Talk about shanking it. For those not up on their golf terminology, shanking is the term used to describe a shot in which, despite all conditions being favorable, one incompetent slip-up makes it suck. It is choking at its most embarrassing. A shank is the best word to describe Chip Shot. Everything was looking gorgeous until a couple of technical hiccups sent it headlong into the nearest lake.
Chip Shot released at a time when few people were still paying attention to the Intellivision; after all, the Nintendo Entertainment System was two-years old by then. However, those still on-board saw how much could still be wrung out of the then eight-year-old hardware. The level of detail on the courses was peerless for any second-gen system. Everything looked so natural, from the curves of the doglegs to the thickets lying out-of-bounds. Animation is also impressive for the system. There are PlayStation golf games that don't display such a smooth stroke from their golfers. There's even a very nice splash effect when your ball inevitably ends up in the water. Chip Shot is a visual masterwork for the Intellivision.
As amazing as the visuals are, the options really blew my mind. Chip Shot comes packed with five courses to play, all of which are meticulously designed. If that isn't enough, there are 99 holes on the cartridge for creating your own courses! That feature was unheard of for ANY system of the time! Sure there was no way to save them (unless you just write down the hole numbers you used and re-enter them), but just having the option made the feature set in NES golf games look like a joke.
Unfortunately, once you start playing, that's when the joy drops like a ball hitting a cliff face. First of all, was there any reason to map both the aiming reticule and the club selection to the control disk? There are seven unused buttons on the Intellivision controller! It would have been dirt simple to map club selection to a few of them! Was putting artwork on the keypad overlay really THAT important?!? This may seem like a weird thing to bitch about except that too many times, while aiming a drive off the tee, I accidentally pressed the disk up by a hair and ended up wasting my drive with the putter! Stop laughing. Also, either the courses are longer than the yardage suggests or your golfer is a total wimp. Either way, when you finally master the swing mechanics (which involve holding a fire button to wind up, releasing and tapping it again at just the right moment for a straight shot), you realize that your best drive can't even reach the green on a par 3. Couple these with trying to putt on contoured greens in which you can't even SEE the contours, and you have a game that will make you throw the cartridge the same way Happy Gilmore threw putters. Fortunately, there's no penalty for going 100 over par on a hole. Yay?
Let me make it clear; I absolutely wanted to love Chip Shot, but the game wouldn't let me. The graphics and options are a dream come true while the gameplay mechanics are a nightmare. If you really want a second-gen golf game, Chip Shot is the best option. Otherwise, drive it into a gopher hole, and forget about it.