Released: October 1985
US Cartridge ID: NES-GF-USA
Players: 2, Alternating
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 192 kilobit
Mapper: NROM-128 (16k PRG, 8k CHR)
Released as a launch game for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the fall of 1985, Golf presents an interesting conundrum: while it is infinitely more playable than golf games released on earlier, significantly less powerful systems (PGA Golf for the Intellivision, 1979; Golf for the Atari 2600, 1980), it is so primitive in comparison to every other NES golf game that there is little reason to play it, save for posterity. Despite its simplicity, Nintendo’s Golf did establish many features that would become staples of the genre, and as such, deserves much credit for its furthering of the still fledgling console sports game.
Golf has three game mode options: single player stroke play, and two player stroke or match play, all taking place on one 18 hole course. Beginning on the tee box of Hole 1, the player controller duffers are presented with an overhead view of the entire hole, a “picture-in-picture” view of the golfer and what sits directly in front of him, a power meter, and a window containing other important information (shot number, wind speed, hole length, and par). After selected the appropriate club and direction for the shot, a tap of the A button begins the backswing. A second tap stops the arrow, determining the strength of the hit, and a final tap determines how solid and accurate the hit is (if the timing is off, the shot will hook, slice, or the club will miss the ball). The next shot is then set up, and play continues in this way until the ball has landed on the green. The green is then marked with arrows that indicate the break that must be taken into account during aiming and shooting.
When Golf was a new game, the innovative combination of these elements served as an important evolution of the video golf game, and the influence of this release can easily be seen in later games, such as Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Championship Golf, Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf, and NES Open Tournament Golf. Several comforts of later games, though, are notably absent from Golf. Though the player is told how long the whole hole is, the distance of each shot and the strength of each club must be guessed by the player. The manual does give a list of expected distances for each club, but it is incredibly inconvenient to check a table in the manual, considering most golf games provide this information on-screen during the course of play.
Golf‘s graphics are extremely simplistic, but do convincingly portray the details of the course. The two golfers, like the incidental characters in many of the NES’ launch games (Donkey Kong, Tennis) bear a striking resemblance to Mario, especially player two, clad in a bright red shirt and hat. The sound is virtually non-existent, with no music and occasional beeps for the strike of the ball and game messages. The controls are simple and easy to grasp, and the power meter is easily mastered with some practice.
Golf does exactly what it sets out to do – it provides a quick arcade-style round of golf, mimicking the fundamentals while happily eschewing most of the sport’s complexities. Though Golf is an important game for the progress it represents, its excessive simplicity and plain presentation are easily trumped by later efforts, rendering it little more than a nostalgic distraction.