Skip to main content

NES Golf: Silent swinging simulation

Golf, like the NES's other sports launch titles, is a primitive though competent simulation of its namesake.

In Golf, if you have a human opponent, you choose between match play (one point per hole you win) and stroke play (total score). When playing alone, Golf gives you no choices at all. There are no golfers to choose from. You must play as Mario (if he were just some schmo). There are no courses to choose from: every time it's the same eighteen holes. There are no difficulty modes or customizations.
The golf simulation itself is basic but good. It doesn't suggest an appropriate club for you, so you need to know the basics of golf. I don't mind this because it makes you think instead of using whatever you're handed. The manual includes a chart of the maximum distance each club hits. Woods (W) drive the ball far down the fairway, whereas irons (I) hit the ball higher into the air for shorter distances. The lower the club number, the farther the distance. The strongest club is the driver (which the game labels 1W instead of, say, DR). The sand wedge (SW) is an open-faced club designed to bounce the ball out of a sand trap. The pitching wedge (PW) is for chipping the ball onto the green. I found the putter (PT) more reliable for getting onto the green when I was right next to it, because the pitching wedge would hit it over the green.

I spent my first playthrough practicing the controls, which require good reflexes. Your backswing is represented by a meter, with a cursor moving left. For maximum distance, you press A when it touches the left edge. Your downswing is represented by the cursor moving back to the starting position. Pressing A at the starting mark hits the ball straight ahead. If you press A after the mark, you hook the ball, meaning it will go to the left. If you press A after the starting position, you slice the ball, sending it rightward. Aiming is unfortunately limited to discrete options: straight ahead, left, farther left, right, or farther right. You could almost see this as another positive in that it forces you to get creative with hooks and slices.

The goal in Golf is the same as in the sport: to get the lowest score possible. Holes feature obstacles to make this almost as frustrating as actual golf: trees, water, sand traps, and "out of bounds" areas to the far left and right. Landing the ball in water or out of bounds costs you a penalty stroke. Some of the holes contain challenges you would not see in real life, such as hitting the ball between islands or over a forest! There's also wind (though I played twice without noticing it). Adjusting your aim based on the wind strength and direction adds an additional layer of planning.

On the green, the game switches to an overhead view with the ball already in its final place (later golf games would show it bounce and roll to a stop). After you start your putt, you press A just once more. The longer you wait, the harder you hit the ball. Success in your short game requires paying attention to the green's slope, as indicated by arrows. The ball will roll in the direction indicated, so you may need to aim to the left or right of the hole. When putting downhill, use a short stroke, lest the ball blast over the hole. If the ball is on the lip of the hole, you have to double-tap A with lightning speed to tap it in!

Golf may be the only NES game that has no music at all. The ball makes noise when you hit it and as it sails through the air, but that's it. The graphics are basic, but when seen through nostalgic eyes they show that early NES charm.

Golf enthusiasts who played video games probably thought this game was awesome in 1985. However, it was superseded by half a dozen later golf sims on the NES, such as Lee Travino's Fighting Golf (which I grew up with) and NES Open Tournament Golf. As a result, there's no reason to play the original Golf anymore. Still, it deserves credit for being the first on the 8-bit scene.

Grade: D-
Linked Reviews
"It may have been a stroke of genius in 1985, but a massive range of superior products deftly wedge their way between this game and a recommendation."
— Stephen Kelly, Nintendo Life, 4/10

"Golf rarely sees much praise for what it accomplished, but unassuming as it may look today, this really was Nintendo at its best."
— Jeremy Parish, NES Works

"There's just no real depth to be had here with only one course featured."
— Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library, 2/5


Popular posts from this blog

Street Fighter II: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago Street Fighter II made the transition from arcade to living room on the Super NES. Although quickly eclipsed by its two successors, for one year it was the hotness. It would be hard to overstate how popular Street Fighter II was in the early 90's. Its predecessor was downright bad, but Street Fighter II invented the PVP fighting genre as we know it. Its roster of eight characters was a huge step-up from Street Fighter's two (Ken and Ryu, who returned for the sequel). The next iteration of the arcade game, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, which hit arcades just as the SNES port arrived, let you play as the bosses as well, increasing the roster to twelve. A false rumor said a secret code would let you play them at home. While that wasn't true, there was a code (↓, R, ↑, L, Y, B) to let both players choose the same character for a mirror match. A prime strength of the game is how interesting each character is: the American airman Guile (think Top Gun); the

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: 30th anniversary

Hard to believe it's been thirty years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out on the Super Nintendo, yet here we are! A Link to the Past is in contention for the title of Best Nintendo Game Ever . It perfectly reinvented, reimagined, and revolutionized everything great about the original Legend of Zelda . First off, the story is expanded, with five pages devoted to it in the manual, including background mythology not included in-game about the three gods that made the Triforce. The opening cinematic tells of a war centuries earlier, which resulted in seven wise men sealing the Triforce away in the "Golden World." When the game begins, the boy Link awakens on a dark and stormy night, hearing the voice of Princess Zelda in his head, asking him to rescue her from the dungeon of Hyrule Castle, where she's been imprisoned by the evil wizard Agahnim. Link finds his uncle, wounded, who gives him his sword. Link's first task is to rescue Zelda, then lead h

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: 20th anniversary

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is special to me because it was one of the first games I played on the Wii U. I hadn't owned a video-game console since the Super Nintendo until my wife bought me a Wii U for my 30th birthday. Since I missed the Game Cube and Wii eras, playing The Wind Waker was a revelation to me. It was as good as I remembered A Link to the Past being. I've read that, when it debuted, some people hated the cel-shaded art style of The Wind Waker. In retrospect that's hard to fathom, because the game is such a visual delight. The cartoony style and feel of the game is probably its strongest feature, at least for me. Sailing the seas and exploring the game's many islands is a joyous process of discovery. There are all sorts of quirky citizens to meet and interact with, including an auction house, bird people (the Rito), pirates, a traveling merchant (Beedle), temples, and the long-lost, sunken kingdom of Hyrule. The mid-game twist delighted me: Link l