Millions of people get up early on the weekends to get in their cars and head off to the golf course for a day of golf. Due to the sheer number of participants of the sport, golf has been called America's pastime, but that's also a tongue-in-cheek comment because it's been consistently unpopular in mainstream America. The perception of the sport has always been three-fold; it's considered a game for rich white men, it's one of the most boring sports to play and watch, and its golf courses are inaccessible to most people. But now in 1999, thanks to Tiger Woods, many more minorities and women are finding themselves on the golf course, and golf courses (public and private) are popping up everywhere. What has not changed is the perception that golf is a boring sport to play and watch. I, for one, still don't care what Tiger and David Duvall are doing on the 18th hole. No matter how much Nike or the PGA try to sell it.

When I want to physically play a sport, I play basketball, and when I can't get outside to play, I gladly pop in a b-ball game and play the sport from the comfort of my couch. This works with all the other major sports but not golf. I never had any interest playing a game with so little action. How could I get excited about a game where you hit a ball essentially off into the distance and pray it lands somewhere near the hole? After one good swing, you hop into a cart or walk to find the ball and do it over again. Why would anyone do that? And what about those viewers in the "gallery" getting all stoked about a putt? The only golf I ever wanted to play was miniature golf and if ever there was a golf game on and a pool game was on another channel, I'd watch pool. Not that pool is that much more exciting to watch but it's the cooler of the two. I think a lot of console players are like that. They want a bigger score, more flash and excitement, and golf just doesn't offer that, especially on a console. At least until now.

The one success on consoles was Hot Shots Golf. It was released on the PlayStation a while back and got warm reviews, but with its cartoonish look and the lack of recognizable characters, the public never took to it. Nintendo must have taken notice because when they wanted a golf game of their own, they went straight to Camelot and straight to their most marketable property: Mario. Well the draw worked as I happily picked it up and am proud to proclaim that this is THE game for golf lovers and THE game for Mario fans.

Mario Golf is such a surprise that I feared I couldn't write this review and do it justice. What could I say to describe how easy the game is to play? How can I convey that all the intricacies of lining up a shot are included and not overwhelming like in other games? How can I describe how they've knocked off the stigma associated with golf and made a great experience unlike any other? Maybe it was the familiar Mario Brothers mascots or maybe it was just the experience of a developer like Camelot, but I felt at home in this game. Control was a breeze and even with the option to control topspin, direction, and hitting power, it all made sense. I picked up things like bogeys and shooting for par faster in this game than I ever did before. Things like wind direction and a player's level of "draw" were considerations on every shot and I reveled in balancing all the minutia of the game and win every hole.

While Camelot made the perfect single-player game, they knew that straight golf would lose its appeal among gamers so they offered other modes of play. The most notable are the "skins match" where the players battle for stars and the surprise miniature golf game included. Little bonuses are added too like the ability to taunt while a friend is setting up his shot and contest where you try to match each other's shots. These are totally gamer oriented additions that purposely take away the simulation feel of the game but that's not to its detriment because it's all about fun anyway. The only slight in the game is the lack of a multi-player tournament mode. That's an unfortunate oversight but it's not a major problem and certainly doesn't ruin the whole playing experience.

Mario Golf is a trip and simply the best console golf game ever made. It's laden with all kinds of options from tournaments to miniature golf levels to keep players busy. It's a clear result of Camelot wanting to offer the most enjoyment possible with this sport and they succeeded in making even a hater of the sport like me have fun playing. Everything is easy to get into, offering a lot for the player to do and making it fun to do at the same time. That's pretty basic, and it's what developers should be trying to do with all of their games. And here, Camelot got it right from the beginning and I, for one, am happy to say it's made a fan out of me. Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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