That cartoon golfer looks like a grown-up Nester from Nintendo Power.
The once and future King of golf and soft drinks.
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
RELEASE DATE: 09/09/89 – (JP), 1989/1992 – (US/Sega Classic), 01/91 – (EU)
With all respect to Tommy Lasorda and his fine coaching skills, Arnold Palmer was a greater get for Sega. The man is a golfing legend, synonymous for both his excellent play and his American apple pie personality. While he may have been older and semi-retired at the time of the game’s release, like Michael Jordan today, his accomplishments have kept him in continuous Legendary status. Having one of the most refreshing drinks of all time named after him doesn’t hurt, either.
Big Palm’s still got it.
Like Lasorda, Palmer himself doesn’t show up beyond the game’s title screen. Thankfully, Tournament Golf is so engrossing, you won’t miss the King’s presence. The game has two modes, Tournament and Practice. Practice is where you go for a quick eighteen holes, either by your lonesome or with a friend, while Tournament is a massive twelve rounds with eighteen holes per round (there’s no save function, but the game does provide a password between rounds). The Tournament somewhat mimics a televised PGA tour. An announcer welcomes you, provides some brief robotic commentary, then displays the scores after each hole. The further you get into the tournament, the more your skill level increases, the better shots you’ll be able to make. Fiber and ceramic clubs will also become available to use so you can hit the ball further than before. If you’re in the Practice Mode, however, the clubs will already be available to use. Also in Practice Mode, you’re given the option to play between the US Course, Japanese Course, or the Great Britain course. The courses have different scenery, naturally, but as far as I know, they’re not based on real courses.
“Look, I don’t like this floppy hat anymore than you do, but it’s in. My. Contract.”
Early golf games are notorious for poor golfing inputs, but Tournament Golf ‘s intuitive system is one of the best I’ve encountered. The screen is divided in half with a top-down map of the hole on the left, and a picture of your golfer and caddy on the right. Hit ‘A’ repeatedly to scroll through a series of pictures that display the wind direction, the golf ball’s placement, your arsenal of clubs, and golfing stance. Choose the club and stance for the hole and a power meter appears. The power meter is divided into two portions: a blue for strength and a green for height. Once you hit ‘A,’ two markers ascend up the meter. Hit ‘A’ again to hold the first marker in the blue. The higher the marker is, the stronger the shot. The other marker will then descend down into the green. Hit ‘A’ again and watch the ball fly across the fairway. The process might sound belabored, but in practice, it’s smooth and addicting.
“Mmm, that shot was as refreshing as an iced tea mixed with lemonade!”
Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf was originally called Ozaki Naomichi no Super Masters in Japan. The two games are similar in every way, save for the Japanese text, the different celebrity endorsements and one curious minigame. In Tournament Golf, if you hit the ball 100 times without landing on the green on the first hole, then input the Konami code (?!), you’re able to play the first stage in Fantasy Zone. According to SegaRetro, the goal isn’t to destroy the bases, but rather, stay alive as long as you can. If you die or destroy both bases, the minigame keeps going until you reset the game. This initially seems like a neat Easter egg, but the inability to progress in Fantasy Zone or head back to golf without resetting is more of a silly punishment for poor playing.
Shot this, game.
While it would have been nice to play as a 16-bit version of Palmer in his prime, it’s wonderful that Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf is playable at all. Aside from the lighthearted, Japanese-only Great Golf, Sega’s golf games up to this point – Champion Golf, the Western Great Golf – were triple bogeys. With seamless mechanics, an abundance of courses, and Arnold Palmer’s spanking endorsement, Tournament Golf is both Sega’s best golf game and one of their finest sports outings to date.