Review - Microsoft Golf 2.0 (Windows 3.x, 1995)

As long as there are hackers wandering back and forth across the fairways of this great nation looking for that ball they somehow misplaced, there's always going to be a market for good computer golf games.

The reason is simple. Playing real golf, there are roughly 823 things you have to remember during the two seconds or so that you're swinging at the ball, including: keep your knees bent, make sure that left elbow is straight, keep your head down, be sure and shift your weight at the top of your backswing, and follow through. Of course, while you're trying to sort out all of these conflicting tasks, your playing partner is sure to say something stupid like, "You're trying too hard. You'll play better if you relax." This is the point where you turn to him and calmly state (you'd like to scream, but you can't because you're on a golf course) "You bloody idiot. If I wanted to relax, I wouldn't be out here with YOU!"

Compare that form of mental torture to your friendly computer golf game. You load the game (which isn't actually always that simple, but we'll get into that a little later), make a couple of quick menu choices, and voila! You're on the first tee, where your swing mechanics consist of correctly timing three clicks of a mouse button. I'm a little uncoordinated at times, but given enough practice, I can deal with that mouse-click thing.

Therefore, for golfers in my skill range (handicap of 20 or so), computer games are a chance to demonstrate that while our swings may be lacking, our knowledge of the game isn't. When I'm standing on the first tee of the local country club, I know that the shot I should hit is a nice little draw about 275 yards down the right-center of the fairway. However, I also know that, on a good day, I'll be absolutely giddy if I can put it anywhere in the fairway in the 240-yard range.

That all changes in the comfort of my own home in front of my trusty computer. I know how to manage a golf course, and without the handicap of my real swing, I'm fairly good at it. Which brings me back to my opening point about hackers being a captive audience for well-done computer golf games.

Microsoft Golf 2.0 is a pretty good golf game. As was the case with their original golf release, Microsoft worked with Access Software on this edition. Since Access is responsible for Links 386, the seminal PC golf game, Golf 2.0 looks pretty familiar. Given the fact that Access keeps pushing back the release date of Links 486 (or is it Pentium? Sextium?), this could be the best game out on the market for a while.

This Windows game is played on the South Course at the Firestone Country Club. Add-on courses will be available from Microsoft and Access, and you can also convert the Links 386 Pro Championship courses.

There are three levels of difficulty to the game, with four different tee boxes to use. The difficulty levels are very well done – forgiving for amateurs, and touchy as hell for pros. When you create a player to use, flexibility rules, from the wide variety of available clubs to the color of your shirt and hair.

Once you're on the course, you're able to hit any type of shot imaginable. The interface is easy to use and understand, and the Windows format allows you to select and scale the viewing screens to fit your own taste.

Unfortunately, if you don't take the time to do a thorough job of memory management before you begin, you're going to feel as though you're playing behind an infinite number of slow foursomes on a Sunday afternoon. When I first started playing this game, I spent a lot of time waiting for windows to draw. I also considered nicknaming my golfer "Jerk," since he looked as though he had St. Vitus' Dance when he was swinging.

To put it bluntly, Microsoft Golf 2.0 is a memory hog, and the person responsible for coming up with the system requirements must be the same one who told us that Windows 4.0/Chicago would be released in 1994. The requirements claim that this will run on a 386SX with 4 MB of RAM, with a 486SX "recommended." I have to believe that any poor soul out there who tries this game with the required combination will need 18 days to play 18 holes.

I installed this game on my home computer – a 486/33 – and had to give up in the middle of the second hole because it was running so poorly, despite the fact that I shut down every graphic and sound detail. I finally got it to run smoothly at work on a 486/66, but that was with the bare minimum in graphics. Therefore, be warned: This game will work, but you're going to have to do some work to get it to that point.

Having gotten that off my chest, I urge you to take a look at Microsoft Golf 2.0. It's easy to use and fun to play. Best of all, unlike real golf, it's impossible to "misplace" your ball.

Play the demo for this game directly in your browser