In real life, I enjoy playing golf. I’m not very good, and I’ve never scored a birdie, but it is hard not to love being surrounded by greenery and, in some cases, wildlife. I have played in scorching heat in Canada (Alberta and Ontario), fighting off mosquitoes but receiving regular visits from the cart girls selling refreshments, and I have played in rainy, gusty conditions in England where there are no cart girls but it’s easy to sneak your own drinks onto the course.
PGA Tour Golf is a sports simulation game developed by Sterling Silver Software and published by Electronic Arts. The first of a franchise, it was released in 1990 for MS-DOS. It was later released for the Mega Drive and Amiga in 1991, and SNES in 1992. Later releases for the Master System and Game Gear were published by Tengen in 1994. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version.
As with most sport sims, there is no plot per se. The object of the game is to compete in and win four tournaments whilst competing against other professional golfers.
With up to four players, you have the option to play a Practice Round or a Tournament, or you can simply practice on the Driving Range and/or Putting Greens. The practice modes are self-explanatory, but they are handy for people unacquainted with the game.
In Tournament Mode, each tournament consists of four rounds of 18 holes competing against 60 other golfers, of which all are real-life professionals.
The game contains three real courses from the US and one fictional course:
TPC at Sawgrass (Florida)
TPC at Avenel (Maryland)
PGA West Stadium (California)
Sterling Shores (Fictional)
At the beginning of each hole, you are greeted with a rotating 3D view of the green and advice from one of the professional golfers on how to approach the hole. Before each stroke, a bird’s eye view of the hole with a cross hair over the pin will appear. You can move the curser and it tells you the distance from your golfer to the cursor. You can go back to the overview at any time by pressing ‘A’ button.
As you address the ball, a small window will appear showing you how the ball lies, allowing you to select the most appropriate club. The HUD contains all the information you need. You have the wind speed and direction in a box on the bottom left, the power gauge in the middle, and the hole number, hole par, stroke number, current score, distance to pin and club you are using in a box on the bottom right. On the horizon is the cross hair which shows you were you are aiming your shot. You can move this cursor left or right. Your caddy will automatically select the club they think you should use but you can change clubs yourself by pushing up or down on the D-pad. As you do this, you will notice the number to the left of the power gauge will increase or decrease. This is the maximum number of yards the club will hit the ball if the ball was unaffected by wind or how the ball lies.
When you are ready to hit the ball, press ‘B’ and the power gauge begins to fill from right to left. When you have reached your desired power, press ‘B’ again and the power bar begins to descend having left a mark when you stopped the power gauge rising. You then need to press ‘B’ a third time as the power bar reaches the Stroke Bar. If you are accurate, you will hit the ball without a slice or draw. The earlier or later your stop the power gauge either side of the stroke bar will determine the degree of which you slice or draw the ball. After striking the ball, and when the ball begins to descend, the camera angle changes, and you will see where the ball lands.
When you reach the green, a 3D square grid will appear showing you the lie of the green. This allows you to judge the slopes of the green when attempting to putt. Again, by pressing up and down on the D-pad when you are on the green increases and decreases the maximum power of the putt.
How Does It Handle?
PGA Tour Golf is not for the feint hearted. It is clearly designed for golf fans and is very challenging, much more challenging and unforgiving than Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (1989). I wonder if the game is a bit too difficult. You have to be incredibly precise (maybe too precise) when you try to stop the descending gauge at the Stoke Bar else you can very easily draw or slice the shot. That being said, I really like the power gauge for this game. The ease of which you can change clubs and use the percentages of the power bar to estimate shots is a much simpler and user-friendly way of playing than Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (1989).
When putting, I like the fact that you can change the maximum strength of the putter as this allows you to more accurately gauge the strength of your putt. That is not to say that putting is easy, of course. I found the putting to be very unforgiving with little margin for error.
Unlike Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (1989) where you have to keep pressing ‘A’ to scroll through wind, distance, club selection etc., I love how all that information is one the main HUD. This speeds up the game and means you don’t keep having to go back a screen because you’ve forgotten the distance to the pin.
