Have you noticed how the first-gen handheld war played out the exact same way as the third-gen console war? In the third-generation, the NES was miles ahead of its closest competitor the Sega Master System while the mostly ignored Atari 7800 brought up the very rear. Meanwhile, in the first-gen handheld race, Nintendo's Game Boy was at least 20 laps ahead of its closest rival the Sega Game Gear, leaving the largely ignored Atari Lynx looking like it's standing still. The Lynx may have lacked the heavy-duty third-party support of the Game Boy and the killer first-party exclusives of the Game Gear, but it still wasn't a bad handheld (if you ignored how quickly it drained batteries). It had a few very strong games going for it, and Awesome Golf was one of its strongest.
The problem a lot of traditional golf games faced on handhelds was that golf is a very technical game that often manifested itself as tons of menus and text that would clog up a small screen, like what happened with Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf. Awesome Golf solves this by making the interface almost entirely visual. Instead of wading through menus to pick your club, you choose them from a picture of your golf bag. The three-click meter uses graphics to display not just the power of your shot but also what would happen if you miss the impact point. It even uses pics to display the results for each shot; the pic of film legend Humphrey Bogart when you bogey is priceless! This is easily the best interface I had ever seen for a portable traditional golf game.
Of course, there's a lot more that works than just the interface. The visuals when you're playing just pop with tons of color and some of the smoothest swing animation I had ever seen in a 2D game. There are three expertly designed courses that are challenging but fair. Even the digitized voice is pleasant.
There are only a couple of quibbles that keep Awesome Golf from an A+. There are a couple of times when the aiming reticule seems to pick targets at random. Usually it would aim straight for the cup, but I had counted a few times that it would default far off course, particularly on the green. Also, while the interface for picking clubs is cool, I do wish it didn't default to the last club used. Since it doesn't show the max distance for each club onscreen, defaulting to a caddie recommendation would have been fine. Also up to four players can join in but only if the all have their own Lynxes. Why couldn't they have put in a hot-seat mode?
These gripes are little more than nitpicks. The fact is that Awesome Golf is a fantastic golf game. It managed to embrace the Lynx handheld's distinct capabilities and produce something that can even hang with the big boys. This game truly deserves to be called "Awesome."