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Sim Golf (PC) artwork

Sim Golf (PC) review


"Spare me the responsibility of running an entire community that struggles with basic city troubles like dangerous crime, disgusting pollution, nuclear meltdowns and giant radioactive man-eating beasts crawling up the skyscrapers -- I'd much rather kick back with SimGolf, where my biggest objective is satisfying players with interesting holes, scenic views, and a variety of useful facilities. Buying a piece of land in the arid desert of Phoenix or tropical Hawaii provides its own sets of c..."



Spare me the responsibility of running an entire community that struggles with basic city troubles like dangerous crime, disgusting pollution, nuclear meltdowns and giant radioactive man-eating beasts crawling up the skyscrapers -- I'd much rather kick back with SimGolf, where my biggest objective is satisfying players with interesting holes, scenic views, and a variety of useful facilities. Buying a piece of land in the arid desert of Phoenix or tropical Hawaii provides its own sets of challenges, but I get to exercise my creative knack as well as satiate the belief that lurks deep within every golf fan that, with the proper resources, he could build a truly great course. Plus I won't end up killing 85,000 people when I forget to install police stations or when I build the powerplant right near the residential area.

The Sim titles from Maxis have the tendency to call upon multiple skills from their players, ranging from financial savvy and strategic planning, to the unique ability to improvise with limited resources. There are multiple solutions to any problem, but the ability to recognize them fully depends on the player's awareness. SimGolf has these qualities, and while fast-paced action is seriously deficient here (as expected), all that's really needed is an interest in the inherent beauty of the sport and the locales it plays out on.

Building your own is a somewhat complex process that gets easier as you progress. Things start out raw -- purchasing your first piece of land (from a variety of choices, such as the forested northeastern fields and the rolling green of Scotland) will leave you wondering where you should begin. You're given a clubhouse (plus generally one free unique perk for purchasing a certain piece of land, such as a pro shop in Miami), and, well, not much else. From there, you're on your own, your little club manager the only visible 'sim' in the stretch of pure land you're about to transform into a picturesque piece of golf.

Although the task posed in the beginning is a bit intimidating (there's nothing here but nature!), getting started will find you comforted -- there's significant depth in designing, contained within a relatively simplistic interface. All you need to do to start off is choose where to plot the first tee. Anyone that has seen the SimCity games in action will recognize the isometric bird's eye viewpoint -- the same grid map is used here. After placing the tee, it's simply a matter of plotting the green however far off you want, and then filling in the middle with whatever sort of terrain or obstacles strike your fancy. Different types of fairway and rough, rocks, trees, flowerbeds and sandtraps are all at your disposal, if you have the money. The key is to create a set of holes that vary in length, difficulty, and style, while making the trip about the course easy -- by which I mean, don't build an island green and forget to place a walkway or bridge so that the people who come to play can walk their middle-aged asses through the swamps.

Obviously, the key to making money is attracting the public to play your course and sign up for memberships, and persuading commissioners to permit you to purchase more land for your course so that you can continue to expand. As your course becomes more and more professional and meets certain quality criteria, you can even host tournaments.

This is all accomplished by making sure that your course is functioning as a fun, challenging, accessible, speedy round of golf. Imagination is key -- your holes should pose different threats and alternative approaches. Achieving a balance between overly difficult and too easy is extremely important in keeping the public happy.

Of course, as in all Sim games, the public will find things to complain about, so you'll have to assure their comfort in many aspects. Build practice putting greens and driving ranges so that they can improve their game; add in snack bars and pubs so that they can grab a bite at the turn; install benches across the course in sweet-smelling gardens so that they can sit down and catch a breather; and hire help to greet golfers as they arrive, vend refreshments, and protect the course from an infestation of weeds. Keeping people happy will keep your business thriving.

While much of the venture is well-executed, there are a few puzzling shortcomings that are easy enough to recognize early on. The biggest issue is the disturbing claustrophobia you're likely to develop as you build across your available land. You start with a chunk of land that, while appearing sizeable from the onset, proves insufficient for the epic plans you likely had of a spread-out sprawl of uncluttered facilities. You'll have to plan extremely carefully to fit in all 18 holes (and for that matter, 18 holes that occupy the standard 72 stroke par for the course.) You can purchase extra chunks of land to add to the central piece your started with, but until then, it's difficult to even fit six decent-sized holes on the main plot. It is quite demanding of planning and strategy -- perhaps too much so. (And on a related note, your opportunities to buy new pieces of land occur too infrequently -- the commissioner offers you more if he plays your course and enjoys it, but there can be long periods of inactivity between these incidents, as you wait simply for more area to build on.)

The second issue is annoying, but not so permanent: there are bugs, and some irritating ones. The game crashes when you an invite a tournament to your course that offers a prize of $500,000 or greater, and often golfers complain over idiotic things. It's vexing when a golfer complains about having to climb hills or other minor elevations, while he's in a golf cart. Fortunately, there is a patch available, and without it, stuff is a bit of a mess.

Yet even such a significant and relevant complaint as not having enough land to work with isn't enough to drive me away from the exciting possibilities that SimGolf offers. Creating your ideal course (with no monetary boundaries in the Sandbox mode!) and experiencing the satisfaction of having it completed and heavily patronized is what makes it worth it.

Golf course architecture is not exactly a field that most people get to a chance to explore. This is that chance. Golf fans, SimCity fans, and creative geniuses will find themselves comfortable in little time.

Just be thankful that no super-mutated beasts will be stomping out half your population.



Rating: 7.5/10

dogma's avatar
Featured community review by dogma (February 13, 2004)

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