I love the design of the main menu. The picture of the Pro Shop is very colourful and nicely illustrated, and it really adds to the feeling of getting ready for a round of golf. The drop down menus show that the game was designed for MS-DOS/PC.
The in-game graphics aren’t as realistic as Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (1989) and the courses themselves are far less detailed when it comes to the trees, sky, and differentiation between the fairway and the rough. The bitty graphics become even more apparent the larger your TV screen. The sprite also pales in comparison. Oddly, there is no difference in the look of the clubs or the stance of the golfer whilst using them with the exception of the putter which is disappointing. However, I do prefer the graphics of PGA Tour Golf to Jack Nicklaus’ Unlimited Golf & Course Design (1990).
The innovative 3D overview of the greens is awesome. It is a simple design, but is a great way to display the lie of the green. It allows the player to read the greens more accurately that previous methods. Bravo!
I also like the way the camera angle changes a few seconds after you have hit your shot so that you view the ball coming into land is a nice touch. This really helps with the feel of professional golf you see on television.
Music and SFX
The only music you hear in the game is the cheap 8-bit ear-offending tune that plays over the introduction to each hole where a professional golfer offers advice on how to play the hole. I appreciate this game is ported from MS-DOS but one would expect the music to be of better quality for the Mega Drive.
The sound is very minimalist. You hear a few birds tweets, the sound of the ball as you strike it and as it lands, and a ripple of applause when you putt the ball. It is how golf should be. Peaceful and relaxing…at least for the spectators anyway.
The main replay value of this game is the multiplayer mode. Each of the tournaments are individual titles and so once you have won them, you have won them. The money accrued means very little other than to be kept as a bragging statistic which is a shame. It would have been nice to be able to buy some different clubs like you can in Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (1989). That is not to say that the game will be cast aside quickly. The tournaments are incredibly hard to win and mastering the game will take some time.
Did I Complete The Game?
At present, I have not won a tournament…in fact, after several attempts, I have only ever qualified for the third round once whilst competing in the Sterling Shores tournament and the second round of the TPC at Sawgrass.
What The Critics Said:
Mean Machines: “A superb sports simulation which will appeal massively to golf fans, and will even be enjoyed by those who normally wouldn’t play this type of game. Overall 91%“.
Raze: “PGA Tour Golf is a very accomplished piece of programming on the Amiga, and even more so on the Mega Drive, putting Arnold Palmer in the rough. The slick presentation on both versions gives the game a very professional look and a lot of appeal. To casual players or more serious golf devotees it will provide an ideal opportunity for long term entertainment. Overall 87%“.
Video Games and Computer Entertainment: “The computer plays a good game, but this is one of those that really shines when you play with one, two or three other people. If the graphics, which would seem to be no more than 32 colours, were on a level with Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf (or even the celebrated Links 256-colour golf game from Access), it’d be a truly remarkable achievement. As it is, PGA Tour Golf is still a thoroughly entertaining, challenging and complex golf simulation. Overall 26/40“.
Sega Power: Possibly the best golf game to appear on the MD! Good 3D views, loads of options, a multiplayer mode, a Save Game option, and classic golfing play. A must for all golfers. Overall 5/5”.
“Although the graphics are a bit sub-par (pun intended), PGA Tour Golf is fun and easy to learn but challenging to master. It has plenty of replay value, especially in multiplayer mode, and the creators have captured the atmosphere of the sport nicely.”
What are your memories of PGA Tour Golf? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Mega Drive Review: PGA Tour Golf’. Mean Machines. (April 1991). Issue 7:40-42.
 ‘Reviews – PGA Tour Golf’. (May 1991). Raze. Issue 7:38.
 Mandel, J., ‘PGA Tour Golf’. Video Games and Computer Entertainment. (May 1991). :47-8.
 The Hard Line – PGA Tour Golf’. Sega Power. (October 1991). 23:54.