COMBINE REALISTIC PLAY, SPECIAL EFFECTS, TOURNAMENT PLAY, AND THE ABILITY TO PLAY WITH SOME OF THE PGA'S TOP GOLFERS, AND YOU HAVE A GOLF GAME THAT SCORES AN EAGLE
The key to any sports simulation lies in its ability to mimic the real thing. Most golf games pin their hopes on copying famous courses and in offering PC duffers a choice of clubs. Some go so far as to include wind and other environmental factors. PGA Tour Golf does all of these things and goes one better: It puts you on the professional tour, where you play against the big boys.
Put your skills to the test on any of three Tournament Players Club golf courses: Avenel, Sawgrass, or the PGA West Stadium. But before you go out on the tour, you'll want to visit the Pro Shop. This opening screen provides menus for Play, File, View, Stats, and Options and is a good example of the detail built into the PGA Tour Golf interface. You can pull down menus and play the game with keyboard commands, a mouse, or a joystick. From the Pro Shop Play menu, for example, you can hone your driving and putting skills, play a Practice Round, or move to a Tournament.
The other Pro Shop menus handle game files, scorecards, and statistics. Every time you play, PGA Tour Golf adds to your stats, giving you a steady chart of your progress—or lack of it. The Tour, after all, consists of more than one game. Trying to stay at the top of the rankings is as much of a challenge as is sinking a 40-foot putt.
The mechanics of PGA Tour Golf follow the traditional power-bar method: You aim your shot by moving a cross-hairs cursor to the right or left; then you press the space bar or a button (joystick or mouse) for distance and accuracy. Overswinging (moving past the 100-percent power line) increases the chance of a hook or slice. Accuracy depends on your striking the space bar or pressing the button at the point at which the power indicator returns to the 0-percent line. Hooking and fading the ball around obstacles plays a role as well, and it's good to practice these techniques on the driving range.
An arsenal of special shots enhances the realism in this duffer's dream.
Graphically, the game is a pleasure to watch. Until you strike the ball, your view is from behind your player, looking down the course toward the green or fairway. Once you've struck the ball, however, the view switches to a point farther down the links, and you have a TV view of your ball as it lands in the fairway—or as it misses its target and falls into the rough or another hazard. The bounce and roll of the ball sis very realistic, with some shots spinning back or rolling forward depending on how you strike the ball.
The graphic presentation is enhanced with fly-by views of each hole, accompanied by a tip from a top PGA golfer. Beginning at the pin, the camera rolls back down the fairway toward the tee, illuminating the approach to the green and the hazards that threaten your success. On a fast machine, say a 12-MHz 286 or a 86SX. these views are a lot of fun to watch (at least at the beginning). But I turned them off when playing the game on a Tandy 1000 because it took so long to run the graphics sequence. To its credit, PGA Tour Golf allows you to make such adjustments, enhancing your enjoyment of the game no matter what kind of computer you own.
Out on the links, the game suggests the right club for every situation, but you can put it back in your bag and choose another if you like. You can even choose the mix of clubs you want in your bag at the start, which lets you customize the game to your golfing style. Unlike most golfing simulations, the club you have at any given point on the course is not simply rated at a certain distance at 100 percent (that is, a 9 iron isn't always rated at 112 yards); rather, the potential distance of any club is affected by the lie of the ball. For example, that same 9 iron might be rated at 112 yards from the center of the fairway but only 57 yards from the deep rough—and even less if your ball is half-buried in the rough.
Once you're on the fairways, it's easy to see why this game earned the endorsement of the PGA Tour: The detail of play is accurate right down to the lie of the ball and unpredictable gusts of wind. The wind meter at the bottom left of the screen swings around with every gust and stops only when you begin your swing. On a long hole, you may want to wait for the wind to swing your way before trying that long drive.
You not only have to deal with the wind, but you also must contend with the vagaries of the ground. If your ball is sitting in the fairway, for example, you would get a better shot than you would if the ball is half-buried in heavy rough. Special pop-up overlays describe the condition of your lie before every shot except for the drive off the tee. I found the information crucial to my making decisions along the course, but if you find these screens distracting, you can turn them off.
Golf is a lot more than just swinging a club, of course. Like great pool players, great golfers know how to work a ball to get the best roll, the fortuitous bounce. When you're approaching the hole, PGA Tour Golf gives you a choice of shots to make from its Options menu when you select Special Shots. Shortcut keys for these shots are also available, so you don't have to go through the motions of pulling down the menus. The F7 key, for example, lets you chip your shot. There are also options for punching your shot (great for getting out of deep rough with some measure of accuracy, with the sacrifice of distance) and for pitching your shot out of bunkers.
In any case, whether you chip the shot from 13 yards out and send the ball rolling across the green for the birdie, punch the ball low to get out of the rough, or putt the ball from the fringe of the green, you'll appreciate the variety and realism that these shot options add to the game.
When you do reach the green, PGA Tour Golf brings to the screen a topographical representation of the green, with a grid that helps you identify the breaks—both their angle and severity. Using the F1 and F2 keys, you can walk around the green to examine your shot from different angles. The distance your ball lies from the hole and the distance your ball sits above or below the cup are listed at the top of the grid screen. That information is indispensable to making a successful putt. In a nice touch, the game allows you to aim your shot from the grid screen by positioning the crosshari; when you return to the normal view, your target position is carried over.
Start the tournament at the pro tent.
Tips from the pros can help you plan a strategy from the tee to the green.
Use the game's topographic grid to read the green and sink that birdie.
After a few practice rounds, if you feel ready to go for the money, you can take your bag on the tournament circuit to compete against some of the biggest names on the men's tour. (It's unfortunate that Sterling Silver Software doesn't offer an LPGA mode. I should think that there are some women out there who'd enjoy a good computer golf game. Maybe in a later version or as an add-on disk—right, guys?)
The tournament mode brings in the great golfer's equalizer: psychological pressure. If you make the first cut. you advance to the second round (no mean feat). Make that cut and then the nest and you find yourself among the money winners. PGA Tour Golf keeps stats on all the golfers, including the pros, so that you can check your standings against the top money winners at any time.
The tournament mode brings in a few more graphical touches, such as a pop-up screen that announces the standings from time to time as you play. For example, before making your approach shot to the 8th hole, you may learn that Hale Irwin birdied the 16th to move into third place. At the end of each hole, the leader board screen gives you a quick picture of the standings. It lists the players, what hole they're shooting, and their stroke total. Page through the leader board to find out where you are in the pack; then plot your comeback or watch yourself fade. Without a doubt, you'll soon find yourself caught up in the action and trying to make up lost ground or trying to defend your narrow lead. But stay steady—golf is played by the stroke, not by the putt.
Golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, which may have something to do with the booming success of computer golf games. With its attention to detail, its special graphics effects, its tournament mode and its realistic play, PGA Tour Golf scores an eagle.
IBM PC and compatibles with 512K—$49.95
Package includes 55-page manual, quick-reference card, golf scorecard, and two 5¼-inch disks
Sterling Silver Software (Distributed by Electronic Arts)