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Golf: Not great

Golf for the NES is a lot like Baseball: primitive. It is a solo-player game, you can't choose a character (supposedly the golfer is Mario, but he looks like some schmo), and there is only one eighteen-hole course. And there's no music.

In terms of golf simulation, it is basic. First, you choose your club. It doesn't suggest a club for you, so you'd better know the basics of golf! In a way, this is better, because in later golf sims most players just use whatever club the game assigns. When you aim (except for putting), you have to choose between discrete options: straight ahead, left, father left, right, or farther right. Needless to say, this sucks. It sometimes necessitates using hooks (hit A a bit after the cursor returns to zero) and slices (hit it a bit before) to get the ball to go where you want. As with the lack of club suggestion, you can almost see this as a positive in that it forces you to be creative and thoughtful.

Being golf, the goal is to set a low score, which is displayed on the title screen until you shut off the system. That's it. That's the whole game. There's also wind, but I played through twice and didn't notice it.
The graphics are plain. When the ball hits the green, it vanishes and you don't get to see what happened. You just wait till the screen switches to the green view to see where the ball ended up. Some of the courses do present interesting challenges, though, such as hitting between islands or over forests. This provides some fun.

My first playthrough was basically practice using the controls and gauging how far the various clubs hit. If I used the 3-wood, I usually hit my ball out of
bounds; it took me a long time to learn to switch to irons after the opening drive, except on the longer courses. When the ball was just off the green, I found that using the putter was most effective, lest you overshoot. One time, I putted it straight in, so that was neat.

There's nothing else to say about this game. I suspect that golf enthusiasts thought it was awesome in 1985, but, as with Baseball, it was superseded by half a dozen later golf sims, such as Lee Travino's Fighting Golf (which I grew up with and played a lot) and the popular NES Open Tournament Golf. As a result, I don't recommend this game; play one of the later ones. Still, it deserves credit for being the first. I give it a D+.

Linked Reviews
"For the golf-obsessed gamer, this incarnation of your favourite sport might be a fair way to go, but it's likely to drive everyone else away. 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

"Despite the relative simplicity of Golf, other golf games have come along and are far, far superior."

"Most other golf games by other developers would use the same rules and design concepts as NES Golf, adding embellishments but preserving the fundamentals. Golf rarely sees much praise for what it accomplished, but unassuming as it may look today, this really was Nintendo at its best."

"Golf may be a launch title, but I'd rather not cut it too much slack. There's just no real depth to be had here with only one course featured, and once you master that one, what else is left?"
— Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo, 2/5


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