Since the advent of video games, sports have been a part of the action. In fact, tennis and football were two of only a dozen games available for the Magnavox Odyssey. Since then, almost every sport in existence had received the video game treatment, though some sports get more
virtual love than others. There are 32 football games on the Xbox 360 alone compared to just one game for handball (which is one more than previous consoles got).
Yet, there is one sport that has also been represented since the dawn of video games that is particularly well-suited for the medium. That sport is golf. Despite the fact that golf is one of the few sports playable for anyone regardless of fitness level, it is also a very expensive time-sink. Players can end up spending nearly a hundred bucks on green fees (hundreds more for a private course), more than a hundred for sixteen Ping clubs that would probably get thrown in the woods, and lots more on enough balls to replace the three dozen that would end up in a lake on any given day. On top of that, an average game on a real course can run two to three hours for just nine holes. Now, doesn't spending one hour and $50 with a virtual golf game sound better?
Golf on the Atari 2600 aimed to do just that, provide an economical way to get a golf fix. It doesn't try to do anything more than the basics which is fine for 1980 but not so much for today. The game provides a basic nine-hole course that, while boxy in the way that one would expect from two-centimeter square pixels, still bring to mind a typical golf course. While simple, everything is identifiable, and some standards still apply. You will have to whack the ball extra hard to get out of the bunkers here just like in reality. The game even zooms in on the green when you reach it which is a very nice touch, though it gets dull when you realize that every green is the same.
The game is the definition of simple. You only have one club; how far the ball goes depends on how long you hold the fire button to wind up the shot. The direction you shoot depends on where your yellow character is positioned in relation to the ball. Being on the left side of the ball hits at an upward angle; the right side hits downward. It very tough to judge the proper angle with this set-up; thus, don't expect to hit par. Further, flicking the difficulty switches to position A puts a wall around the course, preventing the ball from going out of bounds. Purists may cry foul, but they would cry harder when misjudged angles send 70% of their shots into the void.
Golf on the Atari 2600 did what it set out to do, no more, no less. It is still playable and had certainly aged better than many of the other sports games on the system (the less said about Home Run, the better). Still, golf games have come a long way in the last 35 years, and this one is only for the truly nostalgic gamer. Nowadays, this one is a very close bogey.