GL Golf 2.1.8
Developer: Nuclear Nova Software
Price: $15 (bundles with more courses available)
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9. Universal.
Recommended: 1 GHz processor.
Trial: Feature-limited (6 holes).
I poke around at golf (the real kind, with carts, humidity, and frustration) but not enough to warrant playing the harder courses. Still, like anyone who plays, it’s fun to dream about what a round would be like on Pebble Beach or Augusta National.
Let’s be clear: GL Golf isn’t going to take away your dreams of playing St. Andrews or Torrey Pines. But if you like golf, GL Golf will offer you a lot of fun in a surprisingly realistic game.
It begins with the main menu screen, where you can choose from an almost-dizzying selection of options. Naturally, you can select which course you want—and there are a lot of them. (The developers are always adding more, and you can subscribe to receive the new ones, or periodically buy a new set.)
You can also select which season to play in—which basically changes only the scenery—as well as the time of day and the number of holes. Choose from Normal, Expert, or Pro modes for varying levels of difficulty. Some courses also offer more than one set of tees and hole placements. You can even select the ball color, which clubs you’ll carry, and how many mulligans you’ll be allowed during the game.
Once you’ve set all of your options, it’s time to play. GL Golf will show you an overview of each hole before you play it, and then you are taken to the play interface. Gameplay is straightforward, and basically what you would expect: choose your club, adjust your aim, and swing. You control the power of the swing, so you can finesse your shots. The window will offer you some feedback, including help with aiming and a mini-map that offers information on the range of the selected club.
But don’t think that because gameplay is so fundamentally basic your game will be easy. One thing that makes GL Golf a challenge is the attention given to the courses and their realism. The topography of the courses is surprisingly accurate, with slopes, dips, and terrain changes having dramatic effect on the way your ball plays. Trees and sand are not just visual obstacles, but play much like real life: I can get stuck in a sand trap for multiple shots in GL Golf just like I do on the real links.
This is especially true on the greens, which can be incredibly difficult to play. I would even go so far as to suggest that the realism of putting in GL Golf is a good exercise in building a golfer’s understanding of how balls play on real topography; it can be a challenge to learn how a ball will roll under various conditions. Paying attention in GL Golf will teach you some helpful lessons.
Once you’ve finished a round, you can upload your score to the online database of score-cards. In fact, you can compete in online tournaments that are hosted by the Nuclear Nova Web site.
My only complaint is with the representation of the golfing experience. By that I mean both the visual and audible representation. Visually, the graphics leave a good bit to be desired. The only time I’ve played a golf game on a computer was back in the 90s when I played Microsoft Golf on a friend’s Windows PC; yet, my memory of the graphics from Microsoft’s courses there is that they were far superior to GL Golf’s. Especially given the beauty of so many of the famous courses that GL Golf offers, something more visually realistic is certainly in order—and given today’s graphics technology, in reach. You can adjust the graphics capabilities of GL Golf a lot—there are many preferences, and you can certainly improve on the defaults—but, in the end, they are still cartoonish. GL Golf is excellent in its gameplay, and it deserves better graphics.
Similarly, why is there no player? It strikes me as odd that there is just a floating club, rather than an avatar of some sort. With all of the customizing options that GL Golf offers, a customized avatar seems in order.
With regard to audio, I say the same. While the sound effects aren’t bad, they aren’t up to the level of the gameplay that GL Golf offers. I’d also love to have a caddy who could give advice about the course: “Watch out for the slopes on the left side; they’ll land you in the sand traps!” or “I’d suggest you play this green a little to the right, to accommodate that rise.” It would fit, and it would make gameplay even more fun and satisfying.
By and large, GL Golf is a fun game. You’re not going to give up your tee time, but it may be a fun way to pass a few minutes after work.