf was truly the pinnacle of arcade golf during its day.  The first golf game to really capture the sport IMHO (along with my quarters).  Rich colors and a detailed environment truly allowed one to really feel on the links. The best part though was the viewpoint – you watched the flight of the ball from behind the golfer and could see your wayward drive disappearing into the underbrush – or the lake.  Wind was either a friend or a foe.  I cannot say enough about this game – it is a blast with your buds.  I picked one up for $50 from a neighborhood that I would never venture into again (I didn’t know this at the time).  After a serious  refurbishment, we still play this game religiously to this very day.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf (1988 – NES)

The infamous reverse "TV-style" game view was just among the many things that made this fast paced simulation a hit.  This was one of the first home console versions to feature multiple courses (two) and four-way play.  The graphics were pretty impressive compared to the competition – golfers were more lifelike rather than the cartoonish and the landscape, though still flat, featured much more detail than any of its predecessors in this genre.  Still probably my favorite golf game for the NES system (just beating out Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf).

Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (1989 – Sega Genesis)

This game did not introduce a great deal to the genre, with the exception of two vital things we still see in today’s games – shopping for gear and the ability to upgrade your skills.  Another interesting note is that your golfer (Arnie) is HUGE – almost 1/2 the size of the screen.  You have three varied courses to chose from along with multiple play formats.  The background tunes are kind of catchy too (or maybe I am just rather bland).

Links 386: The Challenge of Golf (1990 – IBM PC)

The true advent of the game as we know it today – Links 386 definitely has a place in every virtual golfer’s heart.  The lush, highly detailed terrain was no longer flat – it now breathed of life right down to the the occasional belch from a nearby frog.  Commentary was digitized and spot on ("Jim, I think he hit the tree") and the amount of options were unlimited.  Add-on courses were also available, in attractive boxes (5.25" disks).  This series set the standard.

PGA Tour Golf III (1994 – Sega Genesis)

As Links 386 set the standard for the more advanced hardware of a personal computer, the PGA Tour series became the yardstick for the home console.  PGA Tour III was the pinnacle of this series in the 16-bit generation.  This game had everything – tournament play, a massive eight (8) courses and 54 Pros to compete against.  The digitized golfers are well presented and game play is fast.  I can remember tournaments being held at the local speakeasy I frequented – yes, I rocked these due to my knowledge of the "50% rule" for those tweener shots.

PGA Tour ’96 (1995 – Panasonic 3DO)

Thank goodness for 32-bit systems – courses are no longer flat!!  Courses took a little longer to load, but the wait was well worth it.  The undulating fairways and landscapes really blew you away – hearing the realistic sounding crowd cheer you was also a nice perk.  The commentator is kind of funny to be honest – always speaking in a hushed voice and usually adding something that does nothing to help out your psyche ("This… for the bogie… to go 8 over").  Still a classic and ground breaking golf simulation for the home console system.

Neo Turf Masters (1996 – Neo Geo AES)

Now this is the one game I have not personally experienced on this list, but I would be remiss to exclude it.  This is probably the most expensive golf video game that is out there for the home console.  It reminds me very much of the early Golden Tee arcade games, specifically the camera angle that follows the flight of the golf ball after being struck.  From what I have gathered the few people that I do know that have this game, they all say it is a blast and definitely the highlight of arcade-style golf games.  I will have to save up for this ($200+).

Swing Away Golf (2000 – Sony Playstation 2)

OK – I admit this up front – this is the weakest entry on this list by far.  T&E Software had previously released some real clunkers in this genre (Pebble Beach, Wicked 18, etc.) and I was not eagerly anticipating this game at all.  Others had been released, but for whatever reason I could not (and still don’t) embrace the analog stick swing control – I hate it!  Swing Away Golf was the only alternative that I had since they still utilized the old-school 3-click swing.  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the anime-style cartoon golfers, this game is very deep and a load of fun.

XaviX Golf (2004 – XaviXPORT)

This is not a well known title at all, nor is this video game console.  Graphics are on par somewhere between a Neo Geo and a 3DO – not that great to be honest for a system being released in 2004.  However, what merits its inclusion is the controller – an actually golf club!  That is right, before the Nintendo Wii, the XaviXPORT was the first game console to entirely embrace motion sensing technology.  The game is fair at best in all honesty, but swinging that club makes it a blast!  Simple, easy play is its forte – time to get off the couch!

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 Golf (2009 – Microsoft Xbox 360)

All I have to say is that I am happy to be reacquainted with an old friend – the 3-click meter in a next-gen golf game.  Making it’s reappearance in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, this release in the most successful golf franchise of all-time is why I keep coming back.  Luscious visuals, easy to use controls, this has it all for me.  There are some things that still need to be tweaked here and there, but you will not find this old-school gamer complaining at all.  This truly displays all of the innovations that have occurred within this genre.

There are many golf games (series) that just missed inclusion but all are great games in their own right, most notably Hot Shots Golf and Golden Tee among others.  I admit that this gamer is 100% biased to games utilizing the 3-Click swing method – that is why they call me Tripe O-G at work – I am definitely old-school.

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