Review: GL Golf is slightly sub-par - Macenstein

Review: GL Golf is slightly sub-par

One of the first computer video games I ever remember playing was a DOS-based golf game my dad brought home on a set of giant 5″ floppy disks to put on our IBM computer. I don’t remember the name, but I do remember it had about 8 colors with which to paint a pseudo 3D golf course, and it was pretty darn fugly. Of course I didn’t let that stop me from wasting countless hours of my young life playing the damn thing. It wasn’t that I was into golf, or probably even understood the rules or what the club numbers meant for that matter, it was more that for the first time I was playing a video game not in an arcade, but in my basement (the beginning of a horrible, Morlock-like way of living that continues to this day). Well, about 25 years and countless technological advances later, it seems not all that much has changed in the world of golf video games.

GL Golf offers many options, however improving the graphics isn’t one of them. What’s with using an elongated ball in the logo?

GL Golf is by no means as fugly as that original DOS based golf game I played as a kid, but it does follow the pattern that game set which placed a higher priority on gameplay mechanics than visuals when it comes to golf games. GL Golf is a straight out, no frills golf simulator that allows you and up to 3 friends to play 5 different 3D golf courses. There are a good range of options available to keep your interest, including – three levels of difficulty, choice of season, time of day, ball color, and whether you’d like to play the front 9, back 9, or the full 18 holes of a specific course.

In certain angles the game looks quite lovely, although the drab colors of the power meter and the red on green wind speed text do their best to ruin the design.

Very similar to the DOS golf game I played all those years ago, GL Golf’s swing mechanics rely on a power meter. Double tap to begin filling the meter, tap again when the meter has reached your best estimate of how hard you think you’ll need to swing. In general I found this method worked well, although sometimes it took more than one double tap to set the meter in motion, and trying to stop the meter quickly for small putts can take a little practice. You aim the club by dragging your finger left or right, and you can change the club selection by dragging vertically (although GL Golf usually recommends the best club choice – at least on the easier levels). When putting, a grid overly on the green gives you an idea of the slope and bumps you’ll need to avoid when aiming at the pin. All in all the game is a very solid golf sim, and likely will be enjoyed by virtual golf enthusiasts.

The choice of predominantly conifer trees means choosing to play in a different season doesn’t offer that noticeable a change in gameplay


Of course, a truly great sports game captures the hearts and wallets of more than just die hard fans of the sport. I know quite a few die hard Madden fans who haven’t followed the NFL in years, but regularly plunk down money for annual upgrades to the franchise because the games are just so damn fun, and fun is one thing GL Golf is sorely lacking. While the game play and physics will appeal to true golf players, there are no real creative touches or eye catching graphics or characters here. Sink a putt for birdie or even eagle, and you’ll be greeted with the sound of polite applause and some very underwhelming small black text which says “eagle”. Wow. Get Par or worse and you’ll feel like Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone, so dead are the sounds.

Sure, a double Bogey isn’t anything you want advertise, but am I supposed to be able to read that?

There are tons of fun things that could be added to a golf came to make it more fun – a couple that come to mind would be some clever 3D characters to play as, a virtual Golf Cart race between holes, “victory graphics” when amazing shots are made, more ambient sound effects, money prizes/career mode, a zany gopher that appears and steals your ball… I don’t know. There are a lot of things that I, as a very occasional one time golfer, would like to see in a golfing game to keep me coming back, and I don’t see them here yet.

Sometimes the 3D camera flyby of the course is good, sometimes not so much… what am I seeing here?

The other major area that needs improvement here are the graphics. While the graphics are certainly not bad, they fall short of being stellar as well. Each course begins with a 3D fly over of the hole, and on a good 70% of the holes, the erratic, hard keyframes of the camera and some very odd acceleration choices make for a dizzying trip (although on the 30% of smooth rides, it is a pretty nice effect). Also, each hole seems to exist in a vacuum, as you never are shown any surrounding scenery, just the hole you are currently playing. This gives the appearance of each hole living in a giant green field, not part of a real course. If this was the first iPhone game I had ever seen I would say this is a limitation of the iPhone’s graphics, but I have seen quite a few amazing titles in the few short months the app store has been open, many with nice takes on the horizon line and infinite scenery.

And speaking of that horizon, I discovered an odd glitch in the game having to do with just that. If instead of hitting towards the pin, you turn around and shoot in the opposite direction, you’ll see a vertical line where the “sky” texture map actually meets up with itself. Keep hitting towards that, and you’ll break through the blue “wall” of sky that surrounds you. I would have loved to see this as a hidden Easter egg or way to cheat the game in some way I could feature on the TheiPhoneCheatSheet, but no, once you break through you are just behind the sky in another endless green field, only now you can’t see the pin or trees.

Hit the ball towards that seam in the sky…

… and boom! You are now behind the sky. NOW we’re having some fun!

In general just more colorful graphics and scenery would help the game. Right now everything has a very drab, aliased feel to it, from the club to the trees to the way too small ball. Choosing to play the game in summer vs. fall. vs winter seems to offer no real graphical changes other than a lessening of saturation in the color of the grass. Some snow flurries, or even full out snow golf might be cool. And why not be able to play as a snowman, while we’re out it, with a giant carrot as a club?


There are countless jokes about how boring golf is to watch, and I understand that if you are into the finer points of golf a well made, no-frills golf sim like GL Golf is probably exactly what you are looking for. However, I am not. I’m probably expecting too much from GL Golf, but as a non die-hard golfer, I think a golf game has to give me more of a “Mario golf” type experience to keep me interested.

Price: $7.99
Pros: Accurate golf sim game, 5 courses to choose from, 3 difficulty levels, good golf physics
Cons: Not overly “fun” for a non golfer, graphics could use some sprucing up

2 Responses to “Review: GL Golf is slightly sub-par”
  1. gooseFX says:

    LOL – my first video game was also a golf (simulator) – but mine had only 4 colors (CGI). Maybe it was the same?!? Since it is also 25 years ago.

  2. jon says:

    was the game mean 18?

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