There was no avoiding it. Ever since I first decided to cover the history of golf video games, I knew at some point I had to bring up EA's PGA Tour franchise. Almost a decade before Tiger Woods got his name stamped on it, PGA Tour Golf, along with ... some ... other game ... called Madden NFL Football, made the Genesis the premier sports platform in the fourth generation over the Super Nintendo (until EA started putting those franchises there as well). PGA Tour Golf 3 was the last entry to be exclusive to the Genesis, and it easily stands as the best round of golf you can play with "blast processing" (yeah, that buzzword is still stupid).
The options provided on the cartridge absolutely destroy the paltry offerings other golf games made at the time. At a time when most golf games were offering two or three courses, this one offers EIGHT authentic TPC pro courses recreated in as much detail as 16 bits would allow. The only thing left out are the "out-of-bounds" areas, but I didn't miss them. There are eleven pros that can be used as players or opponents, including Mark O'Meara, Davis Love III, and Fuzzy Zoeller. If that isn't enough, you can create your own character (in a limited fashion). Stroke, match, skin, and tournament play are available as well as driving ranges and putting greens. You'd be hard-pressed to find a 16-bit golf game that offered more bang for the buck.
The mechanics are fantastic. An overhead view is available at the touch of the A button without the slow-rendering nonsense of Turbo Golf. Multiple shot types like pitches and punches are available with the C button. The three-click shot meter works well. The only issue is that there is little to no margin of error on the impact point. Being off by barely a hair can send your ball hooking wildly. The putting display, with its 3D slope display and overhead ball lie camera, makes the putting game simple and satisfying. My only real gripe is the over-exaggerated wind in the game. Not only are gusts almost constant, but also the way the wind spastically changes direction makes me wonder if I'm trying to play golf in a tornado.
The game looks as well as it plays. The visuals are gorgeous by Genesis standards, the camera views are perfect, and the swing animation is smooth as silk. Even though the Genesis is miles behind the Super Nintendo in the sound department, the sound effects here work well, and the limited music is upbeat. Aesthetically, I have nothing to complain about.
PGA Tour Golf 3 is the single best traditional golf game of the fourth console generation, not just on the Genesis. It was a sign of how great the series would become and deserved to be on the same EA Sports pedestal as Madden. This was a glorious hole-in-one!