I can imagine what a 15-year old Tiger Woods must have thought after playing True Golf Classics: Waialae Country Club with his factory fresh Super Nintendo in 1991. “You can choose your own caddy!”, the young golfer might have mused. “And you can alter your foot stance, choice of club, even what area you strike the ball!” Indeed, in 1991, Waialae Counry Club was just about the most authentic golfing video game in existence. It may have even encouraged the prodigious cub to dream about endorsing his own golfing sim series one day. As much excitement as it provided for Tiger and other golfing enthusiasts, how well does this authentic title stack up nearly a quarter century later?
A launch title for the Super Nintendo, Waialae Country club is modeled after its namesake establishment. Founded in 1927, the private club in Honolulu, Hawaii, is an 18-hole, par 72 championship course. Its international history includes World War II connections, as well as modeling features of famous links in France, Long Island and Scotland. The tournament, now called the Sony Open, is generally won by an American, but golfers from five other countries have claimed the top prize as well. The game pays considerable tribute to the balmy majesty of the course, so much as the technology of the time would allow.
The commitment of T&E Soft to detailed golf attributes is most evident in stroke play, which occurs in stages. The natural first choice is that of club: while the pre-selected choice is typically reasonable, it’s worth a quick cross-check of the club’s abilities against your sought after yardage. The golfer can position feet to alter trajectory to the right or left before setting the power gauge using a double-click method. Lastly, for all strokes other than puts, the striking surface is chosen by trapping a honing dot. Put all factors together and you’ve got a million and one ways to smack your dimpled sphere, with countless opportunities to experiment for competitive leverage.
This ceremonious approach to stroke play has the inevitable effect of slowing down an already relaxed sport. “Sit down and stay awhile” seems to be the motto here. While such a lethargic approach likely suits die-hard golfing fans, it does not behoove those who wish to clip through a game to get through the tourney, or try to rack up a good score quickly. The running-through-water feeling continues after the ball is (finally) struck. The ball is trailed by a camera which chugs as it closes in. The animation, while no doubt healthy for its time period, is far from endearing today.
The overall feeling of Waialae Country Club’s presentation is odd and jittery. There is some semblance that we are in a majestic atmosphere thanks to mountainous landscapes and kelly green foliage, but the mood shifts considerably once the ball reaches its bounce. At that point, one feels like a browser refresh is in order, but of course no amount of excessively sliding the purple ‘reset’ button will make the game hurry up. Who wants to scan his surroundings at a second-per-notch ratio? Feeling trapped in time, one doesn’t even enjoy the set pieces, such as trees, lakes and grass types, which would otherwise inject some life into the atmosphere. Neither do the chirps of birds help. I did appreciate how energetic the opening theme was. But as for the caddies chipping in with their two cents, well, it’s only helpful to be told “keep your eye on the ball” so many times per round.
Statistic tracking is one of the few bids Waialae Country Club boasts for replayability. With 10 user profile slots, there is plenty of opportunity to reach for unbeatable best scores. You are free to experiment with speed runs, or try any variance (like irons-only) as you would like. There is also a multiplayer setting which can add up to three additional players. Unfortunately, other than statistics, this game offers very little excitement one might want to share, especially since there is no means of altering the user’s avatar (you’re always a Caucasian male). Even a choice of hat color would have been refreshing. As it stands, I’m not sure how many gamers would take the time to play a match with several others.
The modes offered in Waialae Country Club are standard. You can go by yourself (stroke play), versus (match play), or enter a full tournament. It’s certainly worth a player’s while to approach in that progression. Once you’ve determined weaknesses in your game, Practice mode can be utilized for some polishing. Because when you’re up against the pros, you’re going to need ample club choosing, foot positioning, and ball-striking skills at your disposal. Not to mention the concentration needed to drown out the ‘catty’ advice of your partner on the green.
One could understandably conclude from the many weaknesses of Waialae Country Club that T&E Soft had no business in developing golfing games. However, their same-titled release for the Nintendo 64 has all the coloration, atmosphere and engagement you would want in a golfing sim not starring an Italian plumber in suspenders. Elsewhere on the SNES, T&E Soft would release True Golf Classics: Wicked 18 which embodied some of that devil-may-care personality craved by the wacky golfer in all of us. In contrast to these titles and more, the blandness of Waialae Country Club does not hold up well to time. The only people I can see paying it any mind are those who want realism over all else. That’s what it would take to forgive such deficiencies in sound, atmosphere, visuals, or any other memorable aspect. Even the endorser of Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’14 would have to agree to that.
Two out of Five Stars
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