Endless Rounds of Golf Without the Greens Fees

Depending on how realistic you want your video golf, you can choose from Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, from left, We Love Golf! or Golf: Tee It Up!
Depending on how realistic you want your video golf, you can choose from Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, from left, We Love Golf! or Golf: Tee It Up! (Photos, From Left: Ea Sports Via Associated Press; Capcom Via Associated Press; Activision Via Associated Press)
Friday, September 12, 2008

If you're like most sports fans, you probably stopped watching golf after mid-June, when Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open and then announced he was having knee surgery and was done playing for the year. Even though we might not have watched much golf, that doesn't mean we weren't playing it. You may not have an entire day to spend on the links or maybe you can't afford the clubs and greens fees, but you can still squeeze in 18 holes in about half an hour. All thanks to video golf.

Golf games have been around almost from the start of the video-game era, but in the past decade or so, EA Sports' Tiger Woods series has been atop the leader board. This year's edition has a bigger selling point: It's the only way you can see Woods play before 2009.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 (Everyone; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99; Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, $39.99; EA Sports) Woods isn't the only familiar face in his namesake game: You'll also compete against such pros as Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam. But the one guy you'll really see a lot of is Woods's coach, Hank Haney, who pops up after every round with exercises to improve your game. Haney is a welcome addition, and his drills did improve my overall performance. The big improvement in PGA Tour 09 is in the mechanics of swinging. The analog controls in last year's edition made it too difficult to gauge the power and accuracy of your shots. This time, EA has added on-screen indicators to give you a better idea, before you make the shot, of whether your ball is going to slice into the woods. EA has also added a club tuner that allows you to adjust the controls to compensate for your own tendencies. As usual, there is a batch of new courses, including China's Sheshan Golf Club and South Africa's exotic Gary Player Country Club. Longtime fans of the series, however, may be rattled by the new pair of announcers, Sam Torrance (dull) and Kelly Tilghman (annoying). Still, PGA Tour 09 looks better than ever, and it's more fun for newcomers and veterans alike.

We Love Golf! (Everyone 10+; Wii, $49.99; Capcom) The Japanese studio Camelot has years of experience developing lighthearted, arcade-style golf games such as Mario Golf and the original Hot Shots Golf. So it's surprising that Camelot's We Love Golf! is somewhat of a misfire. The big disappointment is that We Love Golf! doesn't make good use of the Wii remote. Yes, you have to swing the remote to strike the ball, but the motions don't match the back-and-forth of a golf swing. Once you nail the timing, however, the game is awfully forgiving, making eagles and long putts all too easy. We Love Golf! delivers the flamboyant courses and wacky mini-games that Camelot is known for. But if you want to feel like you're actually on the links, other games (such as Tecmo's Super Swing Golf) are better bets.

Golf: Tee It Up! (Everyone; Xbox 360, $10; Activision) You get what you pay for in Tee It Up!: two courses, a small selection of character options and a fairly bare-bones experience. If you're looking for a cheap golf game to play with friends, it's not bad, but it won't hold a solo player's interest for very long. The game does have one distinctive feature: a "focus" meter that lets you influence the path of the ball while in flight. It's a gimmick, to be sure, but it's the kind of thing I would like to see duplicated in a more full-bodied fantasy golf game.

-- Lou Kesten, Associated Press

© 2008 The Washington Post Company