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PGA Golf (Intellivision, 1980)



PGA Golf (Intellivision, 1980)


This is another game where many of the details of the real world sport are taken and compressed into an extremely realistic simulation. Now, I'm not able to say they've managed to simulate everything, but what they did consider in the design of PGA Golf and how they chose to display it, works pretty well for a golf videogame in 1980.


The screen is dominated by an overhead view of the current hole. Conventional golf course elements are used: the fairway, the green, the hole (duh), bunkers, the rough, water hazards and trees. The screen is considered to be 580 yards wide and the each hole is layed out to fit within that area. So you base your choice of club and swing on your estimation of the distances you need to propel the ball down the path you've chosen to get through, around or over the hazards presented by the hole.


You're given a bag of 9 clubs: a driver, 3 and 5 wood, 3, 5, 7 and 9 irons, a wedge and a putter. You may only use your driver on the first hole and only use the putter on the green, everything else you pick as the situation demands it. That is where the game is. There's a chart in the manual that explains the distances each club will send a ball based on the short, medium or long swing you choose. The driver can send the ball 260 yards with a long swing to a minimum of 234 yards with a short swing. Going down through the clubs is not a regular sequence of distance decrements, but there's no overlap. A 3 wood club swung long does not send the ball further than a driver swung short. So, sorting the clubs in terms of distance, you go from driver to 3 wood, 5 wood, 3 iron, 5 iron, 7 iron, 9 iron, wedge and putter, just as they are listed on your controller keypad and just how I listed them at the start of this paragraph. The distinction amongst clubs is not limited to distance, as height must also be taken into consideration. The shorter distancing clubs tend to send the ball into a higher arc, so if you have to clear one of the conveniently uniform 18.7 yards-tall trees, you would do well to check the manual to see which clubs will be most likely to get your ball over them. I guess my main point here is that there's more to consider than just how you aim. Your golf course is three dimensional. When you hit a ball high, from your bird's eye perspective it appears to get closer. If it doesn't go high enough over trees, then it hits them...annoyingly, just like real golf.


Speaking of aim, per usual, I played this game on its original platform, but I also decided to try the Playstation 2 Intellivision Lives! version. It's important and interesting to note that the original Intellivision game had 16 different directions in which you could aim your shot; the PS2 version only has eight, even though you use one of the analog thumbsticks to address the ball. I would think an analog thumbstick to have at least as many directions as the original Intellivision disc controller, but I guess I'd be wrong.


Of course, if you're hitting a little round ball, it won't always go straight. PGA Golf simulates the hook/straight/slice dynamics of a golf ball when you choose the direction of the trajectory deviation by pressing the swing button again at a certain point in the swing. If you choose not to choose, the game will randomly choose for you, and it won't take your feelings into consideration.


Sidenote: it's important to note that "hook" is a specific term indicating a curve to the left, while "slice" means a curve to the right. If you mis-use these terms on a real golf course, the other golfers will probably laugh at you. The upside to this is that it gives you a justification for making fun of their stupid looking pants, which you wanted to do anyway.


The rest of the game plays as you would expect: sand traps are best avoided, water swallows your ball and the crowd cheers if you shoot under par. Which brings me to a non-videogame related point...


I've often heard people use the expression "under par" to convey disappointment in another's performance. For example "your last entry was under par" or "your videogame commentary is sub-par"...no really, I'm pretty sure I've heard people use it that way when they were trying to say "your writing is crap". If you think something isn't as good as it should be, and you are so into golf that you wish to borrow its jargon, then you need to say, "that last entry was over par" or "your metaphors exceed par!"


Also un-videogame related: according to Wikipedia, the below-par nomenclature in golf is all named after flying creatures. One below par is a birdie, two below par is an eagle, three an albatross, four a condor (requiring a hole-in-one on a par 5), five below par is called an ostrich and six below par (which is a hole-in-one on a par 7) is a pterodactyl. Apparently, pterodactyls have only happened 3 times in the history of the golf world and only on a par 7 hole at a golf course in Japan.


In PGA Golf, on any given hole I usually scored an eight, regardless of par. This is known as a "dogball". I'm not certain if it is named after a dog because of the fact that dogs don't fly, or if it is simply named after something a dog often licks.


There are only nine holes and they seemed to be the same set of holes each time I played. At first I thought this was a limitation. Then I realized that if everyone plays the standard course, it's easier to compare scores. This allows for individuals to exclaim ownership over one another and is why many people play sports to begin with.


Well, that's it for Golf. Not sure what I'll play next. I was trying to get Word Fun to work on an Intellivision II until I found out that Word Fun doesn't even work on an Intellivision II. Ever. Maybe I'll just use the trifurcated version as portrayed on the Intellivision Lives! disc. However, I loathe the thought of depriving myself of eight directions, even for a game that would probably not use them anyway. 24088


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Sidenote: it's important to note that "hook" is a specific term indicating a curve to the left, while "slice" means a curve to the right.


For golfer who is hitting right-handed, the terms are as described. For a golfer who is hitting left-handed, the terms are reversed.

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I gave this game a try because with your explanation of the different clubs, I finally had some clue of what they're for. :P Still, it was a frustrating experience. In MESS I could only aim in 8 different directions, even using an analog controller on the joypad. Really difficult to play proper golf under such limitations.


I've often heard people use the expression "under par" to convey disappointment in another's performance.


Hey, that was interesting! Indeed, the meaning of "under par" is reversed in golf. But you're assuming both expressions have the same origin, and I don't think that's the case. It just happens that the same expression has opposite meanings depending on the context!

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On 9/1/2008 at 11:31 AM, supercat said:


For golfer who is hitting right-handed, the terms are as described. For a golfer who is hitting left-handed, the terms are reversed.

THAT is an excellent point. Forgive my right-handed bias. You are absolutely correct.


Nelio, you're right, too! I don't actually know where the term "under par" came from. It might indeed not have originated with Golf. 13 years later, I still don't really know.

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